Joe Biden’s Disappointing Start

The president of the United States wanted to show his desire and ability to act quickly on his campaign promises. His policies could eventually have regrettable consequences in three crucial areas.

Strengthening the Buy American Act means a call for federal expenditure and investment programs that will exclusively support products and services produced in the U.S. by American workers with components made in the U.S. In this respect, the Joe Biden era may be more predictable, but it is shaping up to be worse than Donald Trump’s Republican era. Tough times are coming for Europe, Asia and Canada, for America and for the future of international trade, the true melting pot of civilization. It is a major step backward.

When it comes to vaccinating against COVID-19, Biden has been praised for his commitment to vaccinating every American before May 1 returning to normal by July 4. What is less on display is his ban on exporting vaccines produced or finalized in the United States, pursuant to the Defense Production Act. To date, the United States has produced 164 million doses of vaccine, none of which have been exported; China has produced 229 million doses, of which 109 million have been exported; and India has produced 125 million doses, of which 55 million have been exported. This Trumpian “America First” policy runs contrary to a true commitment to humanity.

With respect to the environment, Biden has rejoined the Paris Agreement, a good start, but he has to do more to help the climate and the environment. Apart from the vague and changeable objectives, commitments, regulatory mechanisms and pleasant meetings for a gallery of politicians, environmental nongovernmental organizations and journalists, the United Nations conferences in Paris, France; Katowice, Poland and Madrid, Spain are all about running in circles and starting over.

The executive order to cancel the Keystone XL project will have zero impact on the consumption of combustible fuels and therefore no impact on greenhouse gas emissions. It is purely a populist facade. What needs to happen to show a serious and courageous commitment to protecting the environment is the introduction of a substantial carbon tax.

The best studies out there put the figure at $375 per ton by 2030 (($299 USD), increasing annually in order to assure optimal management of greenhouse gas levels. The Canadian government announced a tax that will reach $170 per ton ($136 USD) by 2030, an announcement which caused an outcry from provincial governments. Rather than coming together to find a way of passing an effective carbon tax, which is the true national if not international issue, we’d rather argue about the color of the flowers on the carpet. The reaction Alberta Premier Jason Kenney, who supports the Keystone XL pipeline but rants against any tax on carbon, is equally unfortunate, especially for Albertans.

What we need is collectively a continuation of the Keystone XL pipeline project, a continuation of the Trans-Canada pipeline project AND a carbon tax of $375 per ton ($299 USD) by 2030.

Governments should note the consensus of economists and scientists on the climate: A carbon tax is the most effective measure to reduce carbon emissions at the necessary scale and speed; an ever-rising carbon tax would encourage technological innovation and accelerate the development of low-carbon goods and services; and a sufficiently robust and progressive carbon tax would replace the need for various regulations (i.e., pet projects) on emissions, favoring economic growth and investment in clean alternate energy. A carbon adjustment system at the borders will improve the competitiveness of national businesses and encourage other countries to adopt a similar carbon tax. In order to ensure the fairness and political viability of a carbon tax, we should return the revenues the tax will generate to citizens through lump sum rebates.

In order to be convincing and credible, it takes political power and flair, but above all, a policy needs to be economically sound.

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