The Carbon Calculation

Posted in BC Votes 2009 Reality Check Posted by CBC News on April 20, 2009 03:16 PM |

Mostly falseThe NDP claim that the Campbell "gas tax" has caused greenhouse gas emissions to go up is mostly false.Carole James’ announcement that she would get rid of the Campbell government’s carbon tax has created quite a stir.

While James says it is "unfair to working British Columbians, and won't help the environment. Environmentalists, like David Suzuki, were calling on her party to reverse that position.

Recently, and on two separate occasions, James argued the tax wasn’t doing anything to reduce carbon emissions. At the release of the NDP platform on April 9, 2009 she said, "the irony is that the fuel tax isn't effective. Fuel use actually went up last year."

And again, on April 16, 2009, she said “we’ve now had a year with that gas tax. And what have we seen. We’ve seen fuel use and resulting emissions increase last year by four percent. ”

We wanted to put her claim under the microscope: have carbon emissions in B.C. gone up by four percent since the carbon tax was introduced in July 2008?

We asked the NDP to tell us where they got that number. They told us to look at this Statistics Canada report.

The report does say fuel use went up by four percent last year, but the report includes products not covered by the carbon tax, like asphalt, and excludes natural gas, which is covered by the carbon tax.

The document compares petroleum product supply and consumption in 2008 and 2007, but if you search the 90-page document, the word 'emission' does not show up once.

So we called the David Suzuki Foundation to find out who does track emissions and were told it’s Environment Canada, not Statistics Canada. It’s called "Canada’s Greenhouse Gas Inventory,” and the latest numbers only go to the year end of 2006.

Turns out, reports tracking Greenhouse Gas Emissions in Canada are always behind by about 18 months. And while there is another report expected out sometime this month, it will only be up to the end of 2007.

If you follow the NDP logic that more fuel consumption equals more emissions, maybe a four percent increase is possible. But since the carbon tax was introduced on July 1, 2008, halfway through the year, it’s impossible to know for sure if the increase was after the carbon tax was introduced.

Furthermore, since the figures cover products not covered by the carbon tax, and it shows that gasoline use has actually gone down by three per cent year over year, there’s almost no way to measure the impact of the tax. Not yet anyway.

What did we find when we looked under the microscope? The NDP claim that emissions have gone up four percent since July 2008 is mostly false. Whether the carbon tax is "unfair to working British Columbians" or will work in the long run, that’s up to you.