22 April 2012

Helter smelter - NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ wins the 2011 Roger Award

Robin Johnson's Economics Web Page reports that NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ have just won the 2011 Roger Award for Worst Transnational Corporation operating in Aotearoa/New Zealand "for milking the NZETS".

Every year the group Campaign Against Foreign Control of Aotearoa (CAFCA) awards a Roger Award for bad multinational corporate behavour.

Past winners have been Warner Brothers for the Hobbit film employment law change and British American Tobacco.

Readers may recall I wrote some posts about the excessive allocation of free emissions units from the NZ Emissions Trading Scheme to NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ.

I concluded that in 2010 the Rio Tinto Alcon NZ received 135% more emissions units than it needed for its greenhouse emissions, as an undisclosed amount of units were to compensate it for undisclosed ETS-related electricity costs.

In other words, Rio Tinto Alcon NZ would pay a higher 'carbon' price if it was exempt from the NZ ETS, as they would at least be paying some 'carbon' price as a 'downstream' electricity user.

I rewrote the analysis from those posts and wrote to CAFCA nominating NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ for a Roger Award.

Well, the winner was announced on Saturday and it is..........NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ! I quote from the judges report.
  1. New Zealand Aluminium Smelters Ltd (NZAS) has effectively undermined the purposes of the carbon emissions trading scheme...
  2. NZAS has already been secretly compensated for any electricity price increases associated with the emissions trading scheme...
  3. NZAS were provisionally allocated 423,047 New Zealand Units for 2011...
  4. the New Zealand taxpayer is subsidising a transnational corporate rort of the emissions trading scheme.
  5. NZAS has, effectively, abrogated any responsibility to mitigate the incidence of anthropogenic global warming... a major transnational player within New Zealand materially benefits from its non-compliance with a strategy to reduce global climate change...
Of course, this raises fundamental questions about the efficiency of emissions trading, as compared to a tax-based model directed toward the largest CO2 emitters.
I couldn't agree more. This is only a summary. The whole 26-page Judges report (PDF) is well worth a read. It includes a seven page history of the 'Comalco' smelter company that includes details of NZETS lobbying. There is also a ten-page analysis by Sue Newberry of the NZ Aluminium Smelters/Rio Tinto Alcan NZ finances and multinational corporate structure.

I leave the concluding point to the Judges.
With both Labour and National governments in thrall and with Greenhouse Policy Coalition lobbyists closely involved in the design and implementation of the ETS, it was only to be expected that Comalco/RTA would be at the head of the queue for its free handouts of emission units...Its milking of the Emissions Trading Scheme is entirely in character.  
Helter Smelter!

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