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Carbon tax will send fuel and heating bills soaring

This article first appears in Irish Independent on Jyle 29, 2009

HOMEOWNERS can expect the cost of heating their homes and fuelling their cars to increase by hundreds of euro a year if the Government introduces a carbon tax in the December Budget.

The ESRI said yesterday that if a carbon tax of €20 per tonne is introduced, householders should expect a sharp rise in their annual fuel bills -- but that the money raised should be used to reduce income tax rates.

Up to €500m a year would be generated through a carbon tax, it said, but the revenue should not be used to top-up depleted Government coffers.

Instead, the economic think-tank says the money should be used to reduce income tax rates and PRSI levies to help restore Ireland's competitiveness.

"Revenues should be used to offset income or labour taxes to aid competitiveness with a share set aside to help the vulnerable," the authors of 'Policy Options to Reduce Ireland's Greenhouse Gas Emissions' said.

Favourable

"Experience with this approach elsewhere has been favourable and widespread adoption would be ideal."

ESRI economist Sue Scott yesterday said that a carbon tax of at least €20 per tonne was needed to change consumer behaviour, and that using such a tax to reduce labour taxes had been done in the UK and in a number of EU countries.

The tax, expected to be recommended by the Commission on Taxation when it reports to Government next month, would see householders and businesses charged a tax for using fossil fuels including oil, gas and coal which lead to carbon dioxide being emitted -- the primary cause of climate change.

But an analysis of the impact a tax would have on households says that the cost of heating a home and fuelling a car would rise substantially, particularly for householders using oil instead of gas.

The price of 1,000 litres of home heating oil would rise by almost €54, or 10pc. The annual gas bill would increase by over €40 and car fuel bills would rise by at least €70 per year. Using peat briquettes and coal in open fires would also put pressure on family budgets.

Energy Minister Eamon Ryan would not comment on whether a carbon tax -- a key Green Party policy -- would be introduced in next December's Budget.

But he said that the Government should not look to add to the tax burden on workers.

"We do have to meet our budget target," he said. "We have to get €4bn in savings this year and next, after that there's a combination of measures on capital and current spending.

"We shouldn't be looking to put more taxes on labour. In terms of the other measures in the Budget we'll have to wait and see."

The carbon tax would affect businesses aswell. Dublin Bus, which uses 36 million litres of fuel each year, would have to pay €1.8m in a carbon tax every year, which could lead to fare increases. Iarnrod Eireann said that a carbon tax would have a far greater impact on private motorists, and that if there was an additional cost it would have to be factored into fares.

Airlines, ferry companies and electricity generators would also be affected, meaning that price hikes across the board could become a reality.

Ireland faces legally-binding targets to reduce the amount of carbon dioxide it emits from 70.3 million tonnes in 2005, to at least 56.3 million tonnes by 2020.

We will reach interim 2012 targets of emitting no more than 62.7 million tonnes of carbon because of the economic downturn, but achieving the higher 2020 targets is "unlikely without new policies", the ESRI says.

A number of approaches could be used to reduce our carbon dioxide emissions. Introducing regulations which could compel government departments and businesses to reduce emissions or face legal sanctions; improved building standards to improve insulation; reducing commuting; and introducing subsidies to encourage research and development.

 






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