One of the aspects of the much lauded government ETS that has been yelled from the rooftops has been the nature of transferring emissions as a 'product' from industries that create pollution and finding recipient industries that can claim 'pollution reduction' and equate an equivalent value to capital assets.
As difficult to understand as this may appear to be, the idea behind the ETS is to place a significant cost on emissions, and then the monetary value of those accrued charges are redirected into areas of productivity, possibly in a different industry.
There is a worry that this scheme is not very transparent, and that many of the charges and costs will ultimately absorbed by the tax payer. This infers higher prices from food to consumer goods and once again families will bear the brunt.
However, given that the ultimate aim is not only to make high-polluting processes more expensive, but also to 'cap' the production of carbon dioxide from high-polluting processes and encourage more 'environmentally friendly' activities that produce less carbon dioxide, one of the services that should see a positive encouragement (financially) should be the railways.
Many research studies have shown that rail is the most economic means to transport freight, which includes produce (wheat and grains), and minerals (coal, iron ore and limestone ….); as well as for passengers on congested, peak-hour routes.
Mark Tronson observes that there is a huge social cost associated with road accidents. The individual and national heartaches should be a 'wake-up call' to make rail a more cost effective option to the massive improvements in road infrastructure that would be needed to make the roads safer.
That option must not be ignored. Freight on the highway system adds to the danger of road accidents - and to the pollution – both these things increase the costs to the health care system which includes the massive capital expenditure of hospitals.
In conclusion, M V Tronson thinks that Australia is ripe for the railways. It is a huge country and the railway is the most obvious solution to its transport needs. There have been plans on the drawing board for decades for a central railway system direct from Melbourne to Brisbane through rural New South Wales. Lines that had been closed are now under re-consideration.
Victoria, for example has retained the ultimate ownership of those rail sections leased to community rail enthusiast groups.
In this he is supported by Australian transport giants. A recent article (in both the Sydney Morning Herald and The Age, Friday 11th December) reported trucking magnate Lindsay Fox as saying at a National Press Club forum that he had 'thrown his support behind a campaign to move more freight by rail.
It is part of his attempt to unclog highways and shift ports away from the centre of cities.' His plan also involves improving deep water ports, a greater use of coastal shipping and developing an inland rail network. He advocates this, even though he is quoted as saying "I'm talking against myself when I'm talking about putting things on rail.'' http://www.smh.com.au/national/clear-the-roads-trucking-magnate-backs-rail-for-freight-20091210-kmbz.html
His general sentiments were supported at the same forum by David Marchant, the chief executive of the Australian Rail Track Corporation, and by Geoff Thomas, the head of logistics at Woolworths, both of whom commented on the need for investment in changes to infrastructure to support more rail freight.
If the ETS ever succeeds in its eventual progression through Parliament (and at the time of writing, it seems to be delayed at least), then it could be seen to provide the very philosophical base for rail expansion.
The very thing that the ETS is designed to do is to provide mechanisms where emissions become costly but exchangeable for more cost effective outcomes. At present, this is not being translated to railway infrastructure that in turn provides those very outcomes for which the ETS is attempting to create.
M V Tronson asks, "What therefore is the problem?"