Rio Tinto stands to reap an astonishing $460m worth of free permits from the Government’s emissions trading scheme in 2010 alone, according to a new analysis of Monday’s White paper.

The handouts will increase each year to over $600m by 2015, making Rio Tinto by far the biggest beneficiary of the Government ETS compensation.

The study by Innovest, released by the Australian Conservation Foundation, updates an earlier analysis of the arrangements proposed in the Government’s Green Paper. Following intensive lobbying from heavy polluters, compensation arrangements were significantly strengthened in favour of industry in the White Paper.

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The aluminium smelting industry will receive the largest component of the Government’s handouts to trade-exposed industries, collecting nearly a billion dollars in handouts in the first year of the scheme, and more than $1.2b by 2015. But the LNG industry is the biggest winner of the White Paper. Having been excluded from compensation under the earlier proposal, it will now collect $182m in the first year of the scheme, rising to nearly $700m in 2015 as new projects come on line. This represents a major victory for Woodside (over $100m by 2015) and the petroleum industry peak body, APPEA, a prominent donor at the ALP’s recent Anniversary Dinner.

Initially 43% of assistance will go to non-Australian companies, rising to 47% by 2015.

According to the ACF, the figures show that each household will be paying an average of $389 a year in 2010 and $558 by 2015 to our biggest polluters.

Under the White Paper, coal-fired power generators will also reap significant benefits from the scheme, with Victoria’s brown coal generators scoring over $2.5b over five years in free permits. The benefits of the assistance to coal-fired power generators flows primarily to UK, Hong Kong and Japanese companies and the NSW, Queensland and WA Governments, which will together receive over $600m in free permits via their power companies.

There is no better symbol of the absurdity of the Government’s ETS model than Australian households in effect paying the NSW, Queensland and Western Australian Governments to continue polluting. Sending about $1.2b in the first year of the scheme to foreign shareholders isn’t that flash a look either.

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Peter Fray
Peter Fray
Editor-in-chief of Crikey
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