What NSW carbon tax, Barry?

Barry O’Farrell will win the NSW election the week after next and I am not unhappy about that. But I am intrigued by the way the FEDERAL issue of a carbon tax has been somehow imported into Barry’s pre-poll schtick. I would have thought it irrelevant, as it is beyond the control of state pollies — even if things within state responsibility such as electricity prices are affected.

Tony Abbott has been down here in the Gong doing his famous wide-mouthed frog impressions concerning the evil GREAT BIG BAD TAX and the WICKED LYING STEPMUM JULES!

China and Indonesia will be cheering as they take the jobs of Port Kembla steelworkers if a carbon tax is introduced, Federal Opposition Leader Tony Abbott has warned.
Mr Abbott yesterday brought his fight against the tax to BlueScope Steel’s plant, taking a tour of the nation’s biggest single steelmaker before warning that Illawarra jobs will go overseas if the tax is introduced.

‘‘I think that people in China and Indonesia are cheering Julia Gillard’s carbon tax because they could have your job,’’ he told steelworkers.

‘‘That is the bitter truth of the carbon tax here in Australia – jobs will move from this country to Indonesia and China.’’

BlueScope employs about 3100 people directly plus between 1500 and 2500 contractors. It supports another 12,000 jobs in the region, according to the Illawarra Regional Information Service.

‘‘This plant is a target of Julia Gillard’s carbon tax … my message to the people of the Illawarra is: what’s the good of a carbon tax, if it costs you your job?’’ Mr Abbott said….

Actually it’s a miracle, given policies from Keating through Howard to the present, that we have a steel industry in Port Kembla at all! It sure ain’t what it was in the 60s and 70s! Carbon tax or not, the rump still here is likely at any moment to float away to China or Indonesia. I think we all know that.

I think the wide-mouthed frog is just doing his job, such as it is — wrecker-in-chief? But the panic is premature. Let’s wait and see how it works. Maybe too we could bother to read what Garnaut has actually recommended.

The level of discussion on the carbon tax has been abysmal. It seems to me beside the point to fuss about whether of not Julia has “broken a promise.” See an excellent post on that by Nicholas Gruen.

The real question is whether pricing carbon is a good idea, even a necessity, and precious little gets said on that. Not helped either by the menagerie of media buffoons and some pollies who still can’t get their heads around the FACTS of climate change.

In the context of the US situation where the loonies have taken over the Republic Party nut house, the preeminent world scientific journal Nature has simply despaired in its latest issue.

As Nature went to press, a committee of the US Congress was poised to pass legislation that would overturn a scientific finding on the dangers of global warming. The Republican-sponsored bill is intended to prevent the US Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) from regulating greenhouse-gas emissions, which the agency declared a threat to public welfare in 2009. That assessment serves as the EPA’s legal basis for regulation, so repealing the ‘endangerment finding’ would eliminate its authority over greenhouse gases.

That this finding is scientifically sound had no bearing on the decision to push the legislation, and Republicans on the House of Representatives’ energy and commerce committee have made clear their disdain for climate science. At a subcommittee hearing on 14 March, anger and distrust were directed at scientists and respected scientific societies. Misinformation was presented as fact, truth was twisted and nobody showed any inclination to listen to scientists, let alone learn from them. It has been an embarrassing display, not just for the Republican Party but also for Congress and the US citizens it represents…

the legislation is fundamentally anti-science, just as the rhetoric that supports it is grounded in wilful ignorance. One lawmaker last week described scientists as “elitist” and “arrogant” creatures who hide behind “discredited” institutions. Another propagated the myth that in the 1970s the scientific community warned of an imminent ice age. Melting ice caps on Mars served to counter evidence of anthropogenic warming on Earth, and Antarctica was falsely said to be gaining ice. Several scientists were on hand — at the behest of Democrats on the subcommittee — to answer questions and clear things up, but many lawmakers weren’t interested in answers, only in prejudice.

It is hard to escape the conclusion that the US Congress has entered the intellectual wilderness, a sad state of affairs in a country that has led the world in many scientific arenas for so long. Global warming is a thorny problem, and disagreement about how to deal with it is understandable. It is not always clear how to interpret data or address legitimate questions. Nor is the scientific process, or any given scientist, perfect. But to deny that there is reason to be concerned, given the decades of work by countless scientists, is irresponsible….

There are those in this country who need to think again about their responsibility in these matters too. Senator Minchin, for example.

While less that straight on her own position on Kevin Rudd’s ETS in 2010, Julia did make a good point on last Monday’s Q&A about what the rest of the world is doing about carbon.

JULIA GILLARD: That is a little bit interesting and I doubt that’s going to be happening. On the question of having an election, my view is we went to the people 2007 and said an emissions trading scheme. So did Mr Howard with Tony Abbott on his front bench. We went to 2010 and said an emissions trading scheme. Now, is the moment, now is the time, let’s get this done and one of the reasons we need to get it done, and it relates to the question from here, is the rest of the world is moving. There’s this image that somehow we’re the only ones. Simply not true. You know, China closing down a dirty coal-fired power generation facility at the rate of one every one to two weeks. Putting up a wind turbine at the rate of one every hour. Set their own targets by 2020 of reducing carbon pollution by 40 to 45 per cent per unit of GDP. India taxing coal to create a revenue stream for clean energy. India in April this year will have an energy trading credits scheme. The rest of the world is acting and we without our high emissions economy can’t afford to be left behind, stranded with a high pollution economy when the rest of the world has gone forward. Now is the time.

Those facts are not mentioned often enough.