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Daily Mail confused over whether 'green tax' cost is £85 or £300 as Mail on Sunday uses GWPF £200 figure despite PCC ruling

  • 19 Sep 2011, 18:14
  • Christian Hunt

The current interest in the right wing press about the impact of 'green' measures to consumers started back in June when a Daily Mail front page - sourced to the climate skeptic think-tank the Global Warming Policy Foundation - claimed that 'green stealth taxes' were adding £200 to household energy bills.

If you've been following the blog, you'll know that following a PCC complaint we made about this article, the Daily Mail issued a correction earlier this month, recognising that Ofgem's figures show that green energy measures are adding "no more than 9%" to energy bills - about £90.

So we were somewhat surprised to note that yesterday's Mail on Sunday reused the £200 figure - apparently the one that had been the subject of our PCC complaint - just a week and a half after the correction was published in the Daily Mail.

In an article printed in hard copy and online the Mail on Sunday said:

"Utility price rises have pushed the average household energy bill to almost £1,300 a year, partly driven - as critics pointed out yesterday - by 'green' taxes imposed by Mr Huhne's department.

The stealth levies, introduced to fund Britain's investment in wind and solar power, are costing families an average of £200 a year - two-thirds of the amount the Cabinet Minister said they should be able to save. This represents an increase of between 15 and 20 per cent on the average domestic power bill."

The Daily Mail and the Mail on Sunday are of course separate papers (who use the same website), so maybe they just don't talk to each other that much. Or perhaps they do - sometime in the late afternoon yesterday the article was amended and all references to green energy bills removed, although by then the damage had been done, as the article obviously appeared uncorrected in the print edition. The Mail on Sunday's use of the incorrect figure might be explained by the fact that the Daily Mail have still not yet altered their previous articles citing the figure online, despite agreeing to do so in their correspondence with us and the PCC.

Instead they have moved on to further muddying the waters around the issue. In a slightly confusing twist, today's paper cites two contradictory estimates of how much environmental costs are adding to our bills as fact. In an editorial, the Mail claim that green energy measures are adding £300 to consumers' bills:

"First, the millionaire Cabinet minister Chris Huhne blames the public for the crippling size of energy bills - arguing people could save £300 each if they weren't too lazy to switch supplier. 

He conveniently forgets that £300 is the exact sum added to gas and electric bills by 'green taxes' and subsidies ..."

No reference is provided, but this figure is (presumably) sourced to the Telegraph's recent front-page headline quoting a leaked government briefing. The briefing contained a sentence which implied that environmental measures would add 30% to energy bills - about £300.

However, the Telegraph noted this referred to bills in 2020, not now, and it subsequently turned out that the £300 figure resulted from confusing energy and electricity bills, as we detailed here.

Other newspapers have corrected their reporting of this story - but not the Telegraph, and now the Mail are repeating the mistake, amplifying it slightly by suggesting that the figure refers to energy bills now, rather than in eight year's time.

To further compound the strong sense of confusion which contact with the Mail's views on energy policy now gives rise to, a few pages later (in a piece which is trailed alongside the editorial), there's an article about planning disputes over wind farms which states:

"On average, householders pay an extra £85 per year in 'green' taxes, and the wind farm levy - part of the Feed-in Tariffs scheme introduced by the Labour Government in 2009 in a drive to encourage 'green' energy - accounts for about £9.50 of that."

This figure comes from Ofgem's estimate that green energy measures add approximately 8%, or "not more than 9%" to household energy bills - the figure accepted by the Mail as part of the PCC process we've just been through. 

We'd applaud the Mail for using a figure which is substantiated, current, which refers to now rather than 2020, and which hasn't been shown to be the result of a basic mistake - if they hadn't managed to contradict it ten pages earlier in the same edition of the paper!

UPDATE 21st September: The Daily Mail's editorial has today reused the £300 figure in a comment piece  - so it looks as though it wasn't just a slip of the pen....

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