Thursday, February 1, 2007

Examining the Carbon Tax

Last November in my previous blog, I wrote a piece praising the efforts of Dominique de Villepin to propose a carbon tax for the entire European Union. This was one of those ideas that had been proposed in theory by Al Gore, and I was impressed to see a leading politician try to put it into practice. We now have a report from the other side of the coin from the BBC, concerning a study at Oxford University, funded by the Economics and Social Research Council (ESRC) and "based on a survey of almost 500 people in Oxfordshire, which included postal and web-based questionnaires and face-to-face interviews." The primary conclusion of the study is that using a tax to reduce the problem of global warming to personal financial consequences would not have the desired result, at least where carbon emissions associated with travel are concerned. The BBC reported the reason as follows:

High-income groups, whose emissions were twice the national average, would absorb any price increase rather than change their travel habits, it [the study] said.

In other words the financial consequences would not be significant enough in the sector most responsible for the problem to persuade them to change their habits. I assume that the European Union, as a whole, will be examining these results. It would not be the first time that a "tax for the common good" ends up having an impact on the wrong sector of the population.

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