CBC promotes Stewart Elgie’s unsustainable carbon tax chutzpah

[07/25/2013 12:14 PM – please note update below]

Ottawa based Stewart Elgie – not unlike IPCC-nik and recently elected British Columbia Green Party MLA, Andrew Weaver – has a history of putting advocacy carts ahead of evidence horses.

I first encountered Elgie and his enchantment with BC’s carbon tax a little over a year ago. He is the founder of an organization with the very green tinted name of “Sustainable Prosperity“. And he seems to have a knack for grabbing the media’s attention with his so-called “reports” – and other highly dubious advocacy ventures, the most notorious one of which was confirmed by BC’s Auditor General in April of this year.

Today, Elgie released a new “report”. And, right on cue, Canada’s national broadcaster, the CBC in its infinite green wisdom gave his latest opus far more coverage than it deserves:

B.C. carbon tax cut fuel use, didn’t hurt economy
Research report asks premiers to discuss carbon tax at summit


Sustainable Prosperity has released a report that shows since the carbon tax shift was introduced in 2008, B.C.’s consumption of fossil fuels has been reduced nearly 19 per cent per capita compared to the rest of Canada, while the province’s gross domestic product has kept pace with the country’s.

The report is the basis of an article to be published in the next edition of the journal Canadian Public Policy. Elgie said the group wanted to get the results out now so it can inform the environmental strategy discussions at the premiers’ summit starting Wednesday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

[But at least he concedes, well sort of:]

Elgie admits that with only four years of data, he can’t say for certain the changes in fossil fuel use in B.C. are entirely attributable to the carbon tax, but he’s confident most of them are. [emphasis added -hro]

Perhaps this minor concession was to avoid the embarrassment of having fellow green-dreamer, Mark Jaccard (about whose latest “revisionist” antics please see Donna Laframboise’s recent post) contradict him – as he did Elgie’s June 2012 report (from my footnote here):

“It would be shocking if a carbon tax had made a difference in a couple of years and it hasn’t,” [Jaccard] said.

But facts don’t seem to matter much to Elgie, who appears to have convinced himself that he knows best! Particularly when it comes to what he calls the “success” of BC’s unwanted and unwarranted carbon tax (not to mention the other legislated lunacies that are part and parcel of the same “package”).

The “centrepiece” of this year’s edition of Elgie’s glowing report is a graph:


Notice the “fine print”, folks! Statistics Canada is known to be very reliable as a source of data. However, based on Elgie’s past performances, I would not be inclined to trust the “author calculations” any further than I could throw them!

You see, Elgie’s 2013 report claims (p. 8) that:

BC has brought in a serious policy to curb fuel use and GHG emissions – that seems to be working. It has a carbon price that is higher than anywhere else in North America, and most other countries in the world. Yet there is no evidence at this point that it is harming BC’s economy10

[and here’s the text of the footnote:]

That is not to say that no firms or households have experienced adverse economic impacts. No doubt some have. But the economy-wide impacts from the tax shift seem to have been neutral or positive [emphasis added -hro]

Yet, following a “review” of this tax last year, the BC government in its Budget 2013 – June Update (pdf) has acknowledged:

Economic analysis conducted for the carbon tax review indicates that BC’s carbon tax has had, and will continue to have, a small negative impact on gross domestic product (GDP) in the province. Increasing the carbon tax beyond the current $30 per tonne would have a stronger negative effect on economic growth.

As an aside, it’s worth noting that Elgie’s report makes references and comparisons to the (positive, of course!) effects of carbon taxes in Europe, which suggests that he’s definitely not au courant with developments there! Whereas at least those responsible for the authorship of the BC government Budget 2013 – June Update are somewhat more in touch with reality!

But even so, this is a rather rose-tinted assessment, as Willis Eschenbach has shown in a recent series of articles at WUWT:

British Columbia, British Utopia
Fuel on the Highway in British Pre-Columbia
The Real Canadian Hockeystick
Why Revenue Neutral Isn’t, and Other Costs of the BC Tax

Unlike Elgie, Eschenbach doesn’t do agenda-driven chutzpah (such as declaring that a “negative impact” is “neutral or positive”). And unlike Elgie’s, Eschenbach’s series of articles are well worth reading – particularly if (unlike the CBC) you’re interested in facts:-)

UPDATE: CBC and green-heart-on-sleeve climate modeller, Andrew Weaver continued to promote Elgie’s fantasies as though they were factual. Elgie had released his “report” with much fanfare – prior to publication in a journal you’ve probably never heard of – because he wanted it to “inform” a gathering of provincial premiers. So CBC dutifully regurgitated:

No carbon tax rise, despite program’s success
Study finds B.C.’s carbon tax has not hurt the province’s economic growth

B.C. Minister of Environment Mary Polak says her government will stick to its promise to freeze the carbon tax for the next five years, despite a new study which finds it is reducing emissions.

The study from the University of Ottawa concluded that since B.C. introduced the carbon tax shift in 2008, the province’s consumption of fossil fuels reduced nearly 19 per cent per capita compared to the rest of Canada.

Meanwhile British Columbia’s gross domestic product has kept pace with that of the whole country.

The study’s co-author Stewart Elgie said this proves the B.C.’s carbon tax is working to reduce emissions, without hurting the provincial economy.

Green MLA and climate scientist Andrew Weaver believes given those results, the province should increase the tax to encourage even more carbon reduction.

“Without any doubt, the higher the carbon tax, the greater the impact,” says Weaver.

While for some strange reason (a Weaver “communication block” edict, perhaps?!) no comments are permitted on this further promulgation of green propaganda, the video at least gives airtime to a critic of Elgie’s failure to note (and Weaver’s inane oblivion to) the significant adverse effects of the increase cross-border fuel fill-ups.

18 thoughts on “CBC promotes Stewart Elgie’s unsustainable carbon tax chutzpah

  1. Hmmmm . . data they use is for volume of fuel sold in BC. He has no data for volume of fuel consumed in BC.

    Hmmmmm . . . wonder if a lot of BC drivers, upset at paying $1.50 more per gallon, just drive a couple of extra miles, say to Blaine Washington and gas up there?

    Has vehicle traffic increased across the US border since 2008 when the Carbon Tax was imposed?

    You decide:


    How much do you want to bet all those extra cars fill up on the US side to save big bucks but burn the gas in BC?

    So it really looks like the BC Carbon Tax has caused catastrophic losses in the BC Retail Fuel sector, that the Carbon Tax is in fact causing the export of BC GDP, BC Jobs and BC tax revenues to Washington State.

    Our Public Policy in BC will likely be very distorted because of the deeply flawed study and the complete lack of any scrutiny done by our media before they went on air and pretended reading the Press Release constitutes “news coverage”.

    Canadians very poorly informed yesterday, in fact they were very misinformed.

    • The data that you link to for the crossings points to June 2008 which shows volumes significantly below June 2007 50% or more lower, 2009 is still only at about 75% of 2007. It’s not until 2010 that June’s figures approach 2007. July 2008 also seems generally lower than July 2007. So it doesn’t look like there was a rush to buy cheaper fuel across the border.

    • Oh! Thank you, little one! You’ve just given me my first laugh of the day, and material for a Friday Funny post. I had wondered where you were getting your off by a country mile numbers from. And now I know!

    • Wow that was a really uninformative rebuttal. It may have convinced you, but it didn’t convince me. what facts are you going to bring to the table? I used the crossing data that Fred linked to.

  2. Hilary,
    Thank you for drawing attention to inadequate reporting of an inadequate paper.
    There is so little data, methodology and analysis in Elgie’s pre-publication report that is difficult to analyse and comment on it. It is apparent however in his figure 1 that whatever he was measuring (m3 per capita) began to drop well before the BC carbon tax was introduced and simply has continued to fall. From this graph it is difficult to assign any reductive effect to the Carbon Tax.

  3. Fred:
    Just so there is no confusion, the web version of Elgie’s report is a “pre-publication report” web-published by special permission from the organization, “Canadian Public Policy” in advance of its publication in the journal of that name. Was it released to coincide with the meeting of Premiers in Niagara-on-the Lake?
    The frontispiece of the web article also says “BASED on an article to be published – – -” (my emphasis).
    One hopes that the version published in the Journal reports more detail of Elgie’s data and methodology than is currently available.

    • Morley, I assume that when you speak of the “web version” of Elgie’s latest opus you are referring to the pdf file they’ve made available. I’ve also downloaded a copy (for backup purposes), since SP seems to have a rather unfortunate habit of “disappearing” – or at least hiding – stuff from their site, i.e. material I found there a year ago is no longer prominently available (if at all).

      The fist CBC piece in my post indicated Elgie had declared that:

      the group wanted to get the results out now so it can inform the environmental strategy discussions at the premiers’ summit starting Wednesday in Niagara-on-the-Lake, Ont.

      I suspect Elgie must be quite disappointed that his efforts did not appear to make it onto the premiers’ agenda (and/or the CBC reporting thereof). Who knows, perhaps next thing we know we’ll see a surge of letters to the editor announcing their failure to take his advice, along with his resignation from some Board or other ;-) But I digress …

      Although I had not mentioned it in my top post, I believe it is worth noting a rather glaring discrepancy in this report’s glossiness, so to speak. Here’s a screen cap from the cover page:

      Compare this with the screen cap of the header on all even numbered pages:

      Shouldn’t they make up their minds whether this is a report of “success” after five years (as per the title) or after four years (as per the page headers)?

      Of course this does not “materially alter” (the shoddiness of) their report. But it does raise the question: if we cannot trust their attention to detail and accuracy on the small stuff, why should we trust them on the big stuff, eh?!

      One other “peculiarity” – which may (or may not) be solely related to the inadequacies of CBC’s “fact-checkers” …

      The address of Elgie’s current fiefdom, “Sustainable Prosperity” (SP) on the pdf is shown as “c/o University of Ottawa, …” which I would not be surprised to see for an organization that was so generously supported by U of O (by their “contributions in kind” to the renovations of SP’s offices).

      But notice how in CBC’s reporting on Elgie’s opus has morphed from being described as “a report from SP” to being described as “a study from the University of Ottawa” – in less than 24 hours! (pls see my update)

      Amazing, eh?!

  4. As an aside, it’s worth noting that Elgie’s report makes references and comparisons to the (positive, of course!) effects of carbon taxes in Europe, which suggests that he’s definitely not au courant with developments there!

    The carbon tax has practically nothing to do with Europe’s current economic woes, which are alsobeing experienced by most of the global economy. Germany which has one of the highest percentage of renewables is actually the economic powerhouse of Europe.

    • The rain fell mainly on the plain? You’re not seriously suggesting that a policy that brings down the wholesale price of electricity has caused Spain’s problems?

  5. You may find this interesting,

    Who is Willis Eschenbach?


    As of 2012 Mr. Eschenbach has been employed as a House Carpenter.

    He is not a “computer modeler”, he is not an “engineer” and he is certainly not a “scientist” (despite all ridiculous claims to the contrary).

    “A final question, one asked on Judith Curry’s blog a year ago by a real scientist, Willis Eschenbach…”

    • Poptech, I’m not sure why you thought this might be relevant to this post. I haven’t claimed that Willis is an engineer, a computer modeller or a scientist. Nor do I believe any such credentials are required for the posts of his to which I’ve linked. And while I certainly have had my differences with Willis, as I have with you, I do recognize that both of you have made some valuable contributions to those parts of the “debate” on which I choose to focus. I also recognize that both of you can be quite unpleasantly and unnecessarily abrasive at times – and I don’t find that particularly helpful.

      But thanks for dropping by :-)

    • I believe people should know someone’s scientific credentials before they read their scientific arguments. My problem with Willis is his misrepresentation of his credentials and failure to own up to it.

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