Polluters’ Blank Cheque

First published in The Age 30 March 2009, by Guy Pearse

IMAGINE the scene — you have had a bad day at work, the kids have the flu, and you have just got some nuisance caller off the phone. There’s a knock on the door. “Hi, I’m from Alcoa,” says a slickly dressed man with a Texan drawl. “We’re wonderin’ whether you’d care to give us and our fellow emission intensive trade exposed companies $500 a year until 2020 and beyond so we can have free emission permits?” You slam the door in his face.

Then there’s another knock on the door, similar bloke with an Oxbridge accent. “I’m from International Power,” he says. “Terribly sorry, old chap, but coal-fired power stations will be worth less once emissions trading comes in, so generators are charging all households a once-off fee of $455 to maintain their value for our shareholders.” You tell him where to stick his bill.

Then there’s yet another knock on the door. “Yah, hi thar,” he says with a bitzer foreign accent — Swiss maybe, with some South African speckled through it. ‘We’re from the Xstrata, and we’d like some cheques from you for the coal industry: $93 to cushion us from the impact of emissions trading; $62 for new infrastructure to double coal exports; and $62 for work on ‘clean coal technology’ — $220 all up should cover it for now.” You threaten to call the police unless he leaves the property.

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