“It’s the peas, stupid!”

It took Julia Gillard’s proposed introduction of a Carbon Tax (actually a carbon dioxide tax) to suddenly change the game from an argument over science to an issue of economics.

Perhaps it was never possible for climate-realists to win the science-is-settled debate, but they now have a fair chance to get on top of the issue. Economic reasoning, and financial pain, gazumps flaky science.

There are two aspects involved when considering flaky science. The first is the yet to be proven theory of the cleverly devised scientific-term, ‘human-induced climate-change’. The second is the flaky science/technology involved in the ambitious notion that climate-change-mitigation is desirable, or even possible. It is here that the climate-alarmists are on shaky ground. Their main problem is not so much whether all of their individual bits and pieces of research are proven to be accurate — but whether, when added together, they actually prove anything.

If nothing else, history teaches us caution when prophets use fire and brimstone techniques to attempt to change the habits of people. The prediction that the gods, or God, will take revenge if we do not change our ways is an ageless scare. The same goes for sacrifice or tribute — used throughout history to encourage fertility, make it rain, comfort volcanoes, defeat enemies, grow crops and promote good fortune. But then along came economic s— and science — based upon the notion of proof, not speculation or ideology.

Standing with a couple of farmers in a field of a recently failed pea-crop, (it got flooded) the subject of the nation’s economic prophet, Ross Garnaut, came up. “Garnaut, he single-handedly destroyed Australia’s wool industry”, stated one weary farmer, wiping his brow. “No he didn’t,” replied the other farmer. “He used both bloody hands.” While some farmers are still smarting about Garnaut’s wool marketing theories which were adopted after he undertook an inquiry in 1992, and almost destroyed the Australian wool industry, the issue of growing peas came back into the conversation.

Tasmanian pea farmers get paid something like 50 cents for every kilogram they grow for the multi-nationals that control most of Australia’s vegetable industry. Frozen peas retail on an average for $5 per kilo in the supermarkets, on a current price-check, done today. The farmer must pay for all seed-peas, (sold only by the pea-processing company), the fertiliser, chemical treatments demanded by the processor, water, electricity and farm overheads. Nearly all of these costs will be subject to Carbon Tax flow-on before the first pea leaves the farm gate.

The processor will be up for the transport costs for each truck-load of peas (the peas are shelled in the paddock during harvesting), the cleaning and processing, the packaging, the freezing and cold storage until they are shipped to the mainland.

All the packaging and cold storage costs (electricity) will have a new Carbon Tax component added. The fuel that powers the ships across Bass Strait will have a Carbon Tax component as will the warehouse storage-costs (electricity) until the peas are distributed to supermarkets. The supermarkets will fall into the net of the 1000 largest Australian companies, so Coles and Woolworths will pay a Carbon Tax as individual companies, as well as what ever Carbon Tax is a component of the electricity and transport costs associated with the peas by the time the little green blighters get onto the supermarket freezer-display shelves.

So all of this fabulous “pea research” led to the obvious question, “Just who are these legendary 1000 companies who will be hit with the Gillard/Garnaut/Green carbon tax?” This question needs to be asked, and indeed answered, because the silly speculation about how much the tax will be, and who will have to pay it, and how much is passed onto the public (all) can’t be answered until we know exactly which companies fall into the Carbon Tax net. So far the Gillard/Garnaut chatter has only been about household costs for electricity and a theoretic compensation regime.

The obvious thing to do was to search Google for this mysterious 1000 “top polluters”. No luck. But the cost to download the list of the top 1000 Australian businesses is expensive. On the BRW1000 site it is $770 (including GST). Or if you wish to write to them, the mailing list is $1320. Or if you want the Top 1000 IT users it will cost you $2585 (including GST).

Back in 2008 when Penny Wong was Australia’s top weather girl she said, “We’d anticipate approximately 1000 Australian companies would be required to obtain permits under the scheme. Obviously, we’ll focus primarily on the large polluters.” The worry word is “primarily”.

But exactly who are the top 1000 dirty polluters? Well, when it comes to electricity, it seems that many of the top “dirty polluters” are the state governments of Queensland and New South Wales and the various other states who have either sold bits of their “dirty pollution business” to unsuspecting shareholders — or run some “dirty electricity business” on the side. So when Julia Gillard talks about dirty rotten scoundrels who pollute, she is talking about nearly every state government in this country.

Trying to find out exactly which power stations are private and which are state owned, and which states are getting out of the “dirty pollution business” so they can hammer the poor suckers who buy into the “dirty pollution industry” is a bit tricky, but it has all the connotations of the Mafia trying to go legit.

According to an article in Business Times, six companies accounted for 65% of direct emissions in Australia during 2007/2008. These are Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton, BlueScope Steel, Qantas, AGL and Wesfarmers (which includes Coles). When the top 1000 list is complete it will include companies that produce just about every product produced in Australia, and those companies will either be Carbon Taxed or have flow-on costs from their suppliers who will be Carbon Taxed. The pittance talked about to compensate the less well-off for the increased cost of electricity is going to be the least of the increased costs associated with the Gillard Carbon Tax.

Back in the days before Columbus, spices such as pepper followed the old spice route from the Far East, across the Indian Ocean, through Arabia and the Levant to Venice or Constantinople. Then across the Mediterranean to the markets of Europe. At each stop the peppercorn was sold on, and the cost increased with each transaction. Along the way bribes, tributes, taxes were all added as were the cost of transport (camels, mules and boats) as well as the cost of the labour. In the 16th Century all that changed. One ship from Portugal, Holland or England could sail to the Far East, obtain a cargo of peppercorns and return directly to Europe. The cost of pepper dropped and became available to the many, instead of the few.

Western society has progressed materially using the peppercorn theory. Today economic theory seems to have disappeared and in the case of climate-change theorists become redundant.

Last month the Danish scientist Bjørn Lomborg pointed out the extraordinary story of Germany and its weird experiment in solar-panel carbon-mitigation. Germany spent $75 billion in solar panel subsidies. The result, he said, “Inefficient, uncompetitive solar technology sitting on roof-tops in a cloudy country, delivering a trivial 0.1 per cent of Germany’s total energy supply, and postponing global warming by seven hours in 2100.”

Back in the paddock of my pea-farmer friend, he tells me his current electricity bill is around $25,000 per year. That is the cost for powering irrigation pumps and paddock sprays. His costs for fuel to run his tractors and other machinery is equally enormous.

So while the cost of the humble pea is about to soar with the introduction of the Gillard/ Garnaut Carbon Tax, the cost of the imported peppercorn is miraculously going to remain the same.

There is a story there somewhere!

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