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Maximizing Carbon Tax And Household Savings Through Home And Car Maintenance

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On January 1, 2017, Alberta implemented a carbon levy in an effort to cost-effectively minimize greenhouse gas emissions, which includes fuel sources like diesel, gas, natural gas, and propane. According to the Climate Leadership Plan, the revenue generated by this tax will be used to develop green infrastructure, reduce methane emissions by 45 per cent by 2025, and spur further research and renovation. The carbon tax is designed to encourage citizens, families and businesses to modify their behaviour and use alternative fuel sources to significantly reduce climate-change pollution.

For the first year of implementation, fuel prices are being taxed at a rate of $20 per tonne. The year following, it'll increase to $30 per tonne. Based on typical use assumptions, the government projects the tax to cost an average person $191 a year. Depending on yearly earnings, rebates will be available to individuals and families for up to $210 and $360, respectively.

The carbon tax will impact many industries and people in different ways, but, as you can see, it ultimately hinges on our carbon footprint -- the more carbon you use, the higher your carbon tax. Whether you agree or disagree with the tax, there are simple steps you can take to minimize your costs, and your carbon footprint: by keeping the things you cherish most in mint condition. Keeping your things in good working order is likely to extend their use, prevent major repairs, lower energy bills, and reap savings on car and home insurance. To illustrate how you can reduce the CO2 emissions in everyday life, we'll break it down into two main groups: driving your car and the household.

Minimizing CO2 emissions from driving

According to the National Research Council, burning 1 L of gasoline produces approximately 2.3 kg of CO2, so the average Canadian vehicle, which burns around 2,000 L of gasoline every year, releases 4,600 kg of CO2 into the atmosphere. In 2014, Canada's total greenhouse gas emissions reached 732 megatonnes -- a 20 per cent increase since 1990. That's why being mindful of how you drive and take care of your car is paramount. So, try reducing the amount of emission-intensive fuels by doing the following:

  • Ease up on the accelerator and brakes: Studies show that driving in excess of 100 kph for prolonged periods of time can waste fuel by 1-2 per cent. By following posted speed limits, and going easy on the accelerator and brakes, you might be able to save more than a tonne of CO2 each year, in addition to alleviating the car's wear and tear.
  • Consider carpooling/biking: If possible, start biking to work or even carpooling a couple times a week. This'll reduce your carbon tax, and you'll also reap savings on fuel cost and maintenance.
  • Check tire pressure: By keeping your tires inflated to the recommended pressure, you can improve mileage by as much as 3 per cent. This alone could prevent 400-700 pounds of CO2 emissions each year.
  • Keep up with upkeep: Staying abreast with scheduled maintenance, like oil changes, and replacing air and fuel filters, is crucial to engine performance. On top of which, keeping your engine properly tuned, to amend serious issues like a faulty oxygen sensor, can improve mileage by up to 40 per cent.
  • Use proper motor oil grade: Particularly during the colder winter months, using the manufacturer's recommended oil grade can improve mileage by 1-2 per cent.
  • Don't haul cargo on the roof: Roof-top cargo causes increased wind-resistance and can reduce fuel economy by up to 25 per cent at highway speeds. Consider hitch-mounted cargo carriers, as they only reduce fuel economy by 1-5 per cent.
  • Turn off the engine: Idling for a mere 10 seconds produces more CO2 emissions than turning the car off and on. And newer engines actually warm up when the car's driven -- not when they're idling in the driveway.
  • Clean out the trunk: The lighter the vehicle, the better the mileage -- simple as that.
  • Steer clear of traffic: In addition to higher blood pressure, getting stuck in gridlock wastes gas and increases CO2 emissions. Luckily, many apps help drivers bypass traffic, offering alternative (and more interesting) routes to get around.
  • Get a low carbon-emitting car: Provided they're charged with clean electricity, electric cars produce virtually no CO2 emissions. Other eco-friendly options you might consider are hybrids or high-mileage diesel vehicles.

Minimizing CO2 emissions from home

What you do at home can also significantly reduce your carbon footprint -- and bring savings. Here are some ways you can lighten the carbon tax burden from home:

  • Use stronger insulation: Double-paned windows and newer, insulated doors can help minimize energy loss. Windows can also be strategically installed to optimize sunlight, so that the thermostat isn't working overtime. Sealing fissures and gaps, too, will help prevent drafts and thereby lower energy costs.
  • Purchase a smart thermostat: Smart thermostats enable you to adjust heat on the go or set up a heating/cooling schedule. They also learn the preferred temperature settings of the home's occupants, by which they can tailor settings accordingly. Plus, they can be controlled remotely from your smartphone, perfect for Alberta's sometimes unpredictable weather.
  • Choose energy efficient appliances: When purchasing a new AC unit, dishwasher, or furnace, consider ENERGY STAR products, as they've been vetted for superior energy efficiency.
  • Install solar panels: Adding solar panels can offer long-term cost-savings in more ways than one. Plus, many companies offer financing options as an alternative to upfront costs.
  • Support your local farmer: The less distance produce has to travel, the fewer carbon emissions. Plus, you're contributing to the local economy.
  • Avoid wasting food: there are lots of reasons not to waste food, but if you are looking for one more - the CBC predicts there will be around a 1.5 per cent increase for groceries due to the downstream effect of the tax's first year. Whether altruistic or otherwise, wasting less food means you won't pay the added tax for naught.

Albertans who are curious about how much their carbon tax will cost can use CBC's Alberta carbon tax calculator. Not only does this give you a picture of how much you'll end up paying each year, but it's also a great resource to determine what will directly, or indirectly, impact your finances -- such as gasoline usage and groceries. From there, you can begin to cut back on energy sources, or embrace eco-friendly alternatives, where possible.

Again, any steps you take to reduce your carbon footprint are likely to drive additional channels of savings. Regular maintenance on your car and home appliances can mean peak performance and a longer shelf life. Even simple upkeep like checking tires can help prevent severe auto collisions, which in turn, deters major out-of-pocket repairs and insurance claims that may hike up premiums. Plus, the longer you stay claim- free, the more likely you'll see savings continue to grow.

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