Carbon shift 'not enough'
Resources companies and electricity retailers stand to benefit if the Rudd government goes ahead with plans to shift to a floating carbon price sooner than expected.
Under the changes announced by Treasurer Chris Bowen, the hundreds of companies now paying a fixed $24.15 for every tonne of carbon pollution will pay a floating price from July 2014, estimated at between $6 and $10 a tonne.
But the shift to a lower floating price has not appeased Australia's mining and resources industry, with its biggest lobby groups indicating they will continue pushing for the carbon tax to be scrapped.
The Minerals Council of Australia, which represents the likes of BHP Billiton and Rio Tinto, said shifting to a floating price one year early would "not go far enough for the minerals industry" and the government should start again on carbon policy.
Similar views were put forward by the Australian Petroleum Production and Exploration Association, which represents big oil and gas companies such as Woodside and Santos.
"While the move to a floating price may represent a short-term lowering of the price facing liable entities, Australia is still imposing a cost on its gas export industry that will not be borne by any of its LNG competitors," APPEA spokesman Michael Bradley said.
UBS analysts said the coal industry had felt the brunt of the carbon tax, with coal companies paying an average $1.50 to $2 a tonne, and gassy mines between $5 to $6 a tonne, less the benefit of free government permits.
In a recent report UBS estimated that the carbon tax would slice $US442 million from the earnings of Glencore Xstrata, Rio Tinto, BHP Billiton and Anglo American in 2014.
"We estimate the carbon tax just on the coal operations impacts Glencore Xstrata's 2014 earnings by about 2.5 per cent, while for Rio Tinto, BHP and Anglo it is about 1 per cent," the analysts said.
Deutsche Bank analyst Tim Jordan said a shift to an ETS would have a big effect on the hundreds of companies that pay the carbon tax, but its influence on the broader economy would probably be muted.
The change to a floating price would probably translate to lower electricity prices and provide a weaker investment signal for low-carbon investments, he said.
It would also probably reverse some of the increases in gas and hydro generation, and reductions in coal-fired generation over the past 12 months since the carbon tax was introduced, Mr Jordan said.
In the year to June, output from renewable energy sources rose to around 23 per cent of the total in the national electricity market, up from around 19 per cent a year earlier.
Other business groups welcomed Labor's announcement, with Ai Group saying it would cut costs for businesses "struggling with high energy prices and lost competitiveness", while meeting Australia's bipartisan commitment to reduce carbon emissions.
But Tony Wood, the energy program director with the Grattan Institute, said a floating price might not deliver the lower prices many are agitating for, as Europe seeks to soak up excess supply.