The list of businesses, unions and lobby groups opposing the carbon tax seemingly grows longer every day. But what about the companies that support pricing carbon?

Early last week multinational conglomerate General Electric quietly issued a joint statement with more than 20 other corporations supporting the government’s proposed carbon price. GE insists most companies are in agreement about placing a price on carbon, and suggests selling the word “tax” is the biggest stumbling block.

“The organisations that oppose it [the carbon price] are very few, but making a lot of noise about the details of the legislation,” says Ben Waters, commercial director of GE Australia and New Zealand.

The list of companies supporting a tax is full of vested interest, from rail groups (fuel hikes will make rail freight more economical) to alternative energy and technology suppliers. But it still contains Australia’s second-biggest road transport operator in Linfox, global manufacturers such as Fujitsu and international retailer IKEA. The full list includes:

  • AGL
  • Alstom
  • ARTC
  • ARUP
  • Australasian Railway Association
  • Better Place
  • Big Switch Projects
  • BP
  • Catholic Super
  • Consult Australia
  • Ecosave
  • Fujitsu
  • GE
  • IKEA
  • Johnson Controls
  • Kell & Rigby
  • Linfox
  • Local Government Super
  • Pacific Hydro
  • pitt&sherry
  • Pottinger
  • WestNet Rail

“It’s about saving money, reducing emissions and making money, unashamedly,” Waters reiterated. “What’s not to like about it?”

For energy companies such as AGL, Pacific Hydro and GE, they have made investment decisions assuming a carbon price. The longer the tax is delayed, they say, the worse their position becomes.

AGL has invested heavily in wind farms, which is the least costly renewable energy and therefore the first renewable to come on board once a carbon price is introduced.

Pacific Hydro’s Australian GM Lane Crockett told Crikey jobs in the clean energy industry are real: “Our view is that policies to address climate change will deliver a net gain both for the Australian economy and jobs.”

With climate change policies such as the large-scale RET (Renewable Energy Target) and a price on carbon in place, Pacific Hydro will be looking for people to deliver projects.

“Jobs that will be created include engineers, truck drivers, concreters, electrical tradespeople, steel fixers and welders as examples,” he said. “These are just some of the many areas that will see a skills transfer and employment growth from one sector of the economy to another.”

It’s a view shared by GE, which has made big bets on a transition to a low-carbon economy by preparing for such a move as early as 2005. The company increased spending on clean technology research and development from $750 million in 2005 to $5 billion spent between then and 2010. It’s pledged another $10 billion in clean technology R&D over the next five years to 2015.

Waters insists that there is no basis to the claim that Australia will be less competitive than other economies by introducing a carbon price.

With the multiparty climate change committee reconvening today, and angry steel makers Bluescope and OneSteel meeting with Climate Minister Greg Combet to discuss compensation, farming groups have joined the chorus of opposition.

The NSW and Victorian Farmers Associations have released statements against the tax, with VFF president Andrew Broad saying the costs will be passed onto consumers and emissions will be shifted offshore.

“We’re better to give money to developing countries, give no concessions to households and put all the money into R&D,” he told Crikey. “We’re very frustrated because of the costs that will be placed on households, but the business community will just write it into a fixed cost.”

“All the government has done is taken away R&D money. It shows there’s a brain drain it the federal government.”

Peter Fray

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