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“Let Them Eat Carbon: Britain’s New Green Tax Con”: New Book Invites Consumer/Voter/Environmental Backlash

“I wrote this book because the rising cost of energy is an increasingly important feature of the political landscape, as it massively affects the cost of living for families across Britain. Excessive green taxes make everything from driving to work to taking a well-earned holiday more expensive and make it a lot harder for manufacturers to compete and keep employing people here in Britain.

Motorists are particularly hard hit and unfairly penalized well beyond the cost of maintain the roads and the environmental harms their emissions create. The Government need to give families a better deal and cut unfair green taxes.”

- Matthew Sinclair, Press Release, Let Them Eat Carbon (London: TaxPayers Alliance: August 2011)

Matthew Sinclair, director of the TaxPayers’ Alliance, has penned an educational tract to get his fellow countrymen to reconsider what in their good graces has been accepted as sort of a public duty–to buy into climate/energy alarmism and to do their fair share.

In addition to covering all aspects of Britain’s green taxes, what they are and why they were implemented, the book (available from Amazon here) examines subsidies for renewable energy; emissions trading; windfall profits for industry; and environmentalist and corporate lobbying. The introduction (see excerpts below) is downloadable.

Press Release

The biggest threat to taxpayers right now is expensive new green taxes and subsidies. In the first ever mainstream book on this subject … Matthew Sinclair has exposed how this is the critical new threat to family finances. With rising fuel bills and petrol prices, it will be a defining feature of the political landscape over the coming year.

‘Let Them Eat Carbon’ shows how Fuel Duty is putting huge pressure on motorists. An energetic campaign against the tax is arguing for it to be frozen for the rest of this Parliament, after the cut at the last budget, and is among the most popular on the new government e-petition website.

Increases in Fuel Duty and other green taxes have frequently been justified by the need to cut greenhouse gas emissions, but estimates in the new book show that argument isn’t credible. Providing new figures and using a method pioneered in earlier studies for the TaxPayers’ Alliance and used by researchers at the Department for Transport, it finds that green taxes were excessive compared to the harms they are meant to address:

  • The Office for National Statistics has reported that environmental taxes raised £41.4 billion in 2010
  • After accounting for total road spending (£9.2 billion in 2010-11) and Air Passenger Duty (£2.1 billion), total domestic green taxes net of road spending were £30.1 billion in 2010
  • Greenhouse gas emissions were 582.4 Mt CO2-equivalent in 2010 according to the Department of Energy and Climate Change. The social cost of those emissions, based on earlier Government estimates of the social cost per tonne adjusted for inflation, was £16.9 billion
  • That implies that excess green taxes were levied of £13.2 billion, or over £500 for every family

The estimate is conservative as that Government estimate of the social cost per tonne of carbon dioxide is high relative to most estimates in the academic literature, for example as contained in a report for the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change. It implies motorists in particular are being singled out for excessive taxation.

From the Introduction

Who Pays?

Ordinary families are paying a heavy price for the attempts politicians are making to control greenhouse gas emissions. Climate change policies push up electricity bills, make it more expensive to drive to work or fly away on holiday, put manufacturing workers out of a job; they sometimes even make your food more expensive. They hit some people particularly hard: the industrial worker already struggling to compete with rivals in China; the poor and elderly, who feel rising energy costs particularly keenly; and anyone with a big family who needs to drive their kids around because they don’t live in a city centre.

At the other end of the scale, politicians who don’t drive because they live in city centres and are on above average incomes won’t feel the pinch in the same way and could easily underestimate the extent of the pressure on household budgets.

Where the Taxes Go To

Much of the money goes straight into the pockets of a bewildering range of special interests. Climate change has become big business. Across the world, companies are making billions out of the schemes politicians have put in place to try and stop global warming: from windfall profits for electricity generators under cap and trade schemes like the EU Emissions Trading Scheme in Europe, to huge profits for dodgy projects in the developing world under the Clean Development Mechanism. Climate change has justified entire new organisations in the public sector with hundreds of staff and big grants to fund them. Environmentalist campaigns enjoy big budgets, often including generous taxpayer funding.

Why Bad Policy Continues

It is now mostly about momentum, though. Too much political capital has been sunk into the current set of policies, particularly in those countries where all the mainstream parties have supported them, for a reversal to be possible without a lot of embarrassment. There is a sense that questioning the current approach undermines the entire effort to do anything; that whatever their merits the current measures are what we’ll have to work with. That thinking was exposed when a spokesman for the EU Environment Commissioner Barbara Helfferich rejected changes to biofuel policies as disastrous for the environment and the world’s poor.

She said: ‘There is no question for now of suspending the target fixed for biofuels… You can’t change a political objective without risking a debate on all the other objectives.’ The problem that creates is obvious. Not only are the current policies ineffective and fiercely costly, they were designed to work as part of an international negotiating process that broke down spectacularly in Copenhagen and showed no sign of a serious renaissance at Cancun. Whether or not the politicians and activists like it, the current set of policies can’t be sustained and need to change.

Why are Voters Going Along?

So why haven’t the vast majority of voters who pay for these policies stopped them? The basic answer is that they have – when they’ve been given a chance. When a mainstream party opposes it, climate change legislation rarely progresses. In Europe that hasn’t happened, as in most countries the parties have stitched things up without the voters’ involvement. But in Australia, Canada, the United States and Japan the push for emissions trading in particular has stalled.

In Australia it was remarkable how the inexorable political drive to get an emissions trading scheme in place fell to pieces as soon as the opposition Liberals got rid of their leader and got back into the business of opposing. Since then, the Prime Minister, Kevin Rudd, has put the plans on ice and been deposed by his own party. In the United States the politicians have found a way around inconvenient democracy: if the public don’t want greenhouse gas rationing pushing up energy prices, then the Environmental Protection Agency, which doesn’t have to appeal to pesky voters for support, can push the regulations instead.

It is understandable that many people prefer to ignore climate change policy as they consider other issues a higher priority, but that allows those committed to the expensive environmentalist agenda to push it forward without real opposition. Whether or not you think climate change is important, no one can afford to ignore climate change policy.

In many European countries they don’t even need to put new measures in place; the cost will ramp up without any further legislation. For example, Britain’s climate change targets are set to make energy bills rise rapidly over the next decade, as they require massive investment in expensive offshore wind power, and the mechanisms to make that happen – like the Renewables Obligation – are already in place.

Need to Reverse Course

All sorts of other objectives will be undone if we don’t change climate change policies. The fight to reduce poverty and welfare dependency is hard enough without making essential goods like electricity that are a significant part of the budgets of poorer households more expensive. For all the ridiculous hype about green jobs, they’ll be more than offset by job losses elsewhere in the economy; manufacturing firms already struggling to keep their edge against competitors in developing countries will find life a lot harder with higher energy costs.

Changed Momentum?

Fortunately, a series of knocks have recently dented the confidence of the politicians, activists and lobbyists promoting
draconian attempts to limit emissions. First, cap and trade legislation ran into trouble in the US Senate. Then the Climategate leak revealed a culture of secrecy among key climate change scientists and undermined public confidence in what they were being told about global warming.

Finally, the international negotiating process collapsed at a Copenhagen conference that had been hyped beyond belief
and could only proceed at Cancun by fudging all the most critical and controversial issues. After all the shocks recently,
more people are open to the idea that the current direction might not be the right one.

The time to stop the unfolding disaster of failing climate change policies is now. This book provides the broadest and
most complete picture yet of what is going wrong.

4 comments

1 Hartmut.Rast { 08.16.11 at 2:32 am }

In my view the new green taxes and subsidies are the biggest threat to social freedom. In a time when national indebtedness has gone out of control politicians have no other chance to feed the green energy bill as to cut social welfare costs.

Consumers will have to pay several times like for higher prices on gas, electricity et cetera, even food prices will rise globally as well as by the local distribution, through tax-increases for all the renewable energy subventions and interests on the out-of-control state finances, solidarity costs for a rising number of poeple out of work because of the current economic down-turn ..even to write it down makes me dizzy.

The rejection by EU Environment Commissioner Barbara Helfferich to re-think the inhuman biofuel policies have shown me it’s too late to stop this green insanity and our know-it-all-better politicians will sacrifice their own people to their ideas.

2 Jack Savage { 08.16.11 at 2:38 am }

Buy it. Read it. Send it to your MP.

3 Mark { 08.16.11 at 10:27 am }

According to the publisher, the publishing date was 11 August. The U K amazon.com has it but the US amazon.com only has a sign-up list.

4 Jon Boone { 08.16.11 at 12:12 pm }

“It is now mostly about momentum, though. Too much political capital has been sunk into the current set of policies, particularly in those countries where all the mainstream parties have supported them, for a reversal to be possible without a lot of embarrassment.”

The juggernaut of sunk costs explains much. When accompanied by the prospect of embarrassment and, more importantly, an uncertain sense of the prospective costs of pulling the plug from even horrendous policy like ethanol production, politicians then move to create stealth taxes to keep the juice flowing. As the nickels and dimes from these taxes turn into hundreds and thousands of dollars annually, then comes the appeal for slots and lotteries–regressive “solutions” that further exacerbate class tension and decrease the revenue needed for more functional activity while sustaining more government that keeps the party going in ever expanding cycles…

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