Carbon tax doubles - is it time to cut your own turf?

Carbon tax doubles - is it time to cut your own turf?

You’d hardly know it to look outside, but today is the first day of summer and out by bonkers buildings it’s been raining pretty much all day.

Now we don’t normally write about the weather around here, but since it is a miserable wet day, it actually got me thinking of a nice evening by the fire. Crazy thoughts for the first day of summer I know but I’ve done stranger things…

I’m also guessing the government thought that not too many people would be lighting their fires on the 1st of May when they chose to shneak in a carbon tax hike today. Sure who’d be out buying bales of briquettes on the first day of summer right? They must have been thinking: it’s the perfect day to double carbon tax, sure nobody will notice until the winter!

And thus it was made so. The Solid Fuel Carbon Tax doubled today and it means… well, lets take a look and see…

So what is the Solid Fuel Carbon Tax?

The SFCT is a tax on the fossilised stuff you can haul home and burn. Basically coal, peat, peat briquettes and other stuff that’s made from coal and peat.

What’s actually happening today is that the rate of carbon tax on coal and peat is going up from €10 per tonne of CO2 emitted to €20 per tonne of CO2 emitted, and that’s where I was stumped…

What is a tonne of CO2? How much coal do I have to burn to emit one? How many briquettes do I have to go through? Is it time to put in that wood burning stove? And most importantly of all, what’s it going to cost us punters?


Coal usually comes in 40 kilo bags so ordinary folks can just about lift them. You’d need to take delivery of 25 bags to have yourself a tonne of coal. Reports are that we are going to pay an extra €1.20 Solid Fuel Carbon Tax per 40 kilo bag. So carbon tax on a bag of coal is going up to €2.40.

Now since coal is nearly all carbon, I would have thought that if you burned a tonne of coal, you’d have yourself a tonne of CO2. But all is not as it seems…

Carbon tax is going up by €10 per tonne of CO2 emitted… and it’s “emitted” that’s the important bit. By a weird miracle of science and chemistry, if you burn a tonne of coal, you’ll actually have yourself three tonnes of C02.*

So that means you’ll only need to burn around 8 bags of coal (and not 25) to emit a whole tonne of CO2. I never knew.


Ever noticed that peat briquettes don’t burn as hot a coal? You guessed it, that’s because there isn’t as much carbon in peat as there is in coal. And so burning a tonne of peat briquettes will have you emitting much less CO2 - around 2 tonnes as opposed to 3 for coal. Which is why carbon tax is going up by 26 cent per bale of briquettes – which is around 30% less by weight than coal. Easy right?

We don’t burn coal in our house, but we burn plenty of briquettes. We probably go through three bales a week for six months of the year, so by my reckoning that’s around €40 I’ll be spending next winter in carbon tax. Which, oddly enough, isn’t far off the €50 that an average household spends on carbon tax to heat their home with gas right now.

So is it time to get a wood burning stove? Well, that’s the point isn’t it? Carbon tax is supposed to encourage us to switch to renewables, and the taxes collected are supposed to go towards the development of new renewable energy sources. Now that’s something I’m sure we'd all like to see.

Anyway, if you think paying close to a fiver for a bale of briquettes is steep, consider this… If you live in the United States, you could have bale of Bord na Mona’s finest delivered to your door for just $49.95!


*Since writing this blog, the MD told me that in fact, it's the binding of two oxygen atoms to the carbon atom that makes up the extra weight. So guess who did chemistry for the Leaving Cert then?


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