Canada: carbon tax hurting cement industry

Canada: carbon tax hurting cement industry
Published: 10 January 2013

Tagged Under: Canada Lafarge 

British Columbia (BC) Conservative leader John Cummins has spoken out against the provincial carbon tax, claiming it threatens to kill the cement industry in Canada.

“The BC Liberals’ unfair carbon tax has forced BC’s three largest cement-kilns to reduce operations by 50 to 60% capacity,” Cummins said.

He added that exports of BC made cement to the US have plunged since the tax was introduced, while imports of American cement have risen from 6.5% of the domestic market in 2007 to 34% in the first half of 2012.

However, Bob Cooper, president of Lafarge Canada’s Western Canadian cement division, said Cummins’ claims of the industry’s demise are overstated and his proposed solution to the problem to scrap the tax outright isn’t what the industry is after.

Actually, Cooper said, Lafarge’s Kamloops cement plant and its operation in the Richmond area are both operating at about 75% capacity.

“Back in the true recession, we were down to about 50 [%] and, as demand has increased, of course utilisation has increased,” said Cooper adding that the company has shifted some its operations to keep numbers up.

One of its cement kilns in Seattle was shut down and that business moved to the Richmond operation.In Kamloops, however, numbers have remained stable without that extra help, Cooper said.

Cooper said the tax has had a financial impact on BC cement producers that has given US companies an advantage in the province, but he believes that issue would be better solved by requiring those companies to also pay the tax if they want to do business in BC.

“All we want is level the playing field. We’re not against the carbon tax, we just want to make sure it’s applicable to everyone that’s selling cement in BC,  because we think it’s only fair,” he said.
Cooper said the industry has been working with the provincial government and has made a number of suggestions for improvement.