Former Bay Street economist Jeff Rubin delivers his third book (all published by Random House Canada): The Carbon Bubble: What Happens to Us When It Bursts following two successful energy themed tomes, The End of Growth (2012) and Why Your World Is About to Get a Whole Lot Smaller (2010).
Rubin is no stranger to bold contrarian calls and tilting against conventional wisdom. From forecasting triple digit (per barrel) oil prices to arguing that the root cause to the Great Recession of 2008 was the price of energy (and oil in particular) rather than sub-prime mortgages emanating from the United States. And further forwarding that thesis to argue that high oil prices --enabled by demand from surging developing economies-- entailed (paradoxically) low GDP growth for the global economy as whole, Rubin now steers volte-face to a completely new thesis: the planet we inhabit has a budget constraint in the form of how much carbon that it can produce before inexorably changing planetary conditions as seen in theoretical climate models and practically through severe droughts, changing weather patterns, and disappearing glaciers.
Facing a world of uncontrolled climate change requires a price on carbon; and a true price on carbon that changes patterns of economic output to meet the carbon budget constraint has tremendous ramifications in terms of economic growth, the manner in which we live today, and the make-up of the Canadian economy and society tomorrow.
Jeff Rubin’s skill in shifting from the Bay Street establishment audience to the general reading public has been his ability in turning the anodyne and turgid prose of economics into something homespun and accessible.
While he is not without his detractors – anyone who isn’t is unarguably uninteresting—he does have the ability to be understandable and engaging to a variety of audiences, a clever raconteur who gets his message across amid a media landscape full of noise and bluster.
The Carbon Bubble is no different to his previous two works in terms of style and content: full of data without being bogged down with technicalities.
However, this time around it is worth noting that with a Canadian General Election looming in the Fall, it is also a provocative shot across the policy bow as it is fundamentally an indictment of Stephen Harper’s Conservative Government policies throughout their three terms in office. Policies that have turned Canada from a trusted partner on the global environmental stage to a hackneyed pariah. The idea of Canada as an ‘energy superpower,’ as scripted by Harper and parroted by his ministers during the summer of 2006, rings hollow in the aftermath of the precipitous drop of oil prices in late 2014 and the rise of an NDP government in energy rich Alberta – something thought inconceivable in the past — is perhaps a spectre of more change to come.
Without divulging the contents it is worth noting that there is a silver lining in The Carbon Bubble but in Rubin’s words it would entail the embracing of change toward a greener future and looking for policy options beyond the 'staples' model from the time of The Hudson Bay Company and beaver pelts.
Can the political class with an inclination for short-termism to garner votes be party to that?
Check out The Carbon Bubble and make up your own mind, it is worth the read.