Barry “Dork Brain” Gardiner
Is Labour MP Barry Gardiner vilely dishonest or just incredibly stupid? Personally since he appears to be a litigious sort of fellow I’m plumping for the latter. That’s why, I think it’s quite possible that when he was at his public school Haileybury his nickname was “Dork Brain.” (Though I have no more evidence for this than Gardiner does for most of his hysterical views on climate change)
But I leave you to draw your own conclusions after his recent claim, in an interview with Energy Live news, that the Coalition is favouring fossil fuel energy over wind energy through generous subsidies. (H/T Bishop Hill)
Here’s what Gardiner said:
He claimed the third [lie behind government energy policy] is that Government is “neutral” and doesn’t pick favourites in energy: “Last year the OECD announced that in 2010 the UK subsidised fossil fuels by £3.6 billion. In last year’s budget, the Chancellor announced a further £65million to oil and gas in 2011… In contrast the total subsidy paid to onshore wind in 2010 was just £400million.”
As Bishop Hill notes, he made the same claim in August in the New Statesman:
Last year, the OECD estimated that in 2010 the subsidies for coal, gas and petrol in the UK amounted to £3.6bn on top of which the Chancellor, in the 2012 budget, has announced further exploration and production subsidies of £65m to develop the West of Shetland fields.
So it must be true, right? Not only is Gardiner an elected member of parliament but he’s Ed Miliband’s Special Envoy For Climate Change and the Environment, and also Vice President of (the environmental movement’s sinister taxpayer-funded answer to SPECTRE) Globe International. A man with such important and influential public positions wouldn’t be in the business of telling whopping great porkies, now, would he?
Well, whether Gardiner is lying or thick as pig poo he is most certainly mistaken. Let’s examine his claim more closely in order to spare him and those like him the embarrassment of disseminating false information again.
The claim seems to have begun life in this OECD report, characteristically misrepresented by the Guardian’s Ubergruppenklimatischewahnsinnigefuhrer Damian Carrington in a piece titled Wind power still gets lower public subsidies than fossil fuel tax breaks. It claimed:
Gas, oil and coal prices were subsidised by £3.63bn in 2010, according to data from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development , whereas offshore and onshore wind received £0.7bn in the year from April 2010.
This was at best a tendentious stretching of the truth unworthy of a serious newspaper. (If you believe the Guardian deserves such a title). At worst, it’s pure political activism. In fact, as Bishop Hill notes, the “subsidies” claimed by Carrington and Gardiner weren’t subsidies at all.
The OECD paper does not mention subsidies of £3.6bn. That figure refers to the value of the reduced rate of VAT on energy. This does not meet the definition of a subsidy, which involves a cash payment. And since it applies to all kinds of energy it cannot be a “fossil fuel” subsidy either, so Gardiner’s claim about picking favourites is patently false.
His claim about the further £65m for oil and gas is not a subsidy either, being a reduction in a supertax (the Supplementary Charge) which is paid by oil companies but not by renewables firms. This therefore is not a subsidy and demonstrates that government policy favours renewables over fossil fuels the opposite of what Gardiner has said.
This was also pointed out in June by Telegraph blogs’ own Tim Worstall. In reality, he noted, if you go by Carrington’s definition of a subsidy, it’s the wind industry which is subsidised, not the fossil fuel industry, to the tune of £41 billion.
And, if you want chapter and verse on this issue, go to the excellent Communities Against Turbines Scotland site (where the Resistance is articulate and strong) and look up Stuart Young’s report. Government subsidy for Renewables in 2012, it notes, is £1,780 million pounds. Subsidies paid to the gas, oil and coal industry in the same period: 0 pounds.
To recap then: the UK fossil fuel industry is not “subsidised” in any meaningful sense of the word “subsidy.” Charging less tax on something is not “subsidising” something.
The government does not give fossil fuel companies sweeteners to encourage them to produce more fossil fuel power. That’s because they don’t need any incentives: the fossil fuel power industry is perfectly viable without subsidy.
The government does, however, give massive sweeteners to the renewable industry wind especially. Onshore turbines are given a 100 per cent subsidy from the government (aka the taxpayer). Offshore turbines are given a 200 per cent subsidy. Without these sweeteners not a single wind turbine would be built because the power they produce being intermittent and unreliable is to all intents and purposes worthless in a free market.
Therefore what Carrington claims in that Guardian article is untrue. What Gardiner told Energy Live and the New Statesman is untrue. They really ought to know better and now they do. So if they repeat these claims again it won’t merely be down to an error of extreme stupidity, will it? It will be an abject and cynical lie.
Now we’ve settled that one I wish Gardiner the best of luck in his threatened libel action with the daily-more-magnificent-and-admirable Ben Pile (of Climate Resistance) over some Tweets summarised here by the Bishop:
@BarryGardiner is a liar about the OECD analysis, even if he is right about energy proces rising. […] Shame on you, Barry.
A tweet that ended up with quite an interesting exchange of views:
GARDINER: Your tweet is actionable. Please withdraw it. I correctly state OECD figures for Fossil Fuel Subsidies were £3.6bn in 2010
PILE: you can’t call people liars and complain about being called a liar. Oecd figures are for reduced rate of vat, not subsidiesand you know that oecd figures are reduced rate, not subsidies, hence you are dishonest.
GARDINER: Also I said gov policy was based on a lie. No named person = not actionable You named me = actionable Please retract
PILE: it’s true. You knew that what you said wasn’t true. So you lied. I said so. That ain’t ‘actionable’. If you think it isi’ll withdraw my tweet if you explain that you were wrong about subsidies to energy live newsWhen did it become ‘actionable’ to call an MP a liar, anyway?
GARDINER: So reducing tax to favour the consumption of a particular product does not count as a subsidy in your book? Really?
PILE: no, reducing tax is taking less money, subsidy is giving money. I’m surprised an MP can’t tell the difference. Hmm.and reduced rate doesn’t favour any particular form of energy. Applies to renewables too. Surprised you don’t know this.
Send me your email address, and i’ll give you my postal address so you can get your lawyer to proceed
PILE: let me up the stakes by adding ‘coward’ to liar.
PILE: thanks. I’ve got no money or property, I hope you realise. Could cost you.
Yep. Popcorn time.