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Carbon taxes wasteful burden on poor

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Rumour in the oilpatch has it that U.S. President Barack Obama's price for the Keystone XL pipeline to go ahead is the imposition of a carbon tax.

While the oil companies don't really care -- they will make so much off of Keystone that a tax would be a blip -- the same can't be said for the poor and middle classes.

For a look at the cost of any new green regulations, let's look at B.C.'s carbon tax, "the first in North America." It is just the kind of fiction that fiction was made for.

A report (written by the strongest proponents of the tax) was recently released claiming the carbon tax on gasoline -- B.C. drivers now pay more to fill their tanks than anywhere else in North America -- has resulted in less driving and a drop of carbon emissions by 17.4 per cent.

But Willis Eschenbach, a reporter for the world's most viewed climate site, Watts Up With That, now a Hall of Fame Honoree as best science blog on the web, did the number crunching and found the 17.4 per cent reduction was based entirely on B.C. residents buying less gasoline. But while B.C. drivers may be buying less gas in province, trips across the border have sky-rocketed -- by 150 per cent -- because gas there is one-third cheaper.

As for claims the tax is revenue-neutral, tell that to the trucker filling up at the most expensive gas pumps in Canada, or the greenhouse operator in Delta paying an extra $35,000 for the privilege of growing food.

B.C's dubious achievement led its premier, Christy Clark, a mistress of green manipulation if there ever was one, to recently announce that the rest of Canada must follow her province's lead, no matter the cost to single parents, young families, working-class drivers and old people needing to heat their homes. For make no mistake, it is they who live in fuel poverty and who all too often have to choose between heating and food.

And where did the money from the carbon tax go? According to B.C.'s auditor general, two-thirds of funds brokered by the Pacific Carbon Trust went to Encana, the biggest gas company in Canada, and to the Nature Conservancy of Canada, an organization so powerful it is practically untouchable. No matter both organizations were going to undertake their carbon projects anyway; they were glad to take the money, which came from schools and hospitals which are mandated to be carbon-neutral: a cool $1 million from Vancouver- and Surrey-area schools alone.

This redistribution of revenue from the poor to the rich, however, pales in comparison to the misery foisted on indigenous peoples in the developing world. Oxfam International documents how more than 22,000 Ugandans were evicted to make way for a carbon-offset tree plantation established by a London-based firm called New Forests. There are dozens of such projects, from Africa to India to Norfolk County in Ontario, where the province's richest farmland is being reforested for carbon capture and credit to benefit the wealthiest in Canada.

In 2009, Deloitte Financial warned Australia its carbon-pollution-reduction scheme, which requires offsets of large emitters, has "already been subject to fraud, misstatement and the involvement of organized crime in the U.K. and Europe." Maybe it should be called the carbon-pollution-reduction scam.

Even Deloitte, however, missed the potential for public-sector abuse, which in B.C. is considerable. For tens of thousands of public servants and contract workers, carbon is a gold rush. Taxpayers have contributed to the $100-million endowment enjoyed by the Pacific Climate Impacts Consortium at the University of Victoria, the Climate Action Secretariat, LiveSmart BC and hundreds of projects listed in the Annual Climate Neutral Report. We also pay for the Western Climate Initiative busily devising trans-national carbon regulation.

Carbon taxes are a catastrophic waste of public money and have created entire elites that will fight to the death to keep their privileges, no matter the damage caused to the vulnerable.


Elizabeth Nickson is a senior fellow at the Frontier Center for Public Policy. She is author of Eco-fascists, How Radical Conservationists are Destroying Our Natural Heritage (Harper Collins).

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition August 14, 2013 A9

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