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Polling

Mar 2, 2011

Carbon Price opinion – the starting gates

Over the next 12 months, we’ll have more polls on pricing carbon than we can poke a stick at – some more valuable than others -  so it’s probably worth taking a squiz at where pu

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Over the next 12 months, we’ll have more polls on pricing carbon than we can poke a stick at – some more valuable than others –  so it’s probably worth taking a squiz at where public views of carbon pricing sit at the starting gates of what will probably be a bit of a rollercoaster that most of the country will get sick to death of before it ever gets implemented.

The last Nielsen poll taken back on the 12th February is as good a place as any to start. They asked the basic question:

Do you support or oppose the introduction of a price on Carbon?

Breaking the answers down by age, region, gender and voting intentions we get:

Even though the Nielsen polls run a sample of 1400 (MoE ~2.6%), some of the breakdowns will have quite small subsamples (gender ~4%, age groups ~5%) so treat them as indicative rather than exact.

We see the usual suspects turn up in the demographics – where support starts out high with the young and weakens as we move through into the older cohorts, and where men are both more oppositionalist and more certain in their beliefs than women, by a significant margin. We’ve consistently seen these same patterns before with climate change questions generally (things like do you believe global warming is happening? Do you believe it is man made? etc), as well as polls on the old proposed CPRS .

What’s also interesting is how Labor and Coalition voters are mirror images of each other (around 60/30), as too are capital city and non-capital city respondents (around 40/50).

Another issue worth mentioning is how the strength of opinion plays out across age cohorts. If we compare those with generic positions (simple support and oppose) against those with strong positions (strongly support and strongly oppose), what we see is that position strength increases significantly with age, and a much larger proportion of men than women hold strong positions on carbon pricing.

As we saw with the ETS when it was merely an abstract proposition – something that could happen in the future – support for the policy was always somewhere between a large plurality to a large majority. But once the ETS changed from being a generic concept to a specific one, once the ETS changed from being “Oh yeah, that ETS thing that will help climate change” to “This thing with details and will cost me money”, support for the ETS dropped significantly.

While the public supported the idea of any given ETS, that support collapsed when that ‘any given’ ETS changed into a (and probably any) specific ETS.

We should expect to see the exact same thing happen here with this ETS as well, particularly since the brains trust at ALP Central thought it would be a smashing idea to cede ground on Day 1 and effectively admit that over the first three to five years it will be a carbon tax rather than an ETS with a fixed price, letting the meme get away from them.  Nice work guys  – really missing the obvious about the political connotations the word “tax” carries in the real world.

Another issue where we should expect to see some significant change in public opinion is on the broad notion of willingness to pay for any action on climate change.  Last year (as well as in 2008), the Lowy Institute included willingness to pay questions as part of their annual Lowy Poll, specifically in regard to electricity prices. The question asked was:

One suggested way of tackling climate change is to increase the price of electricity. If it helped solve climate change how much extra would you be willing to pay each month on your electricity bill? Please say an amount, rounded off to the nearest ten dollars.

If we look at the 2008 and 2010 results, as well as the change over that 2 year period, this is what we get:

Back in 2008 when the idea was – again- more abstract than real, only 21% of the population was not prepared to pay anything while 71% was prepared to pay at least 1 to 10 dollars per month.

In 2010, as the reality of action approached and the partisan politics became strongly polarised, the number of people prepared to pay something dropped 12 points to 59%, boosting the not prepared to pay anything response to  1/3rd of the population. It’s worth noting that the big demographic mover here was the over 60’s, increasing the proportion not willing to pay anything from 23 to 43 points.

Expect to see the willingness to pay – which goes to the very core of public support for a carbon price – to contract even further now that it’s crunch time.

The problem that Labor has here comes down to a number of groups, two of which are worth mentioning – the first being older people, particularly fixed income older people. The second being middle income families with 1.5+ earners (blue collar workers are another group – but that’s worth another post all to itself).

The first group is nearly always a right off for Labor in the broadest sense of the phrase, so it doesn’t really matter what either major party does or say with that mob since it has the smallest swinging voter proportion of any age cohort, the most strongly held views of any age cohort as Policy Day approaches and, if history is anything to go by,  a profound ability to dismiss what they don’t want to hear should it ever interrupt their preconceptions. They’ll bitch and moan and carry on even if the compensation outweighed their additional costs by 6 to 1.

The latter poses a delicate political problem for Labor, primarily because of the reality of their socioeconomic situation. If you are a middle income family in Australia today with 1.5 incomes and you are actually struggling with the cost of living without having some genuinely rare set of extenuating circumstances – it’s entirely your own fault.

The politics of personal responsibility with middle income earners is difficult not only because they make up a significant proportion of true swing voters that happen to live in generally marginal seats, but also because their self-perceived problems are often much larger than the reality of those problems and they simply don’t want to hear about being told otherwise. It works this way for both parties though – for instance, in the lead up to the 2007 election, the fear of Workchoices among this group was often much larger than the actual situation they’d likely ever face under Workchoices, because they believed their household financial circumstances were much more problematic and delicate than they, in fact, were.

Convincing this group that (a) compensation will mostly match expenditure and that (b) they can afford to pay any residual however small, is a hiding looking for a bare arse to happen on.

So we shouldn’t be surprised to see some hit on the Labor vote, particularly over the short term but perhaps significantly longer – that will depend on Gillard and her ability to organise some relatively authoritative coalition of business and community interests to back the policy loudly and act as a counterweight to the forces that will be rallied against it, while making the Coalition look shrill and nonsensical.

Also worth noting is that NSW has been the state that has been most hostile to carbon pricing and global warming over the last 12 months. NSW has generally been the state most against any given policy over the last 12 months, so there may well be some generic grumpiness at play in the state that might be partially cleansed from the system when they get to take it out on the NSW state government in a few weeks time. It will be interesting to see if/how the dynamics of NSW voters changes after the State election.

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127 thoughts on “Carbon Price opinion – the starting gates

  1. go-mag

    @ jacques74

    I think you will find that the cost of cigarettes has dramatically changed the behaviour of many, many ex smokers in Australia. I know it gave me the extra incentive to give up. (9 years now). And that is what is going to happen when the carbon price is introduced. You don’t think those greedy companies are going to pay extra when they can get a discount, do you?. Its happening all over Europe and we need to do something NOW. Even if it doesn’t change the climate, at least we will be able to breathe!!!! Following countries like the USA, who are controlled by the conglomerates and people like the Koch brothers and Fox News (Murdoch) who want to keep the status quo will lead us nowhere. The rest of the world now has to take the lead, because they (US) are incapable of doing so. And if there are many people like Daniel Pipes (Q & A Monday 22nd August) running the country, then there is no chance of change in the US!!

  2. PipBoy

    Doctor, making friends again!

    The Doctor who failed in private practice, the catalyst for the nutty, homoerotic posts you see on this thread. An expert in all things – Information Technology, Politics, Literature, Economics, Climate change – and of course Medicine. But, you never got the girl did you Doc…or the boy in your case.

    Why bother arguing with his type? Posters like quantize and rhwombat never. ever. offer anything of substance. Neither contribute anything of substance, just abuse. Both, very angry people – most likely born of a swilling failure.

    (If you’re sick in Newcastle – and don’t have private health cover, make sure you don’t mention anything pro-Liberal, or you’re likely to leave a ‘Putrid Mess’. You DON’T want to be treated by Doctor Wombat.)

    But, thats the idea – you get to see how utterly batsh1t crazy the far left is.

    And I guess in fifty to a hundred years, we’ll look and back and laugh that some thought a tax could change the climate on planet earth.

  3. rhwombat

    JamesKKK: So is it the kochsucker tag that excites you, or have you been given a book of adjectives for christmas?

  4. JamesK

    Being a leftist means never having to say you’re sorry”

    rhwombat#45
    Posted March 3, 2011 at 7:09 pm
    JamesKKK is a KochsuckerTroll. FC is a blithering old Tory economist Troll. Spot the difference……….…at which point their (JamesKKK & FC’s) heads will explode

    rhwombat#99
    Posted March 8, 2011 at 8:55 pm
    FC: Hilarious. Have fun with your new best friend, but please use a condom, ’cause you know what JamesKKK’s like when he’s excited.

    rhwombat#116
    Posted March 17, 2011 at 7:21 pm
    I know it’s hard to believe, but the physics of climate change persist, despite what “Most people” (let alone “Man”, or even runt-lipped arse cabbages like JamesKKK) think. Since the resistance to limiting CO2-e is purely (anglophone) political and limited to the Cons and fellow tit-suckers, no numbers will change the debate

    rhwombat#123
    Posted March 23, 2011 at 7:06 pm
    Interesting. Puerile invective on tap. Did you ever get past the spotty bit of puberty, JamesKKK?

    Of course being a deceitful, lying, hypocritical, vapid and spineless troll, whilst not synonymous with leftism, is extremely helpful.

    Either way, really-heinous-dingbat has all bases covered…….

  5. rhwombat

    Interesting. Puerile invective on tap. Did you ever get past the spotty bit of puberty, JamesKKK?

  6. JamesK

    The ever banal, if contemptible, simian marsupial yet again injects his ‘thoughts’ from his personal shallow pig trough of bigotry…….

    I’d suggest a kick in the nuts to awaken him from his tiresome cycle of slime but obviously….. he doesn’t have any.

  7. rhwombat

    JamesKKK: well hello, Cardinal Pell.

  8. JamesK

    No.

    Because it won’t lower global temperatures …. and that is true even if, as in your case, your religion happens to be environmentalism rather than some form of structured recognition of the one true omniscient, omnipotent and omnipotent.

    Although I recognise that global warming catastrophe avoidance isn’t really what your unctuously self-satisfied pseudo-religion, environmentalism is really all about….

  9. Eponymous

    ‘This is purely and simply a subsidy to cleaner producers – paid for – 100% – by the consumer.’

    Correct. Now can we get on and do it?

  10. green-orange

    “Electricity producers sell their mw/hrs to electricity retailers who then sell it to end users, almost all electricity producers have a varied portfolio of production assets mainly coal and gas. At the moment their gas assets are only used for peak demand because they cost more to run but under the carbon tax regime that situation is reversed. Under the Carbon priced regime gas will be used predominantly (and future investment will go to gas/wind rather than coal).
    Now if the government pays back the tax collected to the electricity retailer (subsidy) then the net effect is for electricity retailers and end users is 0.”

    There’s the fatal flaw in your argument.
    If the electricity retailers switch to gas – which is more expensive – they will pass this extra cost straight onto the consumer.
    The government will still collect tax – but not as much remember – and pay that to the retailer.
    The cost will still rise.

    Look at this – if the electricity retailer sourced _all_ the electricty from a non-C02 source, and this was five times as expensive, there would be NO compensation paid back to them – the cost would increase FIVE times to the consumer.

    This is purely and simply a subsidy to cleaner producers – paid for – 100% – by the consumer.

  11. JamesK

    Woohoo!….. “runt-lipped arse cabbages” from inane leftist “physics of climate change persist”, rharsrat.

    Presumably this telling fine discrimination come from decades of attitudinal devotion to the nether regions of his adored superiors like Ross Garnaut …that’s a silent ‘t’ ..unless ur an unpalatable anglophone like me……

  12. rhwombat

    sdn: I know it’s hard to believe, but the physics of climate change persist, despite what “Most people” (let alone “Man”, or even runt-lipped arse cabbages like JamesKKK) think. Since the resistance to limiting CO2-e is purely (anglophone) political and limited to the Cons and fellow tit-suckers, no numbers will change the debate. Where do you get your figures and concepts from – Pell?

  13. sdn

    I wonder how much those polling numbers would be if you were to first educate the people on just how much carbon there is in the atmosphere before asking if they support the tax.

    Most people think that CO2 in our atmosphere is at levels between 20% and 70%, and not the actualy rate of 0.039%
    Most people also think that Man is responsible for 20% of that, and not the 3% of 0.039% (0.001%)

    Maybe if we told them that and asked the same questions would the numbers change….?

  14. JamesK

    “Let’s be clear”…… exactly less than 100% of people support a price on Co2 emissions.

    “Let us also be equally clear that Julia Gillard” is actually proposing a carbon “tax” and admitted last night that she had lied to the Australian people.

    We are not “(L)iving in a sewer” nor would we be at a C02 atmospheric concentration of 600ppm assuming humanity’s 4% contribution to atmospheric C02. and rising could possibly be the cause of such a doubling since the 1800’s.

    Apart from b) and d) above there is not any other true sentence in the unreconstructed totalitarian socialist Fran Barlow’s comment.

  15. Fran Barlow

    Let’s be clear.

    Exactly 100% of people support a price on Co2 emissions. However …

    a) some aren’t aware that they do …
    b) some aren’t aware of the price they say shiould be paid and who will pay it
    c) some assert the price should fall randomly upon people in a game of public policy roulette
    d) And some assert that both the price and the provisions of the scheme should be determined on the basis of good modelling and data

    Let us also be equally clear that Julia Gillard is not actually proposing a carbon “tax”. She is proposing a fixed price period running up to the bstart of an emissions trading scheme. Really this “fixed price” is not really like a tax — which is a compulsory levy not in exchange for a service, but a fee or charge for a service (in this case the right to use the biosphere as an industrial sewer).

    Living in a sewer imposes harms on almost everyone and this (along with anything else they propose doing) is of course the price that those best described by a), b) & c) above support.

  16. freecountry

    Geoff:
    [Take just the Carbon Dioxide emitted from the combustion of coal & natural gas, estimated at approximately 300 Million tonnes per annum, consumed in the production of base load electricity. This is about 30% of the total of all our current emissions. We don’t know what price will be put on Carbon Dioxide but Ross Garnaut has suggested $26 per tonnes of CO2. Multiplying the 300M X $26 comes to $7.8 Billion. Does Fool honestly believe that this will not be passed on, in entirety to industrial, commercial & domestic users?]
    Aren’t you forgetting something? Demand and supply are elastic. Cancelled transactions raise no tax, so taxes never raise as much revenue as this kind of simple model predicts. Some business activities become no longer worth doing at the increased price (or at least, no longer worth doing within Australia), so there is less GDP, less company tax, less income tax, less carbon tax, less everything. Sure, the whole idea is to reduce carbon, but it’s a furphy to imagine that doing so will only cost society around $26 per tonne of reduction. The real figure is many times that.

    So it’s a furphy to imagine that $7.8 billion can be efficiently siphoned out of one bucket of the economy and moved into another bucket, without spilling a great deal more than that in the process.

  17. jacques74

    Strange how no one addresses the fact that Carbon Pricing/Tax is a cop out, an uneducated and uninformed way of dealing with climate change. Such a dumb and flawed way of reducing green house emissions. Population grows more brown coal is burned. That simple! It will not stop or reduce. We assume that carbon pricing will somehow change human behaviour! Lets face it as we all know, it is an indirect Tax on the masses… Jo Blow will not switch of his 50inch plasma screen because his electricity bill has sky-rocketed? There are so many other more economic ways to deal with this. 1 of the 100 I can think of without even breaking a sweat is to change the way stamp duty is used. If the government was serious about this issue they would use that money to install solar panels, small wind turbines, and hydro based heating alternatives.

    Instead of commenting on what is wrong with carbon pricing and getting lost in the calculus of it all (which is what they want you to do). Come up with alternatives People!

  18. shane

    @Geoff. You simply don’t get it, a little knowledge is more dangerous than none at all, you are less than a fool.
    Electricity producers sell their mw/hrs to electricity retailers who then sell it to end users, almost all electricity producers have a varied portfolio of production assets mainly coal and gas. At the moment their gas assets are only used for peak demand because they cost more to run but under the carbon tax regime that situation is reversed. Under the Carbon priced regime gas will be used predominantly (and future investment will go to gas/wind rather than coal).
    Now if the government pays back the tax collected to the electricity retailer (subsidy) then the net effect is for electricity retailers and end users is 0.
    Producer’s costs go up so they charge more to the retailer, the retailer’s costs go up but they are subsidised, for the end users there is no change.
    The only cost in this senario is a transfer of income/wealth from the most polluting producers to the least polluting producers (who are actually better off under the scheme).
    In other words the electricity producers who were prudent and factored in the obvious political risk associated with a decade of building climate change concensus get rewarded whereas the producers who burried their heads in the sand and decided to make a quick profit, ignoring the inherant risk get punished.
    Any investors who get caught up in that are also just as stupid, they either didn’t do their research or took a risk and lost (assuming the tax goes through).

  19. james1002

    Do not forget also what they are doing….gillard in washington and rudd in tunis……both crying wolf about libya…..they never cared about north africa ever before….probably had to get a brief on the location…..but its all to take the heat off the carbon tax issue which will cost them the election……

    why do they not speak about how much carbon emissions is being generated by the RAAF Boeing 737’s flying around the world with gillard and rudd and their backup aircraft right at this moment!!!!!

  20. Geoff

    Fool again says “Europe, America and even some third world countries are far more advanced in terms of implementing and understanding carbon pricing and climate change”.

    In the case of the US you are just dead wrong. The US tried to implement a Cap & Trade system but even with the Democrats controlling both houses & with a Democratic President, they failed. Don’t believe me then read this essay that two US Green economists, Ted Nordhaus and Michael Shellenberger, presented at Yale University this February.

    “In their speech they argued that the critical work of rethinking green politics was cut short by fantasies about green jobs and “An Inconvenient Truth.” The latter backfired — more Americans started to believe news of global warming was being exaggerated after the movie came out — the former made false promises that could not be realized by cap and trade. What is an earnest green who cares about global warming to do now? In this speech, Nordhaus and Shellenberger reflect on what went so badly awry, and offer 12 Theses for a post-environmental approach to climate change”.

    Well worth a read, particularly their 12 Theses, and an indication perhaps how we should move forward on this vexing issue.

  21. Geoff

    Fool. “The majority of countries. corporations, businesses, organisations and consumers where a carbon tax/trade system has been implemented have had absolutely no increase in the cost of their goods or services”.

    Frankly I’ve haven’t read so much nonsense as this in regard to this issue.

    Lets look at some figures for our situation. Take just the Carbon Dioxide emitted from the combustion of coal & natural gas, estimated at approximately 300 Million tonnes per annum, consumed in the production of base load electricity. This is about 30% of the total of all our current emissions. We don’t know what price will be put on Carbon Dioxide but Ross Garnaut has suggested $26 per tonnes of CO2. Multiplying the 300M X $26 comes to $7.8 Billion. Does Fool honestly believe that this will not be passed on, in entirety to industrial, commercial & domestic users?

    http://papundits.wordpress.com/2010/10/25/what-does-a-price-of-26-per-ton-on-carbon-dioxide-emissions-mean/

    From the link: –

    “Here in Australia, this call is the most strident from those two main figures from the Australian Greens Party, Senators Bob Brown and Christine Milne. You know, I seriously have my doubts that they have researched this.

    For so long now, they use that emotive language of making the big polluters pay, mainly those huge coal fired power plant operators.

    So then, let’s go back just to Eraring, and see how much this so called big polluter will be paying.

    This one plant burns 6 million tons of coal each year, and in the process emit 17.2 million tons of CO2. At that lower, and seemingly reasonable cost of the $26 per ton, then their added cost now amounts to almost $450 million.

    Seriously, think this out with some logic. There is no Company, no matter how large who can afford to have that added amount of money added as a cost to their bottom line each and every year, and stay in business.

    No, they, along with every coal fired power plant will be passing that added cost down to consumers in the form of increased electricity charges. In fact, those same governments who go on to impose this cost will add to the legislation the provision for that cost to be passed down to consumers.

    So, work this out. If electricity is consumed in three main sectors, the Residential sector, (38%) the Commercial sector, (37%) and the Industrial sector, (24%) then each consumer from each of those areas will be subject to that added cost.

    Your personal household electricity account will rise, and here I don’t mean by a small amount, but by anything up to 30%, and again, that could be a conservative percentage”.

  22. JamesK

    Well named.

    I wonder if it’s one of the pseudonyms for Alene Composta, Jonathan Green’s former heroine?

  23. Fool

    I really have to think that Australia and its politicians especially, live in the dark ages! Europe, America and even some third world countries are far more advanced in terms of implementing and understanding carbon pricing and climate change. The majority of countries. corporations, businesses, organisations and consumers where a carbon tax/trade system has been implemented have had absolutely no increase in the cost of their goods or services. The implementation of PAS2050 in the UK has actually even seen some savings and improvements to businesses. But backwards Australia is obviously blind to any issues they may have deal with, think about, or require change. Wake up Australia, do not let pathetic party politics, lazy businesses and bullshit merchants, blind you with fear and ignorance!

  24. JamesK

    Joseph Goebbels to Winston Churchill VE Day, May 1945:

    “OK WC. I agree with you as to who will be the inevitable victims if Chancellor Hitler was allowed to continue to rule the Third Reich (amongst whom I would count myself), though I’m not sure why you would count America amongst the victors except from reflex religious bias (are you Osama bin Laden folower, a radical imman, a displaced Ayatollah Khomeini or the ilk?). I also agree that the inevitable grinning winners will include the ‘the Jooos’.

    What I’m not sure of is why you resort to drastic hyperbole, unless you recognise that you cannot assuage your guilt on less dramatic grounds. I’m as evil as Herr Hitler, ’cause I think that the Joos need to pay for our production expenses and innovation costs for Zyklon B?

  25. rhwombat

    OK FC. I agree with you as to who will be the inevitable victims in the Capitalist Culture Wars (amongst whom I would count myself), though I’m not sure why you would count union leaders amongst the victors except from reflex anti-labor bias (are you Hungarian, a Bircher, a displaced Thatcherite or the ilk?). I also agree that the inevitable grinning winners will include the ‘blue chip CEOs’, however I consider them merely convenient figureheads: behind them stand the serried ranks of financial weasels, “investors”, propagandists and other parasites – Gogol’s myortvyje dushi (dead souls) as Calyptorynchus so appropriately put it. Amongst whom I notice you have carefully avoided admitting to membership.

    What I’m not sure of is why you resort to drastic hyperbole, unless you recognise that you cannot assuage your guilt on less dramatic grounds. I’m as evil as Stalin, ’cause I think that we Kulaks need to pay for our CO2-e production? Really? Can I claim victory under Godwin’s law (the first person to compare an opponent to H1tler loses the debate)? Or perhaps you have established a new corollary: “the first person to compare the other to Stalin loses the argument” We could call it Grech’s Law. Slainte.

  26. freecountry

    Evil sometimes serves a good purpose in spite of itself, and rhwombat, you have given me a pretext to make several solidly based claims of fact which support the claim that Gillard’s scheme will hurt poor people far more than it will reduce emissions. I know this is counterintuitive, and you are a creature of intuition who won’t bother to check any of those facts, but that’s OK; somewhere, someone will.

    Lest that imply that I enjoyed the exchange, let me say for the record that speaking with you makes my skin crawl. Stalin was, if anything, even more evil than H1tler if that’s possible. H1tler at least declared who his targets for mass slaughter were, but Stalin killed the very working class in whose name he ruled. Those most loyal to him were the first in line for the camps and the torture chamber.

    So it is with Labor redistribution gimmicks like Julia Gillard’s “compensation”. The union leaders and the blue-chip CEOs are always taken care of, but somehow the motor mechanics, the truck drivers, the farm hands, have a way of ending up poorer than before, once the handouts are counted up against the increased cost of living. My way, which is also JamesK’s way, and even Paul Keating’s way believe it or not, may be counterintuitive, but it works. Over and out.

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