TPA campaign against Carbon Trust bears fruit

February 15, 2011 5:32 PM

Over at Left Foot Forward Guy Shrubsole is very upset about the decision to cut the Carbon Trust budget by 40 per cent.  He blames us for saving taxpayers £33 million that would otherwise have been spent on this inscrutable, wasteful and unnecessary quango.  He even says that:
"It is to be hoped the government has back-up plans to replace this lost funding, perhaps through the Green Investment Bank – although simply moving money around into different pots won’t grow the green economy. But for now its plans remain opaque, and it appears to be listening more to the likes of the Taxpayers’ Alliance than to its most sage advisers."

If only.

As he says, we wrote to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, calling for the Carbon Trust to be abolished back in September.  We argued that:
"The Carbon Trust is therefore subject to considerable mission creep, its main work does not address an actual market failure, it is extremely generous in how it remunerates its staff and fails to match up to the principles of transparency and accountability articulated by the Government. While it is possible to conceive of reforms that might improve the organisation, the best way of securing value for taxpayers is to abolish it outright."

You can read the letter yourself here.  At the time we asked our supporters to write in, adding your voice to calls for the Trust to be scrapped.

The best Mr. Shrubsole can come up with to defend the Trust is this:
"The Carbon Trust was set to commit £10m for research and development into algal biofuels over the next 5 years – with the aim of developing a fuel with 80% lower emissions than conventional transport fuels, and avoiding the deforestation resulting from first generation biofuels like palm oil."

Okay, let's compare the Carbon Trust to enviro-villains ExxonMobil.  The Carbon Trust claim they were "set to commit" £10 million.  Exxon "expects to spend more than $600 million" (£372 million at current exchange rates).  Try putting that in a graph:

[caption id="attachment_24274" align="aligncenter" width="332" caption="Investment in algal biofuels, ExxonMobil vs. the Carbon Trust, £ million"][/caption]

Now I'm sure some Carbon Trust booster will tell me that their spending is different, that they are filling a critical gap the market has missed.  My guess though is that the people whose business relies upon selling fuel will do a better job identifying the right research opportunities than people whose organisation survives if they convince Chris Huhne to give them our money.  They could argue that the Exxon claims are just corporate PR, but that is exactly what the Carbon Trust is engaged in.  If British taxpayers want to support algal biofuels they don't need the Government to spend their money on the Carbon Trust, they can invest in ExxonMobil stock themselves.

Even if there is a better example of the Carbon Trust doing something worthwhile, and with the amount of money they've sprayed around they would be very unlucky to have not hit the right targets once or twice, that isn't worth huge amounts being wasted on generous compensation for staff and absurd projects like lobbying for the creation of  Carbon Trust USA.  And the fact they are above the Freedom of Information Act is an awful oversight which means much of their spending can't be effectively scrutinised.  They should be abolished, and if we've done anything to help that happen then good.

Unfortunately Chris Huhne is still pushing through expensive regulations that are increasing the price of energy for hard pressed families, hitting the poor and the elderly particularly hard.  He won't even tell us how much the 42 per cent by 2020 emissions cut pledge he wants to sign the UK up to will cost.  New programmes, like the Green Investment Bank, are being established faster than old ones like the Carbon Trust are being cut.  There is a lot of work to do.Over at Left Foot Forward Guy Shrubsole is very upset about the decision to cut the Carbon Trust budget by 40 per cent.  He blames us for saving taxpayers £33 million that would otherwise have been spent on this inscrutable, wasteful and unnecessary quango.  He even says that:
"It is to be hoped the government has back-up plans to replace this lost funding, perhaps through the Green Investment Bank – although simply moving money around into different pots won’t grow the green economy. But for now its plans remain opaque, and it appears to be listening more to the likes of the Taxpayers’ Alliance than to its most sage advisers."

If only.

As he says, we wrote to Chris Huhne, Secretary of State at the Department of Energy and Climate Change, calling for the Carbon Trust to be abolished back in September.  We argued that:
"The Carbon Trust is therefore subject to considerable mission creep, its main work does not address an actual market failure, it is extremely generous in how it remunerates its staff and fails to match up to the principles of transparency and accountability articulated by the Government. While it is possible to conceive of reforms that might improve the organisation, the best way of securing value for taxpayers is to abolish it outright."

You can read the letter yourself here.  At the time we asked our supporters to write in, adding your voice to calls for the Trust to be scrapped.

The best Mr. Shrubsole can come up with to defend the Trust is this:
"The Carbon Trust was set to commit £10m for research and development into algal biofuels over the next 5 years – with the aim of developing a fuel with 80% lower emissions than conventional transport fuels, and avoiding the deforestation resulting from first generation biofuels like palm oil."

Okay, let's compare the Carbon Trust to enviro-villains ExxonMobil.  The Carbon Trust claim they were "set to commit" £10 million.  Exxon "expects to spend more than $600 million" (£372 million at current exchange rates).  Try putting that in a graph:

[caption id="attachment_24274" align="aligncenter" width="332" caption="Investment in algal biofuels, ExxonMobil vs. the Carbon Trust, £ million"][/caption]

Now I'm sure some Carbon Trust booster will tell me that their spending is different, that they are filling a critical gap the market has missed.  My guess though is that the people whose business relies upon selling fuel will do a better job identifying the right research opportunities than people whose organisation survives if they convince Chris Huhne to give them our money.  They could argue that the Exxon claims are just corporate PR, but that is exactly what the Carbon Trust is engaged in.  If British taxpayers want to support algal biofuels they don't need the Government to spend their money on the Carbon Trust, they can invest in ExxonMobil stock themselves.

Even if there is a better example of the Carbon Trust doing something worthwhile, and with the amount of money they've sprayed around they would be very unlucky to have not hit the right targets once or twice, that isn't worth huge amounts being wasted on generous compensation for staff and absurd projects like lobbying for the creation of  Carbon Trust USA.  And the fact they are above the Freedom of Information Act is an awful oversight which means much of their spending can't be effectively scrutinised.  They should be abolished, and if we've done anything to help that happen then good.

Unfortunately Chris Huhne is still pushing through expensive regulations that are increasing the price of energy for hard pressed families, hitting the poor and the elderly particularly hard.  He won't even tell us how much the 42 per cent by 2020 emissions cut pledge he wants to sign the UK up to will cost.  New programmes, like the Green Investment Bank, are being established faster than old ones like the Carbon Trust are being cut.  There is a lot of work to do.

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