Friday, June 20, 2008

Would the Camry $35 mill be better spent on Green Car 2.0?

I've been letting the Australian climate change political commentary slide a bit since the election and the ratifying of the Kyoto treaty. The honey moon is over for the new government, protracted though it was, and all their climate change policies and promises are now coming up for public scrutiny.

Kyoto Kev is on notice to deliver. Let's not forget that this last election was the first Australian green election, where climate change was one of the top three issues for the electorate.

Bernard Keane take a critical view of what Rudd's recent announcement, of $35 million for Toyota to help build a hybrid Camry by 2010, really signals:

Judging not merely by yesterday’s announcement, but the Government’s manufacturing pronouncements generally, the car industry has got the Rudd Government every bit as much under its spell as it had the previous Government, and more.

For a time it looked like Rudd was different. His obsession with policy, his willingness to break from the ALP mould, his strong focus on skills, education and infrastructure,
all suggested his Government might have the capacity to resist traditional rent-seeker calls from sectors used to bending governments to their will. Rudd seemed to be focussing on enhancing the economy’s capacity to respond and adapt to changing economic circumstances, rather than trying to steer it.

And Michael Pascoe take a ROI view to say we should at least wait for Green Car 2.0, if we are to bribe the car manufacturers.

Oh the Camry deal garnered plenty of headlines – for the declared first instalment of $35 million it was relatively cheap PR – but a more important story was tucked away inside Saturday’s SMH Drive section: Hyundai says it will have a production version of a second-generation fuel-cell vehicle on the streets by 2012.

We won't have the hydrogen fuelling station infrastructure by 2012, but Pascoe argues, after interviewing Tim Flannery, that there is no time left for investments in outmoded technology.

The reality is that we continue to fluff around the edges of global warming. By the time we signed Kyoto with many self-congratulatory photo opportunities, the actual treaty was useless as the science has unfortunately moved on to a much more precarious world.

I shared a flight recently with Tim Flannery and interviewed him for Eureka Report – an exercise that inevitably leaves one less sure about our outlook.

When we eventually get serious, there will be no exemptions for a hefty carbon charge levied through trading and/or direct tax, coal-fired power stations without full CO2 capture have at most two decades to go, the future of burning Latrobe Valley mud (sometimes called brown coal) can be measured in single digits, and we’re likely to have some hefty regulation in the transport sector about just how much carbon is allowed to be burned.

Even the Americans already have basic vehicle fuel efficiency standards, however generous they might be. We don’t – but we will be able to watch our politicians and public servants motor by in Kamrys next decade.

I get the feeling we need to keep an closer eye on this government's follow-through with respect to climate change.

1 comment:

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