Tall tales about BC’s carbon tax
The front page banner headline from the Vancouver Sun:
B.C. prefers NDP’s Carbon tax plan: Tax industrial polluters, not consumers, 82% tell pollster
It is painful to keep reading because the poll in question is based on inaccurate information about how the carbon tax actually works. Industrial polluters are subject to the tax to the extent that they burn fossil fuels. This covers 70% of BC’s emissions. Not currently covered are cement and aluminum production where industrial processes, not fossil fuels, are the source of emissions, and “fugitive emissions” from landfills and pipelines. These are being addressed, but that 30% of BC’s emissions is being used to spin a different story to British Columbians that is misleading at best.
No matter how emissions are tackled â€“ through regulation, a cap-and-trade system, a carbon tax, or some mix of all of these â€“ there will be higher consumer prices because business will pass along those costs. The only question is whether you want to address this regressive outcome, and what revenue source you might use to do that. Both carbon taxes and auctioned permits under a cap-and-trade system provide a revenue source that can be used to offset (or more than offset) the impact of higher prices at the household level while ensuring (rightly) that prices on the margin for emitting greenhouse gases are rising.
So I have to shake my head when I read:
Fully 82 per cent of those polled said they’d rather the government “target major industrial producers” instead of imposing a tax at the retail level.
The carbon tax is applied at the wholesale level. And to the extent that they burn fossil fuels in BC it is paid by industrial producers.
Another source of confusion is the focus on the tax and not on what happens to those revenues (the “tax grab” meme):
47 per cent of those surveyed said they were willing to pay higher taxes on fossil fuels if they also got an income tax cut, compared to 49 per cent who opposed the idea.
… But only a third (32 per cent) of those surveyed knew that low-income families will get $100 each year, and $30 per child, to help defray the burden of the new tax. The $100 “climate action dividend” that all British Columbians get is only for this year.
And less than one in five (19 per cent) knew the tax was “revenue neutral”, meaning that all money generated from it will be returned in tax cuts.
These are complicated issues and there is a lot of confused and contradictory thoughts out there based on people’s perceptions of climate change and how best to deal with it:
A clear majority of those surveyed (53 per cent) also agreed that “putting a price on greenhouse gas emissions” was a good idea, with 41 per cent opposed.
However, B.C. residents appear unconvinced that the B.C. government’s proposal is the best one. Only 18 per cent of those surveyed said the government’s carbon tax is the best way to curb climate change.
And even among just those B.C. residents who are convinced global warming is real, just 22 per cent think the carbon tax is the best solution.