There’s no show without the columnists. Here’s what some of our favourites were saying about the government’s Green Paper: politically-smart, planet-dumb, too much, too little, etc.

Surgeon Wong administers the cuts. Australia, lashed to a gurney, is bursting through the double doors into emergency, its vital signs ebbing, its temperature catastrophically elevated and its fluids dangerously low. Happily, it’s Dr Penny Wong’s shift. Wong has the calm, blank face and steady hands of a good trauma surgeon. Outlining Australia’s unilateral course of tough love yesterday at the National Press Club (“Hold still. I’m afraid this is going to hurt quite a lot”), the Climate Change Minister’s tone never wavered, even as she reiterated the grim global tidings which we all have learned to dread, thanks to Garnaut and Stern and their fellow prophets of the apocalypse. — Annabel Crabb, No need to panic as Dr Wong administers CPR”, The SMH

What about the middle class? The Government’s emissions trading scheme will arrive with plenty of political padding. But among many unanswered questions is the extent to which middle-income earners’ cost of living increases will be offset. This could be the reform’s political funny bone. The green paper’s language is precise for lower income earners but vague about those in the middle. Households on incomes up to about $55,000 (in 2010) will get assistance “to meet the overall increase in the cost of living”. (This is on average — the Government isn’t guaranteeing no low-income person will be worse off.) Middle-income earners (up to about $150,000 household income) will get assistance to “help them meet any overall increase in the cost of living”. High earners don’t rate a mention. It’s the aspirational but financially stretched middle group that the Government must worry most about politically. — Michelle Grattan, “Battle will be fought on middle ground”, The Age

What about working families? It is not that Australians do not recognise the threat of climate change and the need to control greenhouse gas emissions. It is the pace of change that may prove the Government’s undoing. The “working families” who voted Labor at the last election will desert it at the next if it means they cannot put petrol in their car and pay the bills the ETS will push through the national economy. –– editorial, Herald Sun

Rudd walks the tightrope. Contrary to Ross Garnaut’s view, the Government will offer direct assistance to coal-fired electricity generators, the sector whose assets and profits will be marked down. This concedes a sovereign investment risk. It says such generators will be “strongly adversely affected” and worries that new investments in the sector might be delayed. The extent of such risk is “unquantifiable”. These decisions constitute a pathway between emission reductions and keeping Australian industry competitive. Once again, getting this balance right is a high-risk venture. — Paul Kelly, The Australian

Rudd policy requires serious leap of faith. There is so much theology in climate change it makes your head spin. The Rudd Government’s green paper gives me modest encouragement that it is going to try not to damage the economy excessively in responding to alleged global warming. I am not a global warming denier. But I am, like Catholic Archbishop of Sydney George Pell, a modest sceptic, open to evidence. There isn’t all that much evidence around. Anyone who can base a policy on a computer model of something as complex as the global environment in 40 years is taking a much greater leap of faith than the World Youth Day pilgrims. — Greg Sheridan, “Big talk, small stick”, The Australian

Soft introduction is smart politics. The result of last year’s federal election demonstrated Australians are enamoured with the idea of solving the global climate change problem. However, the sharp political truism is this support will reduce markedly if the economic impact on households is unsustainably high. — editorial, Adelaide Advertiser

It’s a Howard government-style plan. For domestic purposes, the green paper has been carefully designed to show the Government cares about the future but is not captive to the extreme views put by some environmental groups, such as the need to stop coal mining regardless of the job losses this would cause. The Government has promised action but much financial and political pain has been greatly reduced. It has adopted Opposition Treasury spokesman Malcolm Turnbull’s plan for the carbon tax on transport fuels to be offset by a reduction in fuel excise. Low- and middle-income families, carers and pensioners will have welfare payments topped up to compensate for higher energy costs. A government program will promote energy efficiency and encourage the take-up of low-energy technologies. — editorial, “Welcome caution in Rudd’s carbon copy”, The Australian

It’s a costly vanity project. The Rudd Labor Government’s newest program – the Carbon Reliance Abatement Program (CRAP) – makes no sense. It is a complex form of taxation designed to enhance the moral vanity of Prime Minister Kevin Rudd and those who believe Australia can make a difference to human-induced global warming. Even if there were any evidence beyond the IPCC’s faulty modelling to demonstrate that humans are responsible for global warming – which the last decade’s weather would indicate has stalled or even reversed – it should be noted that Australia is responsible for approximately 1.3 per cent of the total anthropogenic global emissions. — Piers Akerman, “This CRAP won’t save earth”, Daily Telegraph

Giveaway bonanza pollutes the young’s future. …the Government’s proposed scheme fails to protect our inheritance. Instead, it is a giveaway bonanza, with the Government proposing to give 30 per cent of permits away for free to compensate to some of the most polluting industries in Australia. — Anna Rose and Amanda McKenzie, “An options paper, with the option to save our future?”, ABC News Opinion

Crikey’s blogwatch section has a wrap of some of the blogosphere’s reaction.

Wong, all Wong. Larvatus Prodeo has been working overtime on responses to Wong’s Green Paper. One response was that “the government has bought into the electricity generation and ‘trade exposed’ industry blackmail about blackouts and ‘moving offshore.’” Another talked about the government’s bait and switch, saying the announcement was trying to steal a march on the Libs by incorporating the Lib’s petrol excise cut, while “looking to cut the Greens out of the Senate equation on emissions trading”. Another post decried Rudd’s “folding before the debate starts: Even as a Green Paper, this thing makes no sense. All the concessions have been made in advance, and probably a lot need not have been made.” — Lavartus Prodeo

Let’s all take a deep breath. The reaction in the left-wing blogosphere to the Rudd Government ETS Green Paper’s cent-for-cent reduction in the fuel excise to compensate for tax increases in the ETS seems to have been universally hostile… A bit of passion over policy is great – but in this case it’s misguided. The Australian Left have an unfortunate habit of imputing political opportunism as the rationale for every government decision with which they disagree. — Tree of Knowledge

Lessons from Brazil’s alternative energy industry. The environmental problem will not be changed unless the culture is changed and the problem then becomes culture is long term historical development, whereas the time available to address the climate challenge may be much shorter than is comfortable. — Duckpond

Read on here.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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