shifting behaviour

People are starting to sell their SUVs. For cheap. And they aren’t buying new ones. In the US, SUV sales fell 25 per cent in the first months…

People are starting to sell their SUVs. For cheap.

And they aren’t buying new ones.

In the US, SUV sales fell 25 per cent in the first months of this year. Since then, unofficial reports suggest sales have “fallen off a cliff,” according to a story on page 31.

This automotive green shift happened relatively quickly.


Because it is getting too expensive to fill these gas-guzzlers with fuel.

Historians will note the decline in popularity of SUVs mirrored oil prices crossing the $100-per-barrel threshold, which happened in January.

Which just proves the power of market economics.

That is, there is a price at which people will not change their ways. And at a given price they will.

And the cause of momentous societal change can be relatively small.

In the US, people were willing to drive SUVs at $1 a litre. When the price of a litre hit $1.11, they started selling them.

Canadians are more willing to take it on the chin.

Here, the shift happened somewhere between $1.20 and $1.35 a litre. But it still happened.

In Vancouver, bus use has skyrocketed.

People are buying smaller cars.

And they are dreaming up innovative ways to save money — carpooling, walking, biking, working from home, making fewer trips to the store … they are becoming more efficient.


Because it is costing people a lot of money to drive.

Which is the theory behind carbon taxes.

You tax behaviour you want to curb — making it more expensive. And you cut taxes on behaviour you want to foster.

And so, starting this month, BC Premier Gordon Campbell taxed fossil fuels. BC is the first North American jurisdiction to do so.

It has also cut taxes and offered credits in other areas, to promote investment and innovation.

Similarly, federal Liberal Leader Stephane Dion has proposed a national program to change Canadian energy use, which he dubbed the Green Shift.

It bolsters taxes on fossil fuels — except gas, which is already heavily taxed in Canada.

Like Campbell, Dion is balancing the tax hikes on pollution with tax breaks for low and middle-income Canadians.

High-income earners don’t get as much of a break. And that’s probably the right call because the wealthiest Canadians are also the most wasteful.

According to a recent study by the Canadian Centre for Policy Alternatives, the wealthiest 10 per cent of Canadians have an ecological footprint 66 times larger than the national average.

The goal of both these carbon tax plans — Campbell’s and Dion’s — is to put a price on pollution and, by doing so, change people’s behaviour.

There is a very good reason to do this — it is now clear humanity’s thoughtless use of fossil fuels is threatening life on the planet.

And long-established habits are hard to break. Unless there’s a cost.

So far, Prime Minister Stephen Harper has touted voluntary reductions.

They haven’t worked.

Canada’s energy use has continued to rise.

So Dion and Campbell will tax energy use.

And, if you look at driving habits, that clearly does work.

“We must do our part to fight the climate change crisis, not only to protect our beautiful country and our way of life, but to protect Earth itself and the millions of people around the world whose very lives are at risk,” said Dion, introducing his plan.

Carbon taxes aren’t perfect.

But they will force people and industry to think about how they heat their houses and factories, and encourage them to become more efficient and innovative.


Because if they don’t it will cost them money.

Of course, people are starting to whine about these carbon plans.


Because they don’t want to spend more money.

But, of course, that’s the point. (Richard Mostyn)

Just Posted

Lorraine Kuhn is seen with one of the many volleyball teams she coached. (Photo submitted by Sport Yukon)
The Yukon Sports Hall of Fame inducts the late Lorraine Kuhn

Lorraine Kuhn became the newest member of the Yukon Sports Hall of Fame for her work in growing volleyball amongst other sports

File Photo
A Yukon judge approved dangerous offender status for a man guilty of a string of assaults in 2020.
Yukon judge sentences dangerous offender to indefinite prison term

Herman Peter Thorn, 51, was given the sentence for 2020 assaults, history of violence

Crystal Schick/ Yukon News A former residential school in the Kaska Dena community of Lower Post will be demolished on June 21. Crystal Schick/ Yukon News
Lower Post residential school demolition postponed

On June 21, the old residential school in Lower Post will be demolished and new ground on a multi-cultural centre will be broken

Chief Medical Officer of Health Dr. Brendan Hanley announced 29 new COVID-19 cases on June 19 and community transmission among unvaccinated individuals. (Yukon News file)
Yukon logs record-high 29 new COVID-19 cases

F.H. Collins prom attendees and some Porter Creek Grade 9 students are instructed to self-isolate as community transmission sweeps through unvaccinated populations

Willow Brewster, a paramedic helping in the COVID-19 drive-thru testing centre, holds a swab used for the COVID-19 test moments before using it on Nov. 24. The Yukon government is reopening the drive-thru option on June 18. (Crystal Schick/Yukon News)
Drive-up COVID-19 testing opening June 18 in Whitehorse

The drive-up testing will be open from 6:30 p.m. to 9:30 p.m. everyday and increase testing capacity by 33 spots

Whitehorse City Hall (Yukon News file)
City news, briefly

A look at decisions made by Whitehorse city council at its June 14 meeting

Murray Arsenault sits in the drivers seat of his 1975 Bricklin SV1 in Whitehorse on June 16. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
Bringing the 1975 Bricklin north

Murray Arsenault remembers his dad’s Bricklin, while now driving his own

A presumptive COVID case was found at Seabridge Gold’s 3 Aces project. (file photo)
Presumptive COVID-19 case reported at mine in southeast Yukon

A rapid antigen rest found a presumptive COVID case on an incoming individual arriving at the 3Aces project

Jonathan Antoine/Cabin Radio
Flooding in Fort Simpson on May 8.
Fort Simpson asked for military help. Two people showed up.

FORT SIMPSON—Residents of a flooded Northwest Territories village expected a helping hand… Continue reading

A woman was rescued from the Pioneer Ridge Trail in Alaska on June 16. (Photo courtesy/AllTrails)
Alaska hiker chased off trail by bears flags down help

ANCHORAGE (AP)—An Alaska hiker who reported needing help following bear encounters on… Continue reading

Two participants cross the finish line at the City of Whitehorse Kids Triathlon on June 12 with Mayor Dan Curtis on hand to present medals. (Stephanie Waddell/Yukon News)
2021 Kids’ Triathlon draws 76 young athletes

Youth ages five to 14 swim, run and bike their way to finish line

NDP MP Mumilaaq Qaqqaq rises in the House of Commons, in Ottawa on May 13, 2021. THE CANADIAN PRESS/Adrian Wyld
‘Unacceptable’ that Inuk MP felt unsafe in House of Commons, Miller says

OTTAWA—It’s a “sad reflection” on Canada that an Inuk MP feels she’s… Continue reading

Lily Witten performs her Canadian Nationals beam routine on June 14. John Tonin/Yukon News
Three Yukon gymnasts break 20-year Nationals absence

Bianca Berko-Malvasio, Maude Molgat and Lily Witten competed at the Canadian Nationals – the first time in 20 years the Yukon’s been represented at the meet

Most Read