Plans for energy tax come under fire

Opponents of the government's proposed energy tax have received a boost following the release of a new study, which refutes claims that the measure will help to protect the environment.

This content was published on July 20, 2000 - 22:53

Opposition to the proposed tax on fossil fuels and nuclear energy has been growing since it was announced that the issue would go to a nationwide vote in September.

Critics led by the business community argue that the tax will lead to higher energy costs and deliver little benefit to the environment.

Now they have a new weapon in their arsenal in the form of a study conducted by the Swiss Federal Institute for Technology and the University of Basel. The research was commissioned by Swiss Federation for Commerce and Industry.

The study concludes that the tax will have little or no impact on the major threat to the environment, which it defines as the release of carbon dioxide emissions into the atmosphere.

The reason is because Switzerland accounts for just 0.2 per cent of the world's total energy consumption and has the lowest per capita carbon dioxide emissions.

"It is absolutely ridiculous for Switzerland to act alone," says Sylvio Borner of Basel University.

Borner said it is clear that a global solution is required. "I think the effective way to solve the problem of carbon dioxide emissions is an internationally coordinated move because this is a truly global problem so it needs a truly global solution."

He added that unilateral action by Switzerland could make the situation worse because it could encourage energy-intensive industries to move their operations to countries where energy prices are lower. "This could lead to more carbon dioxide emissions from our neighbours."

The study also examined the economic implications of the proposed tax. In the September ballot, voters will also be called on to decide how the proceeds from the new tax should be used.

Borner says that, if the tax is approved, it's clear that the best option is to use the money to reduce social security costs. He claims the other two options - investing in renewable energy or promoting energy efficiency - would merely result in subsidies for special interest groups in the renewable energy sector.

By Tom O'Brien

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