THE refrigerant industry has lashed the carbon tax and backed opposition claims that the price of some gases used in cooling systems will rise by several hundred per cent.
Steve Anderson, the executive director of Refrigerants Australia, warned that inefficient cooling systems would remain in operation for longer – in a perverse outcome of the carbon pricing scheme – because the price of refrigerant gas would rise sharply when the carbon tax kicks in from Sunday.
Mr Anderson’s comments came after Climate Change Minister Greg Combet described as “outrageous” claims by the opposition’s industry spokeswoman Sophie Mirabella that food prices were set to soar as the cost of refrigerants increased by up to 400 per cent.
Ms Mirabella said refrigerant R404A, widely used in industrial and supermarket refrigeration, would go up from $92.88/kg to $377.71/kg. This was on top of a 20 per cent price increase as of June 13.
But Mr Combet said R404A attracted an equivalent carbon price of around $75/kg, less than a quarter of Ms Mirabella’s claim.
Synthetic greenhouse gases, used in many refrigerators, are often thousands of times more potent than carbon dioxide in their impact on global warming.
The government is imposing an equivalent carbon price on these gases to encourage the takeup of alternatives with no or lower global warming potencies.
But Mr Anderson said many supermarkets or commercial building operators did not get to choose what gases were included in their cooling systems as this decision was made by the manufacturer, possibly in the US or China.
“The carbon tax is supposed to change behaviour,” Mr Anderson said. “But the people using these systems do not have a choice.”
He attacked the government and the Greens for failing to adequately consult with the industry during the creation of the carbon pricing scheme.
In Question Time yesterday Julia Gillard attempted to play down the impact of refrigerant gas increases on business, arguing the gases were used intermittently, not as a continuous cost.