Let Them Eat Carbon, the provocative new book by my friend Matthew Sinclair of the UK Taxpayers’ Alliance, injects a welcome dose of original thinking into contemporary environmental debates. It is a wake-up call for those of us who care about the natural and built environment, but worry that we are paying more for less; those of us who, despite handing over more and more in green taxes and fees, see our communities becoming less liveable, the natural environment more polluted.
Written primarily for a British and European audience, this book has managed to discredit programs popular with Britain’s modish cultural elites, driving a wedge between them on the one hand and ordinary Britons worried about pocketbook issues on the other, with London’s populist tabloids — the Sun, the Daily Mail, and the Express — of course leading the charge. (Warning: Picture not safe for work).
In particular, British media coverage has focused on this book’s extensive research tracking how “much of the money so-called green policies cost us goes straight into the pockets of a bewildering range of special interests. Around the world companies are making billions out of the schemes governments have put in place saying they will curb global warming and protect us from the threat of climate change. There is little evidence that those policies are an efficient way to cut emissions.”
And this is not exclusively a British phenomenon. In the United States, similar schemes have forced taxpayers to finance questionable initiatives that line the pockets of special interests but do little to benefit the environment. And in Canada, example of scandalous green rent-seeking abound, including the controversy surrounding Ontario premier Dalton McGuinty’s multi-billion-dollar handout to Samsung.
In addition to providing us with many reasons to be skeptical of this entanglement of big business and big government, this wonderful book also includes extensive commentary on public policy debates currently taking place in Canada.
High-speed Rail to Nowhere
For starters, Let Them Eat Carbon tackles head-on the obsession of many in the media and political class with high-speed rail and other forms of train travel.
“The main argument you hear from proponents of high speed rail”, explains Mr. Sinclair, “is an appeal to train envy. Continental European countries have trains that go up to 200 miles per hour and Japan has the bullet train, surely [we] can’t afford to be left behind?”
For a Canadian example of “train envy”, one need only to read this headline – “Now even the French go faster than us” — from a pro-high-speed rail article in Maclean’s. (The French may be going faster than us with high-speed rail, but faster in the right direction? Two and a quarter centuries ago, France moved equally fast in embracing decimal time and other dubious, radical reforms.)