At last, a fossil carbon price

Today Australia starts to charge some 300 businesses and organisations for the fossil carbon they release to the air. The carbon price they pay will go towards helping us all adjust to the new, clean energy century.

Clean energy is especially important for regional Australia because it makes sense at all scales, from solar panels on traffic warning signs to multi MegaWatt solar thermal power stations. Small scale projects don’t hit the headlines, but hundreds of renewable energy systems are already making their mark on national demand.

Like the general community, CANWin members have mixed views about this carbon pricing scheme, including about whether or not to call it a tax. Whatever you call it, we hope that today marks a significant step in Australian government and economic action on human-induced global warming.

Online magazine Climate Spectator put together a Carbon Tax Special to try and sort out, or at least point out, the big questions. Your comments on their article, or this post, are welcome.

A new normal

I support the carbon tax as an imperfect instrument for reducing our emissions and a first step in the process of dealing with pollution as part of the cost of production of energy from non-renewable sources. I do not think that the tax and the resulting emissions trading scheme will have a disastrous effect on my standard of living. I think that within five years the business of putting a price on pollution, and insisting that companies creating this pollution factor in the cost, rather than ignoring it, will be seen as quite a normal thing to expect, in the same way that we expect companies to adhere to workplace safety laws or pure food laws. As with these laws, there will need to be penalties.

I also think that people will come to realise that they have a great responsibility in their personal lives to reduce their own pollution of our air, land and water. I hope that along with government actions there will be much broader action on the part of Australian citizens to support renewable energy and reduce our carbon footprint.


Many people have already taken personal action to shrink their carbon footprints. One way, hard to measure but immensely satisfying, is to eat more home-grown and local food. Another is to use less electricity and gas by making our homes and habits more energy efficient. You’ve probably seen articles about how to save electricity and how saving electricity will save you money (here’s another one that shows the dollar amount each action might save an average household).

Big picture

But at heart most of us know that this is about more than money. The weather is as unpredictable as the stock markets, our gardens are as confused as our politicians… To quote one baby boomer anthem, “You’d better start swimming or you’ll sink like a stone, for the times they are a’changin’”. Dylan wrote that in 1963, when few people had any idea that the air, the oceans, and the seasons were changing as well.

During those 60 seconds of biological time, Modern Man has made a rubbish pit of paradise. He has multiplied his numbers to plague proportions, caused the extinction of 500 species of animals, ransacked the planet for fuels and now stands like a brutish infant, gloating over his meteoric rise to ascendancy…

This says a lot about ‘civilisation’. The lead up to the 21st century (well, the last seventy or so years) has been characterised by seemingly unlimited growth and consumption. At last we have a mechanism to measure, and charge for, this unsustainable habit. The ‘Carbon Tax’ will morph into an accepted global mechanism for measuring resource/energy use and lead to increasing awareness of the real worth of the limited resources on our planet.

Bring on ‘Steady State’ and accountability!


Electricity bills

There’s a lot we don’t know about how the carbon scheme will work out, but one thing we do know is that it has nothing much to do with rising electricity bills. Electricity bills are going up to pay for work on the state-wide electricity grid, which distributes electricity between regions and states. Some say that this work is essential, others that it’s a mammoth overspend (The Real Culprits behind Surging Power Bills).

One way to limit the impact of grid prices on our bills might be to generate more electricity in the region. CANWin’s Renewable Energy working group is actively investigating small and medium scale options for Wingecarribee.

3 responses to “At last, a fossil carbon price

  1. “A premium to cover the risk of dire consequences”. Some of the early warnings that global warming is showing up in weather disasters came from the insurance industry. Will the carbon tax give us a no-claim bonus??

  2. David Tranter

    Fossil fuels are like monies in the bank – safe enough where they are. gaining value day by day, ready to withdraw in a crisis. Dug up and burnt for their energy content much faster than they are laid down, they constute a “Pandora’s Box” that overheats the global atmosphere like a body fighting some nasty disease.

    Nobody is to blame for this ailment, any more than you and I are to blame for getting sick. Overheating is a system problem and systems can be changed. Right now, Australia is changing the system by imposing a “tax” on carbon dioxide emissions. This is not the brainchild of the Government or the Greens, it is the option recommended by Professor Ross Garnaut, should Australia fail to embrace market-based self-regulation.

    Sadly, that did not eventuate, because our leaders chickened out, so now we have what people call a “Carbon Tax” but in reality is a premium to cover the risk of dire social, environmental and economic consequences. It has been taken on our behalf by the government of the day to protect our future.

    As the debate rages about its merits, it would be timely for each one of us to ask ourselves how we would answer a question from our grandchildren, “What did you do to stop them messing up our future?”

  3. Y2K, GST, Mining Tax, and now the Carbon Tax. What they all have in common is that everyone said the world was going to end and all businesses would shut down. What a load of scare mongering. The Government has brought in the tax with compensations to the public.

    So insert your brains the world won’t end and hopefully there will be something left for the next generation.