Monday 14 July 2008

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Carbon Trading

© John Sawyer – July 2008

The MCG car park is full, full to overflowing, so full that cars are blocking the tram tracks in Wellington Parade outside Jolimont station. It’s been like this more or less continuously since the 2013 Grand Final when Richmond just beat Melbourne in a thriller. In the same week, petrol first hit $200 a litre at the pumps and the family subsidy on the Carbon Trading scheme became means tested. The carbon guzzling 4 wheel drives that were bought in June 2008 to escape the luxury car tax had become an expensive liability which their owners just left behind when the game finished.

The council has tried to empty the park a number of times, but every time they clear away a significant number of cars, the places are taken by more cars. It’s now become a bit of a ritual with the old “Top Gear” set. They use their last few litres of fuel to drive to the G and say goodbye. Everyone else just drives until they run out of fuel and abandon the car where it is. The government regulation against dumping cars has had no effect because Vic Roads can no longer supply the names and addresses of the owners. The computer that holds the information is a pretty old clunker and uses up the department’s monthly carbon credit budget within a few days and the Ministry of Transport has far more important things to do with its carbon allocation anyway.

I’ve got my own problems with carbon credits. I left the light on after I took young Billy to the toilet last week and wasted 178 credits. That’s nearly 4 hours of TV so I’m not real popular with the family.

Luckily my neighbour Frank has the contract with Yarra Trams to keep the tracks clear of cars and he gives me 5 credits for each car I push off the tracks. The trick is to move the cars before the scavengers remove the tyres for reprocessing into bicycle tyres. It’s been a pretty busy week; the OPEC countries have just announced that oil has more value as raw material in the manufacture of wind turbines and solar panels so they’ve now stopped exporting oil and cars are now worthless. I moved 19 cars today but Frank reckons that will end soon.

“I don’t know how much longer we’ve got in this business Jack. They reckon the Barrier Reef oil fields will be dry within the month and most of the cars will be just rat-shit soon after.”

I’m sitting on the front verandah, watching our kids playing footy in the street while Frank transfers today’s credits to the meter.

“You know what I think about the Barrier Reef oil drilling, Frank. It just wasn’t worth it. They spilt more than they got out anyway. It was a disaster but probably an inevitable outcome from the combination of greed and denial that saw the ‘Oil Rights’ party elected in Queensland.”

Melbourne has changed dramatically in the last few years. The toll roads are impassable and the owners are seeking compensation from the State Government for their lost investment. The AFL (Melbourne Division) are now playing home and away games at the old suburban grounds with people walking to the local home games and listening to away games on hand powered radios. Much to the delight of traditionalists, night games and interstate games have been abandoned – no one can afford the carbon credits. Even electronic music has almost disappeared with a cappella choirs and acoustic folk singers regaining popularity. The poker machines in pubs have even got their handles back; they’re still electronic but the handle generates just enough power to top up the capacitor and keep the machine running. We grow a lot of our own food and most people have a goat or sheep grazing on the nature strips during the day.

“One of the trammies told me an interesting story today Frank. He and his neighbours have taken over their roadway and planted trees. They’re selling the carbon credits to China Steel. At maturity each tree is worth 250 credits a year. The council is happy as long as they keep the footpaths clear and leave space for a bicycle path.

“What do ya reckon we start growing seedlings and move the old car bodies to make a barrier at the ends of the street? We can be ready to plant by spring and if we choose the right trees, they’ll break up the pavement within a couple of years and we can graze more livestock. We might even get a few credits if we grow seedlings for the rest of the street.”

“Yeah, and what about some fruit trees? We can harvest grey water to keep them alive. Can you get credits for olive trees?”

I wonder if that’s what the economists meant by new industries springing up to take advantage of carbon trading?


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