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Generation vexed over cheaper, cleaner power

Sydney Morning Herald

Wednesday February 16, 2011

Matt Pralija (Letters, February 15) says "the primary purpose of [a price on carbon] is to force up the price of energy to consumers", and that carbon-efficient forms of energy generation are necessarily more expensive. He is wrong on both counts.The primary purpose of a carbon price is to introduce a market mechanism that reflects the true cost of producing energy, including the environmental cost. This should encourage energy producers to find less carbon-intensive methods in order to push their prices lower than their competitors, thereby making their product more attractive to consumers. Higher prices to consumers? Perhaps, but it ain't necessarily so.There is no physical law that says carbon-efficient energy production must be more expensive than carbon-heavy energy production. Science is agnostic on cost. Technology is constantly improving, and Australia can and should be at the forefront of such research and development to catch this vital market.Further, the current mispricing of carbon-heavy energy production passes the environmental costs on to future generations. They should not pay the price for our falsely cheap energy. Intergenerational equity has to start somewhere.Bec Plumbe RedfernThe primary purpose of a carbon tax or emissions trading scheme is not to increase consumer electricity prices but to internalise the external pollution cost to the environment of carbon dioxide.As a consequence, the cost of electricity from carbon-intensive producers will rise, no doubt. The other effect will be to make investment in renewable energy more attractive, driving research to improve efficiency and prevalence of renewables.Once renewables have achieved efficiencies and economies of scale, we could see a reduction of electricity prices - there are no input costs, only capital and maintenance, remember - but without a carbon tax or trading scheme, that is most unlikely to happen. Then we face the heightened prospect of other, greater costs to deal with.And on the matter of who should bear the costs: does Matt Pralija think those least able, who have done less to contribute to the damage, should shoulder the costs equitably and that low-income earners be denied access to affordable energy? Small pain, shared reasonably now, or a world of pain later. Take your pick.David Sargent Castle HillYou report that the average cost of each tonne of carbon saved under the government's green schemes is $168 ("Billions blown on carbon schemes", February 15). In contrast, the price under the proposed emissions trading scheme was $25 a tonne. Doesn't this mean that even with a carbon tax, alternative energy is nowhere near economic? This will just lead to unemployment, not the mythical green jobs we are promised.Paul Gilchrist MosmanI am astounded that no one is facing the real truth about emissions. All these reduction schemes are for nothing. Emissions will only stop when all fossil fuels are fully depleted. Emerging economies are committed to improving the living standards of their impoverished populations and can only do so using the cheapest and most available forms of energy.Increasing the cost of energy (by imposing a carbon tax, for example) only makes unconventional sources more viable for extraction, such as tar sands in Canada. Let's not kid ourselves and throw money away - we are facing a future with carbon dioxide concentrations of at least double the current levels.Marek Kiera Newtown

© 2011 Sydney Morning Herald

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