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Welcome to the new reality

B. C.'s carbon tax should serve as further warning to truckers across Canada, and in fact across North America, of things to come. Carbon taxes are certain to become a reality across the continent, as...




B. C.’s carbon tax should serve as further warning to truckers across Canada, and in fact across North America, of things to come. Carbon taxes are certain to become a reality across the continent, as they already have in Quebec, as governments are forced to deal with global warming.

And while I don’t disagree with many of the BCTA’s concerns about the new tax, or the comments of our executive editor James Menzies included above, I think the transportation industry would be better served figuring out how to deal with this new reality than fighting against it.

The issue is beyond the point of debate simply because years of government and, to be fair, industry negligence, have left no room for maneuvering.

Between 1998 and 2007 Canadian greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions have been climbing relentlessly. They far exceeded the targets set for 2000 and 2005 and we are on track to be about 30% above the Kyoto target for 2010. And we can’t ignore transportation’s contribution to GHG emissions, and trucking’s in particular.

Yes, Canadian cities and resources are so geographically dispersed and we are so dependent on trade that we demand a great deal from transportation, trucking in particular.

Our transportation system has more kilometres of roads per person than almost any other nation. And yes, the trucking industry has made significant gains in cleaning up the pollution coming from diesel engines, with significant cuts to carbon monoxide, nitrogen oxide and volatile organic compounds emissions. In 2007 it took 60 trucks running the new diesel engines to equal the amount of soot emissions spewed by just one truck sold in 1988. That’s truly an achievement to be proud of; unfortunately it does not address emissions of carbon dioxide, which are the main contributors to global warming.

Transportation activities generate more than one quarter of Canada’s greenhouse gas emissions and they accounted for 28% of the growth in those emissions from 1990 to 2004. In fact, the transportation sector is the fastestgrowing source of greenhouse gas emissions. GHG emissions from transportation are expected to exceed 1990 levels by 32% in 2010 and 53% by 2020, if current trends continue.

From 1990 to 2003, the amount of freight carried by all modes combined increased 27%. If we look at trucking on its own, the amount of freight carried by for-hire carriers from 1990 to 2003 was up 75%. Just-in-time delivery of freight was a real boon for shippers – between 1992 and 2005 manufacturers were able to reduce inventories as a share of shipments by 15%. But to do so required a lot more frequent deliveries, mostly by truck. There are now 80,000 more medium-and heavy-duty trucks on our roads than there were in 1990.

Given these numbers, how can any government forced to address global warming ignore the transportation industry?

The bottom line is we’ve come to rely an awful lot on transportation, trucking in particular.

The very success of our transportation system is what’s leading to its greatest challenge: its sizeable greenhouse gas emissions. In my next column we’ll look at how trucking can survive in a carbonconstrained future economy.

– Lou Smyrlis can be reached by phone at (416) 510-6881 or by e-mail at lou@TransportationMedia.ca.


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