Letter to the Editor: I Made a Mistake: Alberta’s Carbon Tax on Natural Gas is Not 75%; It’s 81%

Letter to the Editor: I Made a Mistake: Alberta’s Carbon Tax on Natural Gas is Not 75%; It’s 81%

Dear Editor: 

Recently there has been considerable discussion regarding Alberta’s carbon tax on natural gas, especially concerning the rate of the tax, which was boosted this month. I recently wrote a letter to the editor indicating that the increased cost would be equal to a 75% sales tax on home heating. 

Turns out I was wrong. Recently, Sun columnist Lorne Gunter explained how the tax is actually the equivalent of an 81% sales tax. The calculation starts with the price of natural gas on January 3, which was $1.87 per gigajoule. The carbon tax is slated to be $ 1.51 per gigajoule, which overall equals an additional 81% cost to every Albertan for this type of home heating. 

Regrettably, the tax increase is arriving just as Albertans experienced a brutal cold spell of minus 30-degree weather or worse—and who knows what the rest of the winter holds. At such times, people don’t have much choice but to set the thermostat to a position that has the furnace constantly kicking in. 

The government earnestly claims that higher heating costs are going to be offset by rebates. If that were really true, then why charge the tax in the first place? University of Calgary economist Trevor Tombe, said that when it comes to the government’s much touted rebate scheme, only about 40% of Albertans will receive a rebate. He says the difference between what the government says about rebates and what will actually occur has to do with the language government uses. 

The government claims that 66% of all “households” will receive a rebate. But in fact, this doesn’t mean that “the entire” household gets rebated. The government uses the 66% number even when referring to a member of a household rather than the entire household. For example, a 19-year living at home might get a tiny rebate, while the parents who actually pay the heating bills and the mortgage get nothing. 

At an earlier press conference, Premier Notley responded directly to questions regarding how Albertans should cope with the carbon tax—including higher costs for fuel and gasoline—by saying: “It’s not just a question of having a more fuel-efficient vehicle, it could sometimes be a question of taking a bus, walking – you know, those kinds of things.” 

Unfortunately, Alberta is a huge province that covers more than 600,000 square kilometers. It’s silly to assume that everybody in the province—or even most people—have the option of taking the bus to where they’re going, or walking. This kind of trite suggestion by the premier clearly can’t apply to the vast majority of our citizens. 

The result is that for most Albertans, if we want to stay warm when the cold arrives there is no way to escape the tax. The tax will therefore bite into the finances of many hundreds of thousands of Albertans.

The government believes that Albertans paying a carbon tax is a key part of the process whereby the earth’s thermostat and global temperatures can be adjusted. 

The actual climate benefits from these policies will likely be minuscule. Scientist Bjorn Lomborg points out in a recent peer-reviewed paper that the entire EU’s commitments to reduce CO2 emissions under the Paris accord up to 2030, if achieved, would prevent just 0.096°F (0.053°C) of global warming by 2100. Alberta’s contribution is a shadow of that amount. 

Stuart Taylor, Hinton.