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By Claire

The media will tell you that the government’s carbon tax is incredibly unpopular with the Australian public, that it will cost us jobs and our economic competitiveness, and that it’s all a conspiracy put in place by the Greens to take over government and enforce their own agenda.

One of my current joys in life is debating the purpose and effectiveness of the carbon tax with people who believe what the media tells you.

I am married to a carpenter, who used to fit into that very category. He was adamant that the carbon tax was going to cost him money and ultimately his job. Well, after an hour or so of discussion, I managed to convince him that Australia needs a carbon tax and his job is in more jeopardy without it! (p.s. now he goes around telling his work colleagues why the carbon tax is the best thing since sliced bread! Hooray!).

Since you probably don’t want to be reading this post for the next two hours, I’ll present you with part one of my opinions on why Australia needs a carbon tax.

1) Irrespective of climate change, we can not continue to base our economy and way of life on non-renewable resources.

This is the point that really gets through to people. When I start trying to debate the carbon tax with people, they usually expect me to begin with a long scientific spiel about why climate change is happening, and why we need to act to limit its effects. (I have presented that spiel on this blog site before, if you’re really interested). The problem with doing this is that people are so adamant one way or the other on the issue of climate change, that it’s highly unlikely you will change their mind in one conversation.

The bottom line is that our entire way of life; our economy, our food, our lifestyle, our transport; it’s all based on fossil fuels, which are a non-renewable resource. Irrespective of climate change, we need to start to move away from our reliance on fossil fuels to ensure that our way of life can continue in the future.

The key purpose of the carbon tax is to put a price on carbon emissions, so that they become an expense that people start to try to avoid. Ideally, carbon emissions will become so expensive, that renewable energy, such as solar and wind, will actually become cheaper than coal and the economy will begin to transition.

Let me use this example. Most people drive a car. To run a car, you need to fill it up with petrol. (Please remember that the carbon price will NOT apply to petrol, I am just using this as an example.) If we do nothing, that is, do not introduce a carbon price, and do not move towards using more renewable energy, petrol prices will still go up. That is because petrol is a finite resource that more and more people are wanting to access. The demand for petrol is increasing around the world, but the supply is limited.

What the carbon price will do, is make petrol (in this example) more expensive in the short term. Good business practice says that companies want to minimise costs and maximise profits. If petrol is more expensive, then they will try to find another alternative that is less expensive, and therefore more economical. In this example, that may mean buying hybrid cars, or electric cars that run off renewable energy. This will then bring down the price of these technologies, allowing more people to change over, reducing our reliance on petrol.

The important thing is that we do this now. At the moment, petrol is still affordable (although only just), so we can keep using petrol while these alternative technologies continue to be developed and become more affordable. If we wait until petrol becomes unaffordable to start making these changes, then that is going to be much more damaging to the economy and our way of life.

So it’s a short-term investment for long-term gain.

This example can be applied to a number of different things, including electricity, but the principal is still the same. Make carbon more expensive so that other renewable energies become cheaper.