By Peter Szental

– 23 July 2009 – Rio Tinto’s claim that nuclear is one of the best hopes for Australia’s future energy supply (source: Rio Tinto’s Energy White Paper Submission, 11 June 09) makes me question whether this implies that Rio Tinto and other ‘big polluters’ know coal will soon become unviable.

According to Rio Tinto’s submission, the coal and uranium mining giant notes that existing low-cost coal fired power stations will have to be replaced earlier than previously expected. Rio Tinto also claims that carbon capture and storage has significant limitations in delivering the large-scale emissions reductions that the Government is pinning its hopes on.

This leads me to ask why Rio Tinto and other big polluters are demanding billions of dollars in compensation from the Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme when the days of dirty coal generation are numbered?

In my opinion, this puts the compensation claims from dirty coal generators in a new light. I believe that these big polluters, many of whom are foreign-owned, may be misleading the government and the public.

I assume that they have mapped a time horizon for their exit from dirty coal generation, yet they want to extract maximum dollars from Australian tax payers on their way out.

Why aren’t we rejecting the big polluters’ continuing cries for compensation and focus more on the transition to a low carbon future, which we urgently need to make?

The fossil fuel industry will hysterically claim that without compensation the ‘lights will go out’, ‘jobs will go overseas’ and ‘prices will increase’ but I believe these are just scare tactics.

Big polluters need to stop eating up our resources for energy sector transition and start focussing on cost-effective ways to reduce Australia’s emissions using existing methods, such as energy efficiency.

According to The International Energy Agency, energy efficiency will provide at least 54% of emission reductions worldwide to 2030.

Other countries are taking the lead and considering energy efficiency as their most important energy resource because they understand that it will not only significantly reduce carbon emissions, but it will also reduce power bills for industry and consumers.

Energy efficiency is an invisible giant waiting to be awoken in Australia, and that is why I am backing the newly formed Australian Alliance to Save Energy, which among other things will provide the positive news about opportunities to transition our economy. This is necessary to offset the continuous barrage of doomsday messages perpetuated by the fossil fuel industry.

Peter Szental is managing Director, Szencorp