In looking at the compatibility between Capitalism and action of climate change, a look at Australia’s own predicament provides a good example of the sort of bear pit that is typical of such a difficult policy dilemma. With the election campaign rambling along, a brief reminder of the major parties’ climate policies is in order.
Gina Rinehart, Australia’s richest and most mendacious mining magnate, spoke to the Australian Miners and Metals Conference last week.
In her speech, she accused the greedy government of treating the mining sector like an ATM. When she wasn’t throwing stones in glass houses, Gina was arguing that Australians had gotten too big for their boots and should “not be too proud to admit that we’re really just a large island with a small population with record debt.”
If Gina were speaking at a conference in 1946, she would be undeniably correct.
Globally we produce electricity from a diverse range of energy sources, from fossil fuels such as coal, oil and natural gas, to renewables such as solar, wind, hydro, geothermal, and biomass. Finally nuclear energy hovers as an alternative with its own risks that belongs in neither camp. The problem is that there isn’t one energy source that can be described as clean, reliable, safe and economically viable. We are unable to cut our dependence on fossil fuels to provide base load energy to power our current and future economies. Michio Kaku, theoretical physicist and futurist states the attraction of fossils fuel succinctly: ‘pound for pound oil and coal contain the most energy in a convenient form than any other energy source on the planet. This is due to the fact it is essentially highly concentrated amounts of sunlight compressed and refined over generations, it pollutes like hell but is very efficient.’
On the 9th July 2010, Prime Minister Julia Gillard announced the Government’s intention to introduce a ‘carbon tax’ in order to put a price on pollution and thereby give firms an incentive to reduce carbon emissions. The carbon tax passed the House of Representatives and the Senate on the 12th October 2011 and the 8th November 2011 respectively, and consequently on the 1st July 2012 a tax of $23 per tonne of carbon emissions will come into effect.
After passing through both Houses of Parliament, Australia will officially have an emissions trading scheme on July 1st 2012, which will take the form of a carbon tax for its first three years before moving to a flexible price carbon trading market in 2015.