It was hard to avoid the item on the news this morning about a group claiming that 'green taxes' are 'making billions'... far more, it is claimed, than the cost of pollution itself. Stating that fines and taxes are 'revenue generation' as if this is a bad thing is an old argument of course, and one that is often used against speed cameras. However, in this case the target is a much more serious one than speed cameras as it's an issue that is of vital importance to the whole world.
First let us look at the claims. Apparently 'green taxes' brought in 21.9 billion last year, while the emissions had done 11.7 billion worth of 'damage'. 'Green taxes' here include things like fuel duty - hardly a green tax.. more like something that the government has always charged. It also includes landfill tax and other taxes that could be considered green of course, but the scope is rather wide. What they actually mean therefore is a collection of taxes that is levied against things that may harm the environment, rather than green taxes in particular.
What I really have a problem with is the 'cost' of emissions they have come up with. Just how have they calculated this, exactly? Is the 'cost' of a landfill the amount it would be to dig it all up? No - it's the cost of burning-off the methane. I don't think that their idea of costs and mine, or any normal person, are quite the same. Also, how do you put a cost on the effect of a ton of CO2 going into the atmosphere and having some part in flooding yet more of Bangladesh? No, the whole 'cost' is a nonsense. 'Green' taxes aren't there to level some sort of account we have with the environment, they're there to stop people polluting in the first place. The only thing that will make some people stop is to hit them in the wallet, since appealing to their morals seems to fail. People must be priced out of their cars and flights, and motivated into recycling by the cost of not doing it. Society isn't profiteering from this, just making people pay something closer to the real cost of their selfish ways.
Finally, just who are The Tax Payers Alliance? Well, take a look. Surprise surprise, they are the usual right-wing nutjobs. Just who let a story by these people make the headlines? The chairman Andrew Allum left the Tories 'having lost faith that it represented his brand of free market, individualist and compassionate politics', that is to say that they probably weren't quite right-wing enough for him. The chief executive, Matthew Elliot, is a young chap who has worked for 'Britain’s leading Eurorealist think-tank', so he's clearly going to look at European issues objectively, right? Finally, Florence Heath works... and this is a good one... for an oil company. Brilliant. She's bound to be fully committed to the environment then.
Honestly though, what the hell is the BBC doing even giving these people the time of day? Three people who make the UKIP look sensible manage to get headlines on the Today programme?! Maybe I'll start my own 'think tank', since I seem to be just as qualified to do so. The trouble is, when you take the 'green' side you probably find that industry is slightly less willing to grease your palm. Perhaps the BBC should just ignore press releases from organisations that can't be bothered to get their own domain for their Web site? It doesn't show a lot of commitment to their cause does it? Either that or they're technically inept, but neither of these possibilities inspire a huge amount of confidence...