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"...public opinion deserves to be respected as well as despised" G.W.F. Hegel, 'Philosophy of Right'

keeping on trucking « Previous | |Next »
March 4, 2011

If we make a distinction between the policy and politics of a carbon tax, then this article by Eric Knight in Fairfax's National Times is a contribution to the policy debate. He says:

The principle behind a carbon tax is that you cannot solve the environmental problem until you have solved the technological problem. A tax allows the economy to focus on new technologies first, and on achieving environmental parameters second...[an] emissions trading... works only once there is a flourish of affordable low-carbon energy technologies in the marketplace. One hopes the tax will achieve this, then - with more alternative energy sources available - the carbon price needed to change behaviour will be lower.

Lets push all the political theatre and noise to pressure and intimidate the independents into the background.


We can now see that Gillard is adopting the right approach to reform. The problem is that the politicians, obsessed with the politics of a tax on petrol, still have their heads in the sand over dwindling oil supplies and increasing oil prices. They continue to believe the oil company spin that oil will be squeezed out of the ground pretty much forever.

The reality is that the price at the petrol pump is rising, Australia is dependent on importing oil, the global oil price is increasing because because it cannot be produced fast enough. demand is projected to be greater than supply in the next 3-4 years (the peak oil crunch point) and no one thinks the long term price of oil is downward. We need to move away from oil – not just because it generates carbon emissions that are heating up the planet through global warming, but also because it is fast running out.

Canberra is doing little to build an alternative low carbon economy and infrastructure that will wean us off our dangerous addition to oil; it is doing next to nothing to reduce the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry. Consider the ACF’s recent comparison of the fossil fuel subsidies (red) versus climate change programs (green) in millions of dollars:

ACFgraphfossilfuel .jpg

That is sobering. There in lies the reality behind the political noise and theatre. No doubt, with increasing pump prices, the various representatives of the haulage industry, vehicle manufacturers and motoring organisations will call for tax breaks to stabilise fuel prices--ie., taxpayers would effectively have to subsidise motorists. That does not help Australia make the shift to a low carbon economy.

The better policy is wean Australia away from foreign oil with a mixture of policies including tax rebates and cash incentives for electric cars, more car pooling services and improvements to public transport.

| Posted by Gary Sauer-Thompson at 8:48 AM | | Comments (6)


We're are beginning to pay the price for a transport policy that's been heading in the wrong direction for decades. The failure to wean our transport system off oil has left us with a car-dependent, oil-guzzling transport system.

The politicians are doing very little to help create a less car-intensive society

The Australian Industry Group (AiG) and the Australian Chamber of Commerce and Industry (ACCI) are shouting loud for those opposed to the proposed carbon tax, even though the latter's own research shows that most companies spend very little on electricity – two-thirds spend less than 2 per cent of sales.

The cost of energy isn’t a big deal for most companies. For the many firms who are feeling pain from rising energy costs it is retail electricity will be 40 per cent dearer in 2012-13, without a carbon price.

The AiG research confirmed why: electricity prices have been rising, and will continue to do so, due to rising generation and network costs.

Network costs have risen over the past five years due to rising per capita energy use and peak demand, past under-investment in network assets, and more rigorous licensing conditions imposed by governments to avoid unpopular blackouts.

Tony Abbott says publicly that he accepts the science and he even has a policy to back it up.

Like Labor, it is a commitment to reduce emissions by 5 per cent from 2000 levels by 2020 (that will be 27 per cent per capita from current projected levels). And just like Labor, he also has a plan to introduce a carbon price.

The difference is that while Labor promises to tax the polluters and compensate the consumers, the Coalition intends to dip into the accumulated savings of the consumers (via the budget), to compensate the polluters.

The coalition’s proposal is to close down brown coal power stations and compensate the owners.

Abbot's direct action plan proposes to subsidise one brown-coal-fired generator - probably Victoria's Hazelwood Power Station - for the cost of closing and rebuilding using cleaner closed-cycle gas technology.

That exercise, costing more than $3 billion over 10 years, would certainly reduce emissions and could make sense as a way to start changing electricity generation.

What signal does that send to the coal -fired power station polluters?

First you say "We can now see that Gillard is adopting the right approach to reform".

Than you say: "Canberra is doing little to build an alternative low carbon economy and infrastructure that will wean us off our dangerous addition to oil; it is doing next to nothing to reduce the subsidies to the fossil fuel industry".

Both statements can't be right.

if the "right approach to reform approach" is interpreted as a pathway, then we can say that Canberra has barely progressed along that pathway.

The Gillard Government only take a few hesitant steps on a long and windy path.