Tuesday, February 26, 2013

The *!@%$ carbon tax

In 1912, Alice, Lady Hillingdon, wrote “When I hear my husband’s steps outside my door, I lie down on my bed, close my eyes, open my legs and think of England.” South African business appears to be taking the same approach to the impending carbon tax.

The arguments for the tax are specious in the extreme. There is a belief that we have voluntarily committed to reduce our emissions by 34% by 2020.  Nothing could be further from the truth.  We have made an offer provided, and only provided, international funds and technology are made available to pay for any reduction.  As of today, not one brass farthing has appeared. Meanwhile we are already paying an extra 3.5c/kWh for coal-derived electricity. The electricity price is being further inflated by Eskom paying an average of over R2/kWh for ‘renewable’ energy; its own production costs are 32c/kWh.  We can expect further price increases as even more ‘renewables’ are thrust upon us by this insane pursuit of the unattainable.

“Insane pursuit of the unattainable”? Yes, the idea that any reduction we make will affect global carbon dioxide emissions is risible.  Worldwide, they have grown 50% in the last 17 years.  The annual growth exceeds our total output. Any reduction we made would be invisible against the background of surging fossil fuel use. A 34% reduction would devastate our economy and give nil benefits – zilch, zero.

Has rising carbon dioxide had any measurable impact?  No! Global temperatures have been flat for the last 17 years. The evidence for impending disasters is slender in the extreme. The sea level rise has slowed since we came out of the last Ice Age.  It is now only about 3mm per year, almost imperceptible against the background of tides and storms. The Arctic has shrunk to levels last seen in the 1920’s. Glaciers only 400 years old are shrinking again. And for the rest, everything is as variable as it has always been. 

But surely a carbon tax will change our behaviour?  It is unlikely to reduce our incomes to the point where we starve and turn cannibal, to be true.  But it is equally unlikely to change any other behaviour.  If you doubt this, think of the tax on gas-guzzlers.  Have you seen any fewer Sandton tractors on the streets of late? The parking spaces at the private schools are being lengthened to enable the mothers to get in and out.

Has Government given us any indication of what it intends to do with the billions it will suck out of our economy? No! It wants to continue to distribute revenue as it sees fit, which is increasingly being seen as a means of buying votes. 

The time has come to reject any notion of a carbon tax.  It will bring no benefits, and will damage the economy. Stronger reasons for rejection are difficult to imagine.

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