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Publisher's Letter

Big business is driving the push for a carbon price

As most readers will be aware, Australians have two major concerns about energy and energy prices. The largest group would appear to be those who are concerned about the ever-increasing prices for energy, whether it be for electricity, gas, petrol or dieseline. This concern is real and prices are set to go up at an ever-increasing rate, particularly for electricity, because of the lack of new power stations being built and the increasing subsidies being offered to costly renewable energy sources such as wind and solar power.

The other group of Australians who are concerned about energy prices are those who are actively promoting the idea of a “carbon price”, particularly now that the Australian government has postponed any immediate action on climate change or an emissions trading scheme (ETS). Probably you think that “green” politicians are behind this push and it is true that there is quite a lot of coverage of the statements made by green groups in the media. However, it is not the greens who are doing most of the pushing – it is big business.

To get an idea of the big business push, you only have to look at “Carbon Expo Australasia 2010” planned for Melbourne in October this year. It is supposedly aimed at “energising the low carbon economy”. Now you might think that this is all about “feel good” stuff like installing solar panels on your roof and using water-less toilets but you would be wrong. You only have to look at the list of businesses and business groups involved to have serious misgivings.

A partial list includes the Carbon Markets & Investors Association, Investors Group on Climate Change, Environmental Business Australia, Asia-Pacific Investors Trading Forum, AGL and Bloomberg New Energy Finance. These people are involved because they can see big opportunities to make lots of money if the government can be persuaded to bring in a carbon price or carbon taxes. If either of these do eventuate, energy prices can be expected to go up at an even faster rate.

Last year’s CarbonExpo conference was seen as a build-up to the Copenhagen Conference which ended in disarray. The moderator at one of the sessions at CarbonExpo last year was Dr Rajendra Pachauri – he is the same person who claimed that all the Himalayan glaciers would melt within 30 years! Nobody is giving that any credence any more.

You can download the draft program for this year’s conference at http://carbonexpo.com.au/uploads/file/2010/2010DraftProgram2406.pdf and there you can see that they plan to discuss matters such as “raising finance for low carbon projects from institutional investors”, “the state of carbon markets”, “Interaction with Asia – issues and opportunities for interacting with Asia as the region transitions to a low-carbon economy”, “Carbon capture & storage”, biofuels and so on.

None of this is good news for people concerned about increasing energy prices. It is all about looking for new ways to make money – lots of it and government-mandated to boot.

In the session entitled “Australia’s role in international action & markets” they will include consideration of: a science update – how has the science shaped up over the last 12 months? What is science’s latest view of the emissions reduction imperative? How has science responded to the rise of climate change scepticism – in terms of content & process? Can the carbon market expect increased support from strengthened climate change science? Does this sound like a balanced forum?

It seems that unless there are big changes in the political scene in Australia, we will be paying much, much more for energy in the near future.

Leo Simpson

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