Guest Post by Willis Eschenbach
Well, the leaders of the carbophobes in British Columbia are already declaring victory for their carbon-based energy tax as a way to reduce CO2 emissions. They highlight as a main indication of success the reduction in per-capita gasoline use, and my research shows that their numbers are right. Here’s a quote from one of the main tax cheerleaders, the head of a group of no-doubt well-meaning and dedicated rent-seekers called “Sustainable Prosperity”, on the subject (emphasis mine):
Since 2008, per capita gasoline use in BC has declined by 7.3% more than in the rest of Canada (Table 4) – a substantial difference. Gasoline use in BC was already declining faster than in the rest of Canada from 2000-2007 (see Figure 4).
Well, that’s pretty amazing, not only has “gasoline use in BC” leveled off, it’s been declining. You expect the clouds to part and celestial trumpets to ring out for those kinds of results.
… And for those folks like myself who are reluctant to believe in miracles, for those unabashed cynics who wonder how BC is making such deep cuts in gasoline use, consider Figure 1.
Figure 1. Changes in the number of one-day return trips to the US from British Columbia, by automobile (blue) and by other means of transportation (red). BC’s carbon-based energy tax went into effect on July 1, 2008. DATA SOURCE: Statistics Canada
The energy tax promoters have almost dislocated their shoulders patting themselves on the back for this momentous drop in gasoline use, as in the quotation above … and meanwhile, fuel suppliers in Alberta are laughing all the way to the bank from sales to BC customers, and lines at US gas stations in border towns are backed up with cars bearing BC license plates …
So what does Figure 1 show? Noble Canadian consumers are buying ever-increasing amounts of gasoline in the US of A, because there’s no carbon tax in Washington State. Patriotism at its finest. And you see how trips by bus and foot and train dropped when the automobile trips increased? So many folks are going from Canada to the US in automobiles that they’re taking their friends with them, plus folks who used to take the bus (or walk) across the border are now taking cars in order to bring back gas. It’s worth it to drive now, because you can bring back a tank full of gasoline with no energy tax.
And how much effect is this entirely predictable human behavior having on the miraculous reduction in BC gas usage? Well, therein lies a tale.
To start with, not only are more BC folks filling their tanks in the US of A, the Evil Carbon Empire, but even without that, BC motor gasoline use is right back up to where it was before the tax …
So the first oddity is that it turns out that BC gasoline use is rising and has been since 1993, the first year in the record … and that means that per-capita gasoline use is only falling because of increased population. There’s been no decrease in total gasoline use, quite the opposite, it’s been increasing steadily. And since the current climate paradigm is that temperature is a function of total CO2 emissions, not per-capita CO2 emissions, that means that the theorized CO2 warming from BC gasoline emissions is still going up. Dang … guess that estimate of three thousands of a degree of cooling from their actions might have been optimistic …
Emissions from BC motor gasoline have been rising steadily since as far back as Statistics Canada has numbers, 1993, right up to 2007 … which brings me to the second oddity. This is that the tax hasn’t impacted total BC motor gasoline sales in the slightest—they’re right back up the pre-tax trend line. To be sure, during that time the population went up more than the fuel sales … but that’s immaterial regarding total emissions, and if you believe the IPCC, total emissions are all that counts.
But wait … it’s worse. Those are the official Statistics Canada figures. That doesn’t include the gas bought in the US. How much gas is being bought? Here’s one estimate:
Leaving aside trips in excess of two nights for now, we estimate that, in 2012, same-day crossings and overnight U.S. trips of two days or less together amounted to spending by B.C. residents of $1.0 billion to $1.6 billion. This estimate is based on the assumption that almost all (95 per cent) same-day and overnight vehicle crossings involve the purchase of gas, and that the average gasoline purchase was CN$70 last year.
At seventy litres per trip, and with a post-tax increase of about 4 million automobiles going to the US and returning to BC , that adds up to around 70 million gallons of fuel bought in the USA. So that’s one estimate. Now, compare this with the total drop in the BC sales of fuel …
As with total retail spending, per capita sales at B.C. gas stations have gone from exceeding the national average to being well below it within a couple of years. While the carbon tax and Translink-related fuel levies may have prompted some B.C. vehicle owners to drive less, the steep increase in cross-border trips and shopping leads us to conclude that a good portion of the reduction in gasoline sales in the lower mainland especially reflects rising cross-border gas purchases rather than meaningful underlying changes in consumer behaviour. Per capita gas sales in B.C. are now $90 below the Canadian level. As recently as 2009 they were $95 above the Canada-wide average.
How much difference does this make to the BC figures? Well, a change in the BC purchases of gasoline of $185 per capita comes to 180 million gallons. The US purchases account for a good chunk of that. Plus, of course, we have to include millions of gallons bought in Alberta for use in BC, although I can’t find figures on that. As a commenter on my previous thread said,
Add me to the list. I buy enough fuel at the Alberta border with BC to get me to my BC destination. Then if I am near the US border like at Grand Forks, I slip across the border like everyone else and fill up for the return trip. The US Danville station there is just a few hundred metres across the border.
So let me take as a rough estimate a hundred million gallons of gas transported into BC from the US and Alberta. Given that, here’s the net result:
As you can see, the net effect of the BC energy tax on highway gasoline sales has been a fairly significant rise in CO2 emissions … heck of a plan they’ve got there. Note also that as far as I know they don’t account for the “leakage” of gasoline over the border when making their overblown claims about CO2 reduction … surprising, I know.
So for those claiming that BC is a shining example that we should all follow? Sorry, but the claim has always been that we need to reduce total emissions, and regarding the CO2 emissions of motor gasoline in British Columbia, they’re increasing, not going down. Never get to three-thousands of a degree of cooling that way, no sirree.
NOTE: This is one of a four-part series on the BC carbon-based energy tax. The parts are: