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Stephen Doughty: The Wind Is Now Blowing Against Climate Taxes And Carbon Tomfoolery

Perhaps George Osborne’s apparent conversion in Manchester last week, when the Chancellor appeared to reverse climate change policy, is a sign of things to come.

Green taxes were invented in 1996, about a decade after the green lobby and its supporters began to get very excited about man-made climate change.

Since then green taxes have been piled up to the point that they now bring in more than £40 billion a year, much more than enough to cover the shrinking national defence budget.

However all the terrible effects of climate change that we were promised have been delayed. Unless I have missed it, not a single low-lying island in the Indian or Pacific oceans has been swallowed by the supposedly rising sea. The ice cover in Greenland is melting rather less than some publishers would have us believe.

In this country we have more trouble with snow than heatwaves. The scientists who acted as the priesthood of the greenhouse effect have gone quiet since the embarrassing business about the e-mails and the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change has turned out to be less than precise with its evidence.

When was the last time you met anyone who believed in it? Outside, that is, Whitehall, the professional green movement, its student supporters, and the BBC. Growing numbers of people have decided the emperor has no clothes.

So why are we paying £40 billion a year to combat climate change?

Actually, I don’t mind the taxes on petrol or air fares. The Government has to raise money somehow, and if ministers wish to slap green paint over taxation that is a matter voters can think about at election time, when they can also consider whether they want higher or lower taxation.

Taxes have always been collected under false pretences. Income tax was a temporary emergency measure levied to pay for the war against Napoleon. Nobody even pretends National Insurance contributions really pay for people’s health and welfare bills.

I applaud when George Osborne has the honesty to admit that air passenger duty is ‘fundamentally a revenue raising duty.’

But what I do not applaud is the continuing effort to look greener-than-thou by spending vast sums of taxpayers’ money on incredibly expensive and highly impractical green energy while singling out the most productive industries for destructive carbon reduction levies.

The chemical industry – worth £30 million a day to the economy – is under severe pressure and likely to disappear abroad. Meanwhile, there is big money to be made in wind farms, which cause more anger in rural England than new housing estates.

They don’t work when the wind doesn’t blow, as happens in cold snaps when the energy is needed, and they produce power that is often unwanted when it does.

My favourite is a towering windmill stuck beside the M4 motorway with the intention of impressing passing drivers with how green somebody or other is, partly because this one has been shown to cost exactly twice as much to run as the value of the electricity it produces.

Carbon credits that harm industry and the argument over future energy supplies have direct and immediate effect on few people. Electricity and gas bills, on the other hand, do.

So when we learn that one in four families are going to struggle to pay their bills in four years’ time, as Deutsche Bank predicted this week, that is going to concentrate a lot of minds. As are the latest dire unemployment figures.

Politicians have judged there are votes in being green, which is why Mr Cameron made a fuss about putting a wind turbine on his Notting Hill home, and why he posed with the huskies in Norway five years ago calling for more effective taxes to reduce carbon emissions.

Greenery has also provided a playground for LibDem ministers who might otherwise want to get their hands on more serious levers of power.

It could be that the wind is now blowing against green taxation and carbon tomfoolery.

Perhaps Mr Osborne’s apparent conversion in Manchester last week, when the Chancellor appeared to reverse climate change policy by suggesting we let the EU take the lead, is a sign of things to come.

Daily Mail, 12 October 2011