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ICYMI: The Proposed U.S. Foreign Pollution Fee Act & What It Means for Alberta

Aaron Cosbey, International Institute for Sustainable Development economist
Aaron Cosbey, International Institute for Sustainable Development economist
Aaron Cosbey, International Institute for Sustainable Development

I had an interesting talk on Zoom recently about the proposed U.S. Foreign Pollution Fee Act and what it means for Alberta. My guest was a man who knows this field well — Aaron Cosbey, Senior Associate with the International Institute for Sustainable Development and an expert on climate change and energy, trade and investment policy, and green industrial policy.

You’ll find our interview and Q&A on YouTube. My apologies in advance, though. Through a recording quirk, the video includes only slides and audio, omitting the faces of all participants. (Sorry, Aaron!)

This bill is now before the U.S. Senate, and it has the potential to upend the Alberta oil and gas trade with the United States. If enacted, the Foreign Pollution Fee Act will impose tariffs on a variety of imported industrial goods and commodities, including — you guessed it — oil and gas, along with petrochemicals and refined petroleum products.

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No matter where you stand on climate and energy, this bill has great significance. If you’re an oil and gas booster, you should note the threatening implications this bill holds for the Alberta oil and gas industry.

If you’re a climate hawk, you might be tempted to cheer this bill on, since it purports to slap heavy tariffs on carbon-intensive goods entering the United States. But hold your applause — the Foreign Pollution Fee Act is broad in scope, highly complex, and discretionary. It’s also packed with ulterior motives — chiefly the protection of the U.S. oil and gas sector, along with other industries. And it may not do much in the end to limit GHG emissions anyway.

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If you want to learn more, check out the video. I think you’ll agree that protectionism dressed up as environmental legislation is not good news for Alberta and Canada — and probably not for the climate, either.

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