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Carbon Tax: Stay Firm

July 1, 2011

That an alliance of business is planning advertising against the carbon tax should only strengthen the resolve of the Gillard government to press ahead and put the legislation on the books. The package is close to being finalised and can be presented as precisely the sort of bold economic reform that Treasury secretary Martin Parkinson called for in his address in Melbourne last night.

Indeed there are reports that part of the federal government’s package will be the closure of the dirty Hazelwood power station in the Latrobe valley in Victoria and the Playford plant in South Australia. These are Australia’s dirtiest power plants in terms of their greenhouse contributions. Their output will be taken up by gas – something that would be underway now if the Green Party had allowed passage of Kevin Rudd’s ETS legislation in late 2009. In any case this represents a shift away from carbon dependency. In other words, a modernisation of the economy.

Barry Jones in today’s Age reminds us that climate change deniers never refer to “observed phenomena” such as disappearance of Arctic ice, thinning of Greenland’s glaciers, fractures at the edge of the West Antarctic ice shelf, ocean acidification, thawing of Siberian tundra, changes in bird migration, earlier flowering of plants: all of which strengthen the reality that Bill McKibben pointed out in his excellent book Eaarth, namely that the planet has been changed already by global warming caused by human intervention.

Barry Jones describes the steady accumulation of information on anthropogenic global warming since 1824 when the French mathematician Joseph Fourier argued that surface heat on Earth was maintained by the atmosphere and 1896 when the Swedish chemist Arrhenius named “the greenhouse effect” and calculated the relationship between changes in CO2 levels and atmospheric temperature with astonishing accuracy.

Jones reminds us of the ease with which the international community and the corporate sector accepted the argument that CFCs were depleting the ozone layer even though – and this I think is important – their volume as a percentage of the atmosphere is tiny compared to CO2 and methane.

Instead we have what Jones describes as “a combination of fury, hysteria and mendacity against evidence of global warming.”

If the polls we are now seeing are reflected in two years time then Labor can go down to defeat knowing it was as right on this score as it was on Vietnam in 1966. But I for one am not writing the next election off for Labor.

9 Comments
  1. July 1, 2011 4:35 pm

    Plan: Aimed at actual carbon reduction @BarackObama
    http://connect.alp.org.au/members/garyrlooney/

  2. Watson permalink
    July 1, 2011 8:31 pm

    Having dropped the ball once on the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme, Labor can ill afford to repeat that spineless performance. I utterly reject the assertion that the Greens were wrong to oppose that pointless money-go-round. Any notion of compensating the principal agents of carbon pollution is nothing short of ridiculous, and probably accounted for as much of the negative political reaction Labor received on the CRPS as the fact Rudd walked away from the ‘greatest moral challenge’. Had we adopted that scheme, we would have been hard pressed to close any grossly polluting coal-fired power stations because they would simply have paid their tax from their compensation hand out.
    There is such a thing as bending over too far.

    Rest assured, the true cost of ignoring the destruction of the environment will soon be be ringing louder in the ears of the deniers and their political opportunist lap dogs than any polite environmentalist protest. When the penny drops the back sliders and the deniers will be called to account.

  3. July 1, 2011 9:32 pm

    From some research commissioned by the Department of Resources, Energy and Tourism:

    Levelised cost of electricity:

    coal – $78-91 per MWh
    gas – $97 per MWh
    wind – $150-214 MWh
    Solar PV – $400-473 per MWh

    Don’t forget that the long term average efficiency of wind farms is only 22.5% of their nameplate capacity, so you need to build 5 times more of them to provide the same nameplate capacity as a coal plant. Plus they cut out when the temperature goes over 35 degrees, making them rather useless for powering air conditioners on hot days.

    Solar efficiency is normally 40-45% of name plate capacity – when the sun is shining.

    Given the much higher capital costs of solar and wind, it will require about $19 billion to replace Hazelwood.

    Now wonder our power bills are going through the roof.

    • Watson permalink
      July 2, 2011 3:48 pm

      The true cost of coal is the Earth as we know it. Could anything be more expensive?
      All cost for renewables must be compared with the future cost of coal and gas which will skyrocket in the next twenty years, even if we don’t price in the environmental damage. After that they will be unable to supply demand.
      Next suggestion?

  4. shane S permalink
    July 3, 2011 2:03 am

    Hello Mr Carr

    If you are reading this thanks very much for doing so and I hope to make my point as short as possible.

    To introduce myself I would say that I am a 22 year old technology entrepreneur from Ireland, my current ambition is to construct a new generation of web technology software. I am greatly interested in society and the systems we adhere to in order to perform our lives, for that reason I wish to shape the future along the lines of something more positive to both human and environmental interests.

    Basically I am someone with great interest in your field of expertise. I do not stem from a formal background in scientific study but more so from self learning or whatever term best suits the process of one pursing an education in something they enjoy learning about. I therefore describe myself as a learning enthusiast with a growing drive to improve myself and perhaps the world we live in.

    It would be great pleasure to introduce you to some of my ponderings on topics from psychology to the role of consumer economics in our global culture as viewed by someone that has grown up in the hyper form of its force. From which I can only hope that you view me as someone worthy of further correspondence and dealing. I would be more than happy to send you on my essays if you wish.

    I am particularly interested in discussing my ideas with Mr. Dick Smith in relation to his Wilberforce award, again my highest hopes are that you in your confidence of me can perhaps introduce the two of us.

    A big ask of me, but it would cause sincere ache on my behalf to fail in such opportunity.

    I thank you again for taking the time to read this mail and please let it be known that any reply would be much appreciated.

    Kind regards,
    Shane N Scallan
    scallansn@hotmail.com

  5. July 4, 2011 12:15 pm

    @ boy on a bike (July 1, 9:32)

    If the social cost of carbon is included, the cost of coal-fired power is much more expensive than indicated. For estimates on the cost of coal-fired electricity when the cost of externalities is included, see http://www.sunoba.blogspot.com, especially posts:
    23 April – Real cost of coal-fired power
    27 April – LEC, the accountant’s view
    16 May – Cost of power (ECET).
    Other posts on the blog give estimates for cost of power from large solar installations around the world.

  6. July 4, 2011 1:17 pm

    The actual Levelised Cost of Energy for Wind is closer to $110 / MWh.
    You have neglected to list Solar Thermal, which has a Levelised Cost of Energy of less than $200 / MWh, and according to a study by engineering firm Seargent and Landry, the LCOE of Solar Thermal Power will be $35 – $55 per MWh by 2020.

    The Levelised Cost of Energy already includes allowance for the lower Capacity Factor of Wind Turbines and Solar Plants by comparison with dirty, cheap polluting coal plants.

    As already pointed out above, once the cost of climate change adaptation were factored in, the true cost of coal fired power generation would be so expensive we would never contemplate it. We are presently forcing the vast majority of that cost onto future generations who will pay for our selfishness.

    Wind Turbines cut out over 35 degrees? That’s a new one. Not here, they don’t.

    “No wonder our power bills are going through the roof”

    It sure isn’t because we spent $19 billion replacing Hazelwood, because it is still burning and turning and churning out electricity and ecosystem – destroying pollution in equal measure. Not to mention sufficient carcinogens and radioactive particles to directly or indirectly cause the deaths of thousands of people per year from preventable respiratory illness and cancer.

  7. Frank Campbell permalink
    July 4, 2011 6:11 pm

    Embarrassing. A potted version of Barry Jones’ piece amplified with a gust of rhetoric.

    Labour and the Greens are perpetrating a technological fraud on the public: there is not a single renewable remotely ready to replace fossil fuel.

    Carr knows full well that wind turbines are both expensive and useless. Solar rorts have been dumped by Labour, finally.
    What about Tim Flannery’s Cooper Basin geothermal fantasy? $100m of public money poured down a hole…share price down to 20c as the cash runs out…

    what else do you have in mind Bob?

  8. PaulB permalink
    July 8, 2011 11:24 am

    That is too funny not writing labour off over this. 90% of the population wants to go to an election on carbon TAX and giving 10 billion to the UN when the Govt has us in so much debt. Maybe Barry best rethink not writing off labour. People hate being dictated to and lied to. It will be a long time before the greens and labour will be forgiven. Say another complete generation.

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