Oil and gas company Shell Australia chairman Russell Caplan says the federal government’s decision to delay its emissions trading scheme could be beneficial.

“I think that the delay ought to help get some of the details that need fixing better discussed and ought to contribute to a better outcome,” Mr Caplan told reporters after addressing an American Chamber of Commerce in Australia luncheon.

Asked what details of the scheme needed fixing, Mr Caplan said: “In our case, for instance, we don’t even know what the definition is of `refining'”.

Mr Caplan said he did not know what impact a delay in the scheme, if any, might have on the environment.

“I’m not a scientist that could give a specific answer, but I really would like to see the CPRS (Carbon Pollution Reduction Scheme) in legislation as soon as reasonably possible so that we can have a good outcome and the certainty that goes along with it, so that we can make the investments that we need to make,” he said.

The Rudd government announced on Monday that it had delayed its emissions trading scheme by one year to July 2011, citing the global economic crisis.

But the government has lifted its emissions reduction target to 25 per cent of 2000 levels by 2020 – up from a maximum of 15 per cent – depending upon the strength of an international agreement. The bottom end of the target range remains at five per cent.

However, the coalition, Australian Greens, Family First senator Steven Fielding and independent Nick Xenophon have said they will not support the new scheme.

Mr Caplan said he hoped that the debate over the revised scheme would result in the adoption of a largely bipartisan position.

“Investments in energy are so large and of such long duration that thinking that there might be a change of course which is dependant upon the political cycle really is not all that helpful for industry,” he said.

Mr Caplan said Shell Australia was considering what had been disclosed to it about the CPRS in its investment proposals.

“I must say, the sooner we get to a position of certainty, the better we’ll like it.”

Mr Caplan said the biggest concern about a scheme was about what Australia does while other countries have not yet moved.

“What I’ve seen the Prime Minister (Kevin Rudd) say both yesterday and earlier that there’s one set of promises that are there with Australia acting virtually unilaterally, and another set of promises dependant on what happens in the rest of the world – I think that’s quite a proper way forward.”