If electricity is made more expensive, I wager anybody a bet it may not affect the economy as much as we perceive it will, and instead give us greater priority to rationalise our energy use by improving efficiency and cutting out waste. I must insert a condition here though, that there are social safety nets to cushion the blow for the most vulnerable in our society. It will encourage us to conduct energy audits of our businesses and municipalities, and see where we can tighten our belts.
At the moment much of the energy use in developed countries is inefficient and needless. Think of us all commuting to work in our personal shells, as opposed to a highly more efficient form of public transport. Think of the skyscraper in the CBD with all stories of it’s office block illuminated during the night hours. Think of all those flights taken when a webcam or a trip to the nearest nature park would suffice. Think of the fanciful and frankly, unnecessary junk we consume each day.
It is false logic to carry on with our fossil fuel infrastructure to preserve jobs today, while dooming the whole planet for tomorrow. There is more than enough wealth to at least ensure we otherwise survive and remain in god health, and is this not worth the survival of the human and other species? It requires changes to our political and economic frameworks, but there is enough.
By companies paying a direct carbon tax, we can learn to rationalise our energy use, and we can make renewables more competitive and thus more market dominant. And it will ultimately be very good for the planet, and people too. If machines become more expensive to operate, individuals and human labour are likely to become more competitive – one gleaming example is agriculture. Our agricultural systems, if less industrial, would need people to plant, reap, care for them. Once again, the land could be peopled as it was meant to be. At the moment our upside-down system has machines and chemicals doing the work the people and nature can do (without the environmental destruction associated), while unemployment soars. Efficiency, in what terms? An economic system where social and environmental harm is ‘externalised’, is going to fail eventually.
Tightening of the belt will not lead to asphyxiation, it will merely prevent you pants from falling down.