Australian news, and some related international items

Australia’s opportunity to work to make renewable energy cheap

There is a better way. Instead of trying to make fossil energy more expensive, Australia should work to make clean energy cheap. 

Australia’s carbon tax battle: where it fits into the global war, Crikey, October 6, 2011  Michael Shellenberger and Ted Nordhaus  :“…….the Left and Right parties in Australia have adopted virtually wholesale the positions taken by Left and Right parties in America.

The Labor Party has borrowed from American Democrats the strategy of giving out money to win over consumers, powerful industries, and unions. The Liberal Party has borrowed from American Republicans the strategy of attacking climate scientists and mobilising a populist backlash.

Of course, the great difference is that while Democrats did not get their cap and trade law, it now seems that the Australian Labor-Green coalition will get its carbon tax. But Australia’s populist backlash against the legislation will, at minimum, slow its implementation and, at most, result in a change of government and its ultimate repeal.

Not that its rapid implementation would have any effect on emissions. The carbon tax will be far too small to make clean energy cost-competitive with coal. And the government has announced it will give back to consumers more than it collects through redistributive tax policies. As in Europe, Australia can meet its emissions targets only by purchasing dubious carbon offsets…..

The right-wing everywhere blusters that efforts to price carbon will destroy the economy. This is nonsense. Everywhere the carbon prices have been too low to have any discernible impact. Australia’s carbon price would cost households less than $5 per week more in groceries. Many households will get back in assistance more than the carbon tax costs. If the plan applied to petrol, it would raise the cost per litre by a few cents. In any case, in recent years the price of most fossil fuels has already increased by much more than any proposed carbon tax, and we still see economic growth coupled with increasing use of those fuels…..

There is a better way. Instead of trying to make fossil energy more expensive, Australia should work to make clean energy cheap. This can be done through a concerted R&D and innovation push funded by the government. A much smaller fee levied on coal production could generate $10 to $20 billion a year for Australia to spend on research labs, prizes, and procurement contracts with private firms, all aimed at getting the technological breakthroughs needed for renewables to be in a position where they can compete with fossil fuels. Such a strategy might also help Australia reduce its dependence on mining and start to engage in more advanced technology manufacturing and innovation…..
Perhaps Australia can be the first to move the international focus away from unrealistic dreams and economic sacrifice and toward technological innovation and economic opportunity.

October 7, 2011 - Posted by | General News

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