Daily Mail prints correction over GWPF green tax claims

  • 07 Sep 2011, 09:43
  • Christian Hunt

The Mail has today printed a correction to the article which launched their 'green taxes campaign' by claiming that £200 of a household energy bill was made up of 'green stealth taxes', after recognising that the figure couldn't be substantiated.

However despite the correction the Global Warming Policy Foundation who provided the Mail with the figure have still not commented on how they calculated it.

The correction, which is online and on p4 of the paper, reads:

"Articles from June 9 reported comments from Dr Benny Peiser, director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, which suggested that 'green stealth taxes' add 15 to 20 percent to energy bills. According to Ofgem, the correct figure for environmental costs is currently no more than 9%. We are happy to clarify this"

The correction is a result of a complaint I made to the Press Complaints Commission about a front page Daily Mail article on June 9th headlined:

"Hidden green tax in fuel bills: how £200 is slipped onto your gas and electricity bill"

It was accompanied by a campaigning editorial in which the Mail said

"Already millions are feeling acute pain, through hidden levies which have contributed to the latest £200-a-year increases in our energy bills."

The article sparked a series of follow-up articles in the Mail and other papers, some of which repeated this startling figure.

Before putting in the PCC complaint, I wrote to both the Mail and the GWPF asking for clarification as to where the £200 figure came from, but received no response. As we detailed at the time figures from the energy regulator Ofgem show that 'environmental costs' account for four percent of gas and 10 percent of electricity bills.

The Mail now appear to have recognised that Ofgem's assessment is both more authoritative and somewhat more transparent than the figures suggested by the GWPF.

Once the matter was taken up by the PCC the Mail were very helpful. They noted that the figure was "clearly attributed" to Dr Benny Peiser, Director of the Global Warming Policy Foundation, and suggested the Civitas report 'British Energy policy and the threat to the manufacturing industry' as the source of the figure. They also suggested it was backed up by more recent DECC research.

However, as we had already noted, the Civitas report doesn't substantiate the 15-20% claim, and doesn't agree with Ofgem's assessment of the environmental and social costs burden on bills. Given that DECC had already blogged on the issue, pointing out that the Mail's figures were incorrect, they clearly weren't in agreement either.

When I put this back to the Daily Mail, they agreed to print the correction which appeared today.

Thus far, no direct response of any sort has come from the Global Warming Policy Foundation, despite a few requests.

If their figures were (incorrectly) taken from the Civitas report they haven't corrected them, although they are presumably aware of the PCC complaint. If the figures weren't from the Civitas report, how the GWPF produced them remains a mystery.

We showed at the end of July that over the period this story and follow-ups ran, the Mail gave five times more space to the Global Warming Policy Foundation's views on climate than to any other source, largely as a result of this story. According to a blog which was written by the energy industry's journal ENDS,

"The Daily Mail's recent re-adoption of climate change scepticism has its origins in a lunch between editor Paul Dacre and former Tory chancellor Lord Lawson."

As we have pointed out before, with the current economic climate and with obvious costs associated with building new energy infrastructure, these issues should be aired. But to discuss these issues properly requires the debate to be founded on hard evidence, not figures which it seems reasonable to conclude have no basis in fact.

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