Textes d'opinion

The four-day work week could save us all

Want to help the environment? Here’s my solution.

I recycle and I compost. I don’t own a car. I work from home, which reduces my “carbon footprint.” And like many of you, I hope clean energies will soon power our economies.

But let’s not kid ourselves.

Nine tenths of all the energy we use is still produced from carbon-based sources like coal, oil and natural gas.

Electricity can be produced from wind, but electricity plays only a small role in our transportation system. Denmark is thought of as a country that runs on wind turbines. Even in that country, though, hydrocarbons account for nearly 48 times as much energy as wind, according to the Energy Information Administration.

Solar power is still far too expensive. It cost up to $0.20 to produce one kilowatt-hour of electricity last year, whereas generating electricity with natural gas cost between $0.02 and $0.10.

Electric cars? Gasoline has from 50 to 80 times the energy density – energy per unit of volume – of the best available lithium-ion battery. Gasoline engines will continue to dominate the market for decades.

The day renewable energies will replace oil is still far away.

But don’t despair. I have a solution to start helping the environment right away: the 4-day workweek. One fewer day per week of traffic, lights, computers and elevators soaking up energy.

But the economy sucks, you say. People are losing their job. And most Canadian companies are small businesses – with fewer than ten employees, it’s hard to do without one’s sole receptionist on Fridays.

I hear you. So I thought of one group that could start the movement: politicians. They love to spend our money on laws, programs and subsidies that cater to interest groups. If politicians only work four days, lobbyists will also have to reduce their work week. Mother Nature will be happy.

Taxpayers too. My own provincial government recently spent $732 million on subsidies – mostly to multinational corporations – in just one week. Actually, it was a four-day week because of a holiday. Imagine if they had had five!

Colour me cynical, but I believe that the less politicians work, they less damage they cause.

We can act now for planet Earth. Let’s adopt the four-day workweek for politicians. The environment – and your wallet – will feel better.

David Descôteaux est chercheur associé à l’Institut économique de Montréal.

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