Something else John Howard and George Bush have in common is their ability to ignore doing anything substantial on the greenhouse thingy. And something that the US and Australia now have in common is that individual states are moving to fill the federal policy vacuum.

The local states and territories are unveiling their own effort at power station carbon trading today, somewhat mirroring the overnight effort by seven north-east US states to limit power station carbon dioxide.

If you think greenhouse is an issue, as most of the world’s scientists and governments now do, it’s a step in the right direction. But it’s a seriously-flawed and second-rate step thanks to the federal government’s inaction. The idea of having a federal government is to deal with federal and international issues – of which greenhouse is one.

The states’ baby steps on carbon-belching coal-fired power stations is not much more than a nod in the policy direction, but it’s a start. At least in the US, greenhouse is on the agenda for whoever the next President might be.

The sad economic thing about the Bush and Howard approach of protecting the cheap-power vested interests is that it probably won’t be good for business in the longer run. The federal vacuum is making rational investment in power infrastructure excessively difficult. Whatever Johnny and George might say, the investors know more serious greenhouse policy is inevitable – but there’s no point risking billions while Mad Hatters are running the tea party. Let’s have an LPG conversion instead.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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