The Fallacy of Carbon Tax

In this column I’ll be talking about British Columbia’s carbon tax.  But wait.  Don’t close this tab quite yet, as the next 600 or so words won’t necessarily be as boring as you might imagine.

You see I believe BC’s version of the carbon tax is ill thought out and wrong.  It makes me feel like I’m being tricked into thinking I have bought my way into carbon emission happiness…a greenhouse gas nirvana of sunshine and lollypops.

In particular, I’m bothered by the concept of revenue neutrality that states all revenue generated through the taxation of carbon will be offset by an equal reduction in our income tax.  Think about that for a moment and hopefully the foolishness of this being a credible tax policy will start to jell.

We acknowledge that carbon emissions are a huge problem and introduce a carbon tax as a way to attach a financial consequence to our continued practice and reliance on fossil fuels.  There is a cost attached and so far so good as people seem more responsive, aware and careful when their actions cost them money.

However, this revenue neutral shenanigans that promises no consequence, turns carbon tax into a meaningless, feel good PR stunt by government.  We are being duped in a number of ways and with our own money.

You are not helping climate change at the gas pump because the extra you pay in carbon tax goes nowhere but to general revenue.  Why does it go to general revenue?  It has to because our government promised to reduce taxes and as a result needs that carbon tax money to cover expenses those real tax dollars once paid for.  

Revenue neutrality has by its very nature made sure climate change is not a priority to this government. So, what is the answer or for that matter is there an answer?  

When carbon tax was first brought in, the BC government of the time (Gordon Campbell’s Liberals) introduced a new fund called, the Innovative Clean Energy Fund or ICE.  Using the income from the carbon tax, ICE was to fund academic and private sector research and development in the field of alternative energy solutions and CO2 mitigation.  In other words, use the tax to reduce current emissions and look at new ways to develop alternatives.  

Unfortunately, in just a few short years, the amount going to ICE dwindled, R&D is going nowhere and mitigation is not happening. ICE still exists, is underfunded and has gone several years since it last called for ideas and submissions.  This concept of revenue neutrality combined with a cash starved government has pretty much killed it.

Personally I feel there is an answer and frankly, it is staring us in the face, already exists and is called carbon tax.  Weird eh?  The only missing component is a government with enough courage to make it do what it is suppose to do.

Forget this make believe game of a revenue neutral tax and let me honestly contribute towards a solution.  Don’t give it back to me in the guise of lower personal taxes but instead use that new money for what it was meant to do.  Make you and me responsible.

To those who selfishly whine of the economic doom and gloom that would result from an honest carbon tax?  I say, tough luck as I think it’s time you start thinking about how much your current in-action and irrational economic fears are going to cost your children.  Not someone else’s children, or those a few generations from now but your kids.  The ones who are already frightened about their future and are asking you…What are you going to do about it?

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