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The green economy

Written By: - Date published: 12:28 pm, February 11th, 2013 - 89 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, infrastructure, jobs - Tags:

There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of moving to a green, sustainable economy but details on what that looks like in practice in New Zealand are often frustratingly thin. Greenpeace is releasing a reportThe Future is Here – that puts meat on the bones. The main thing is getting us off expensive, polluting, imported oil and on to clean, local energy.

We spend over $8 billion a year – nearly our whole current deficit – importing climate-changing causing fossil fuels. The ever-rising cost of oil means we’re now spending nearly triple the amount on imports that we were a decade ago for the same amount of stuff.

Replacing these with local, clean energy saves the environment, saves us money, and creates jobs here – 27,000 by Greenpeace’s reckoning. It’ll require government investment in the infrastructure – particularly in a low-carbon transport system. But that’s got to be better than National’s ‘plan’, which lost us 30,000jobs in the last year alone.

89 comments on “The green economy”

  1. Lanthanide 1

    “We spend over $8 billion a year – nearly our whole current deficit – importing climate-changing causing fossil fuels. The ever-rising cost of oil means we’re now spending nearly triple the amount on imports that we were a decade ago for the same amount of stuff.”

    Take out inflation and the rise of our dollar, and it probably hasn’t gone up very much in real terms.

    Having said that, a lot of the inflation is probably underpinned by the price of oil, so it’s a bit of a chicken-and-egg situation there.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Take out inflation and the rise of our dollar, and it probably hasn’t gone up very much in real terms.

      Ahhhh but I reckon it has. And as you mentioned, energy price increases are hidden in everything.

      Firstly, the rise in our dollar has protected us from the full effects of oil price rises. If we were still at US$0.60 fuel prices would leap ahead.

      Secondly the only important metric is energy costs per $ of GDP (if you are measuring from the perspective of the country) or per $ of household income (if you are measuring from the standpoint of living costs for households).

      For families a real increase in cost occurs if fuel is eating away into the household budget, as a %. And with a petrol bill of $300/month (or much more) commonplace in Auckland I’d say that it is.

    • Lightly 1.2

      Well, obviously oil prices are part of the inflation index, for starters.

      But the increase in oil prices has been way above the increase in the general price level.

      MED says the price of the oil we import has risen 168% in the past 8 years. CPI less transport fuels is up 21% in the same period.

  2. Tiresias 2

    Stuff’s comment on this:

    “Where the report stumbles is on the financial side, giving no detail on the level of investment required or the economic tradeoffs, making it impossible to judge if the transformation would be worthwhile or simply a pyrrhic environmental victory.”

    Too true. After all, the saving of a world fit for our grand-children to live in isn’t worth spending too much on.

    • Ennui in Requiem 2.1

      Yes, tomorrows children are not worth the paper our money is printed on! We don’t need to leave them a thing, especially not oil!

      On second thought, there wont be any oil to leave them. Or a climate worth living in, apart from the vege patch my grandchildren will tend in the jungle that will be growing at Scott Base.

  3. George D 3

    If Labour was to echo and endorse Greenpeace and Forest and Bird more closely, this would be a way for them to get back some of that soft support they’re bleeding to the Greens, while putting them in a better position to work with them in government. These after all are incredibly popular and well-regarded organisations in NZ.

    It would also be the right thing to do.

  4. Peter 4

    Yep, this is a really positive and timely report.

    Alone of most developed countries, NZ stands a decent chance of a transition to renewables, whilst maintaining something of a “modern” standard of living.

  5. geoff 5

    The leftover income people used to have is now being used to service a big mortgage. Or it’s being used to pay the high rent on a house owned by someone with a big mortgage. This is why there is no economic demand from consumers in NZ and why there won’t be any economic recovery (‘green’ or otherwise) until the cost of accomodation is a much smaller fraction of the average punters pay packet.

    We’re in a real pickle. If we create an oversupply of housing to dramatically drop the average price then most mortgage holders will be fuming that they will still be paying a huge mortgage on a massively overpriced asset. If we don’t drop the price of housing then the economy will never recover.

    He’s my poorly thought through, blue sky (just call me Julius Nicholson) solution. (Please tear to shreds):

    1. The government nationalises all family home mortgage debt.
    2. The goverment ‘prints’ money to cover this debt.
    3. The NZ dollar utterly tanks and NZ’s credit rating drops through the floor and we have to tell the IMF to go fuck itself.
    4. our exporters become incredibly profitable, but…
    5. our imports become impossibly expensive (waaa no iphone for damien) and…
    6. we can’t afford essential things like meds and baked beans (from Australia), so…
    7. We make them ourselves!
    8. Everyone lives happily ever after (except damien grant who is sent by, popular vote, to live as a tour guide on white island).

    Whaddya think?! Pretty flawless eh?

    • higherstandard 5.1

      “Pretty flawless eh?”

      Apart from the mass exodus of population and capital, deaths due to lack of medical supplies and pharmaceuticals and myriad other unintended consequences.

      • fatty 5.1.1

        Yeah…mass exodus of the greedy resource hoggers. How will us ignorant peasants survive…
        No medical supplies…haha, nice attempt at fear mongering. Tax our poisonous foods, eat our veges. If we did this our life expectancy will be the same in 20 years, in comparison to where we are heading.

        • geoff 5.1.1.1

          I shouldn’t have planted the idea in HS’s little head, ie step 6

          • Draco T Bastard 5.1.1.1.1

            Nah, he’s been saying that for a couple of years. Still seems to think that we don’t make pharmaceuticals here in NZ even though I’ve pointed out a couple of times that we do.

            It’s the general willful ignorance that you get from idiots who don’t want to see their ideology challenged.

        • higherstandard 5.1.1.2

          Fantasist

      • geoff 5.1.2

        So how do we get out of this pickle we’re in? Do you accept my premise that the economy is taking because people are having to service too much debt?

        • higherstandard 5.1.2.1

          Perhaps they shouldn’t take on so much ?

          • geoff 5.1.2.1.1

            So you don’t have any answers?

            • higherstandard 5.1.2.1.1.1

              No.

              • Colonial Viper

                Steve Keen suggests a modernised debt jubilee. My modification of it is to print $500 per month gifted to every adult 16 years and over for a period of 2 years.

                That’s $12K per person, spread over 2 years.

                For those who are in debt, the monies automatically go towards servicing that debt, no if’s or buts. For those with no debt – they are rewarded by what is essentially a $500 monthly cash injection.

                At the same time, the Government makes cheap bank and retail credit harder to access, to prevent people getting into the debt hole again.

                • geoff

                  Debt jubilee is a great idea. I wonder how it would effect house prices though. If the only thing that happened was that the debts were wiped then wouldn’t house prices remain excessively high and the unaffordability problem (and high rent problem) would remain? It’s one of those situations where other things would have to be changed at the same time, ie building more state houses, your credit access suggestions, progressive tax increases, GCT, nationalisation of infrastructure, minimum wage increases etc. NZ’s new deal.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    Very good point. The other part of Keen’s plan is to limit mortgage lending to prevent property asset prices from inflating. He suggests a limiting ratio of mortgage debt:equivalent annual rental for a property.

                    If a property can be rented out at $20,000 pa, a 15x ratio would limit the maximum mortgage on the property to $300K.

                    Aso as you note a raft of other things would need to be done at the same time. Penalty interest on larger mortgages, stamp duty on investment homes, flooding the market with social housing etc.

                    Yes, a New Deal, and not just to cope with a Depression, but to resolve the steadily building energy and resource crisis.

                    • karol

                      Meanwhile MSM journos are salivating over a new spurt in NZ’s home ownership bubble. Prices dropped in January, but prices have increased since last year and this journo is positive about it being an indicator of a strengthening property market.

                      Won’t somebody in the MSM think about how this impacts on us renters, given the crisis in affordable rental accommodation?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I’m aware of a large number of people in their 20’s and 30’s who are being screwed to the wall by this “good news”.

                      An MSM which does not tell the stories relevant to the mass of people of the nation, just the stories which appeal to the privileged 25%.

                      And they wonder why more and more people are ignoring them.

                    • karol

                      Yes, CV. This housing situation impacts badly on young people, and those on low incomes.

                    • geoff

                      That’s another of my personal theories: NZ’s population is fairly split down the middle with regards to home ownership. Which means it’s going to be very hard to get consensus on how to solve the problem. Reduce house prices, you piss off the older, home-owning half who see their net worth destroyed. Dont reduce house prices and the younger, non-owning half are condemned to poverty.

                      Obviously the first choice, reduce house prices, is the correct one but it would
                      be very unpopular.

                    • RedLogix

                      Obviously the first choice, reduce house prices, is the correct one but it would be very unpopular.

                      If the government arbitrarily decided to eliminate all the money in your savings account …. how would you feel?

                      There are alternative ways to deal with the problem that are much fairer:

                      Property Income Limited Leverage

                      Some debt is needed to purchase a house, since the cost of building a new house far exceeds the average wage. But debt greater than perhaps 3 times average annual wages drives not house construction, but house price bubbles.
                      Property Income Limited Leverage (“the PILL”) would break this positive feedback loop by basing the maximum that can be lent for a property purchase, not on the income of the borrower, but on a multiple of the income-earning potential of the property itself.

                      With this reform, all would-be purchasers would be on equal footing with respect to their level of debt-financed spending, and the only way to trump another buyer would be to put more non-debt-financed money into purchasing a property.

                      It would still be possible–indeed necessary–to pay more than ten times a property’s annual rental to purchase it. But then the excess of the price over the loan would be genuinely the savings of the buyer, and an increase in the price of a house would mean a fall in leverage, rather than an increase in leverage as now. There would be a negative feedback loop between house prices and leverage. That hopefully would stop house price bubbles developing in the first place, and take dwellings out of the realm of speculation back into the realm of housing, where they belong.

                      http://www.debtdeflation.com/blogs/2012/04/16/inet-presentation-minskian-perspective-on-instability-in-financial-markets/

                      The other method Keen has advocated is a Debt Jubilee.

                    • geoff

                      Interesting stuff, RedLogix.

                      If the government arbitrarily decided to eliminate all the money in your savings account …. how would you feel?

                      Yeah that’s right, it would be unpopular but ultimately it’s about what is the long term equitable solution.
                      You can’t go on having houses costing 6 times the average annual salary, it’s incredibly destructive.
                      Does the PILL system actually reduce house prices?

                    • Colonial Viper

                      That’s what death taxes (estate taxes or estate duty) are for.

                      You pass on, and 25% or 35% of your net asset wealth over a certain value is put back into circulation in the economy.

  6. infused 6

    Are there any green projects that haven’t fallen over or bring massively subsidised?

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      The couple of hundred wind turbines up and down the country.

      On the other hand, I wonder how our road transport industry would fare without their massive subsidies?

      • Peter 6.1.1

        Yep, almost all wind turbines in NZ have been built without state subsidy. In fact, the cost of new wind and geothermal (including consenting) is so low compared with fossil fuel and even hydroelectric options it’s doubtful we’ll see much else in NZ in the next 50 years, assuming current energy demand patterns.

        However, if we start electrifying transport in a big way, then we’ll need new generation and transmission. Not impossible, and I have a feeling that people may accept new hydro in some places (i.e upper and lower clutha) if the end use of the energy is for transport, and not heated towel rails in Auckland.

      • infused 6.1.2

        Reason I asked is that US global warming scientist has now come out saying Wind Turbines are shit (basically) and the US has stopped subsidising them.

        They are fucking ugly though.

        • Colonial Viper 6.1.2.1

          Wind turbines don’t need subsidies, they pay for themselves commercially.

        • NoseViper (The Nose knows) 6.1.2.2

          Wind turbines are not fucking ugly. It is just a matter of preference with many showing unreasonable negativity towards them. It would be nice not to need them but if we do we can think of them as spare, modern sculptures that Len Lye would have enjoyed.

          In other countries the windmills that we now find so quaint and pleasant to view, were once a blot on the landscape to the country people when they were built. Trying to preserve skylines as down in the southern lands is unreasonable when it becomes a total barrier to such effective energy generators.

          • Polish Pride 6.1.2.2.1

            Ugly as in my book. I’d far sooner see the hills returned to their natural state i.e. pre wind turbines. Build more Hydro Dams and landscape the resulting lakes by all means but please no more wind turbines – such an eyesore in my book

            • Colonial Viper 6.1.2.2.1.1

              Funny how you think millions of cubic metres of concrete in a hydrodam in the middle of the countryside look OK

    • Lefty 6.2

      Are there any New Zealand businesses that haven’t fallen over or being massively subsidised?

    • Colonial Weka 6.3

      Lots of small/med solar businesses too, esp solar hot water.

  7. Afewknowthetruth 7

    Yet more delusional nonsense from people who do not understand EROEI and do not understand the insidious nature of CO2.

    By the way, wind turbines cannot be classified as green, since they require massive inputs of fossil fuels to construct, generate greenhouse emissions, and have a limited life…. the latest reports indicating that replacement is required a lot earlier than previously expected (15 years). The so-called green economy is nothing more than a slight shift away from a black economy. Let’s call it a grey economy.

    Okay, let’s adopt a grey economy strategy: that allows us to carry on looting the planet of resources and carry on emitting greenhouse gases for a few more years before abrupt climate change renders most of the Earth uninhabitable. Better be quick though, oil at above $120 a barrel demolishes most economic systems. And it’s $118.95.

    • infused 7.1

      Well yeah, the Green economy is shit.

    • Colonial Weka 7.2

      Of course the Greens understand EROEI and CO2. They also understand the nature of politics and pragmatics. If they based their policies on the powerdown, they’d not be in parliament. Better to have them shifting to grey, even slightly, than letting NACT and Labour pull us into the abyss even further. The grey moving to green will cut us a bit of slack.

  8. Colonial Viper 8

    Better be quick though, oil at above $120 a barrel demolishes most economic systems. And it’s $118.95.

    As incomes deflate, we’ll find that any oil over $100/bb is too much to bear. As it is we are in a near-global depression, in normal times oil would be back down to $40/bb.

    • Jokerman 8.1

      ahhh, The Circle Of Life; some morphic resonance Rupert The Bear? 🙂

    • TightyRighty 8.2

      Whose income is deflating?

      • Colonial Viper 8.2.1

        The NZ median household income for starters

        And lots of people who used to do work for mainzeal

        • TightyRighty 8.2.1.1

          you are such an idiot. if income is deflating it is because the price of goods and services are dropping in the market relative to income. It’s causes vary.

          Median household income is an extremely useless stat. If it includes beneficiaries and zero income earners, it is irrelevant.

          • Polish Pride 8.2.1.1.1

            Income is deflating because the price of goods and services are dropping……!?!
            Interesting I guess I missed all those people saying hey can I take a pay cut cause thinsg cost less.
            I also love it when people who can’t construct a lucid argument instead resort to verbal attacks as if it makes their arguement more believable.

  9. TightyRighty 9

    It’s no so much a report as a discussion document. Calling it a report when it lacks financial details and it’s subject is the economy is like calling a rough sketch of a house on an envelope architects plans.

    It makes some interesting points however. I particularly liked the one where they claim green energy is cheaper than fossil fuels. the claim about 27,000 local jobs being created seems to be based on a supposition. I mean, is it net of the jobs lost in other industries or gross?

    and how much investment is actually needed to acheive this? oh wait, it doesn’t have that detail. lets just throw unknown billions to save $9 billion. did phil goff write this?

    • Draco T Bastard 9.1

      Calling it a report when it lacks financial details and it’s subject is the economy…

      Contrary to what economists, politicians and other idiots think, the financial system is not the economy.

      • TightyRighty 9.1.1

        You are right. But what does that have to do with my comment. Where do I claim the financial system is the economy. Your pithy, albeit fucking retarded, comments are getting worse. Alzheimers knocking on the cranium door there?

  10. Tiresias 10

    Having had a chance now to skim the GreenPeace report I will admit to being disappointed. Something less rosy and more realistic would have a better chance of being accepted.

    As the Report and Peter above say, New Zealand is one the most well-placed countries in the world to do this, particularly with our amazing opportunities in geothermal, ocean energy and wind. Unfortunately hoping we can earn billions by developing and exporting the technology for this is somewhat pie-in-the-sky as there are not that many countries that can adopt geothermal or ocean technology even if they wanted to, and even wind is a much more unreliable source in many places. Too as with the motor industry in the past both developed and developing countries are more likely to set up research and manufacturing facilities to meet their own needs rather than relying on buying it in from outside.

    Too, speaking blythly of ‘hybrid and electric’ cars to replace our existing private vehicle fleet a though it was merely a matter of changing policy settings is unrealistic. For city-dwellers perhaps, but New Zealand is still a strongly rural and exurban country, unsuitable both for public transport and light-weight electric vehicles with a range of 120 km on smooth flat roads with one adult.

    Yes we should be doing all the things the report says, but we should be doing it despite the cost because it makes sense in the larger picture of our relience of a closed, fragile, limited ecosystem. Not because it’s just another investment opportunity, which this report tries to sell it as.

    • Peter 10.1

      Yes, you are correct. I see clean tech, green tech, and all other associated buzz words, as simply that, buzzwords that allow people to think that an unsustainable lifestyle can be maintained indefinitely. Yes, I’m as guilty as all of the other posters here by living that lifestyle…

      Anyway, we should undertake a transformation in transport energy because it future proofs our nation. That is justification in itself. It shouldn’t need any other justification. The interesting thing is that most of that transformation relies on older energy technologies, not anything shiny and new, because largely, we haven’t really come up with new ways of generating large amounts of energy, nor storing them.

      Transportation changes are interesting. For bulk freight, it has to involve rail and sea. For road transport, it can only involve limited range electric vehicles. My personal policy would see a raft of former country petrol stations converted into electric quick charging stations, but that will rely on whatever fleet we adopt to have fast charging batteries. I think fast charging and longevity is far more important than range, and that lends me to zinc-based technology, rather than lithium. I’d prefer not to dig up Bolivia…

      • Tiresias 10.1.1

        “Transportation changes are interesting.” – Peter.

        And by far the most challenging. Storage technology is still the achilles heel here. Despite 50 years of research the lead-acid battery is still the only real contender on the block that doesn’t involve rare-earths or advanced physics – and too many people have known for a long time that a good, cheap battery is a key to the wealth of Midas and still not come up with it for it to be just a solution awaiting discovery.

        I think the answer may lie with hydrogen.

        • bad12 10.1.1.1

          Yep, was just having a good read on the latest research and development on Hydrogen production on the weekend,

          It’s in it’s infancy at the moment but there are 2 things required to make Hydrogen that are basically an inexhaustible free resource,

          Magnifying sunlight onto a processing ‘plant’ which uses materials that are not in short supply to achieve via the energy of the Sun hydrogen split from water which as we all know when burned simply produces the original water as a by product as steam,

          A small scale prototype of one of these plants is currently running and being assessed in California where the water used in the process is taken from a sewerage treatment plant which the process provides the electricity for and also provides the hydrogen to fuel 25 vehicles in their daily use,

          Cheap energy forever, simply takes a big step away from the Neanderthalic way we view the production of money,

          Here’s an equation of how it could work, the Reserve Bank creates X amount of money and loans such to a ministry of energy which causes that ministry to build the necessary plant to produce the necessary quantities of Hydrogen along with the system of distribution,

          As the hydrogen is sold into the economy the ministry of energy pays back the zero interest loan to the reserve bank who essentially cross the amount off the sum of the total money supply…

        • Peter 10.1.1.2

          Unfortunately not. Hydrogen has low energy density naturally, which is why it needs to be compressed to put it in a storage system. In a portable application, this can’t really succeed, but it has merit for fixed installations.That’s why it hasn’t succeeded. Then there are the usual safety concerns. You would be better off looking at thermal depolymerisation or some other conversion of biomass to long chain carbon fuels if you wanted to store renewable energy and make it available in liquid form. Or Fischer-Tropsch on a large scale, using biomass feedstocks.

          The physics of the ideal battery, assuming technology will ever be found to implement the ideal battery, are still about three orders of magnitude below chemical fuels. It’s a round peg, square hole problem, which is why I’m focusing on the quick charge part of the equation, which gets around the overall storage issue.

          • Slartibartfast 10.1.1.2.1

            I remember a while age there was a chap being interviewed on the radio, a kiwi engineer working for the US military no less. He had invented a compact process to turn hydrogen into ammonia which could then be used in a vehicle much like LPG. No new infrastructure and only small engine mods required. The hydrogen could be made locally from off-peak electricity and then converted on the spot. Sound good?

            • Tiresias 10.1.1.2.1.1

              Highlights the problem, tho’. This guy was working for the US military which has a research budget of $billions. The GreenPeace report says:

              “This report reminds us that we are good at renewable energy. We are good at innovation. We are good creating in our garden shed and taking products to the world.” – p.4

              Nothing we’re talking about is garden shed technology. Yet the report says”

              “After many years of working with New Zealand business, innovators, scientists, investors, commentators and local and national politicians, Greenpeace is conident that the nation can rise to the challenge, and in doing so bring a prosperous future to New Zealand.”

              Sorry, I don’t hold with the dream that New Zealanders have some unique intellectual scientific talent that makes us better than anyone else. Developing the technology to replace petrol and diesel is not going to happen in New Zealand. We might have some world-class engineers working abroad but here we don’t have the pure-science infrastructure and we don’t have the money. When it comes to building this future we’re going to be buying the technology – and probably the hardware too – from abroad. What makes me think it ain’t gonna be cheap?

              • Peter

                Well, we can do it, because we once did it, mostly. Up until the 1950s, we largely ran NZ on our own energy supplies, albeit fossil fuels. It was only after WWII that we started importing massive quantities of foreign oil (and then developed some of our own), largely to run cars, and finally, trucks and planes, after we killed off our rail network.

                Replace the fossil fuels with a mixture of biomass and electricity, and we can do so again.

                One saying I’m quite fond of is that energy isn’t technology, and technology isn’t energy. We have the energy, and we have the technology, right now.

                The difference is in the level. We could quite happily run NZ on 1950s transportation technology, for decades or more. Yes, there are some inconveniences, most of which would be quickly forgotten, but they are only inconveniences when compared with what we have today. We were quite happy to hop on an overnight train from Auckland to Wellington and arrive the next morning.

                This future is coming, whether we like it or not, so I’d prefer to take the steps before. My worry remains, that if we don’t take the steps now, we’ll be forced back to a level of transportation technology that we really won’t like, and won’t be able to recover sufficiently.

                I’m just one person though 🙂

                • Tiresias

                  As Serendipity has these things I’ve just watched “Coast” on Sky’s ‘Choice’ (a tour of the UK’s coastline) which features amongst other things a guy on the Shetland Islands who has built his own hydrogen-power car – which looks like it’s being killed off by the oil companies:

                  http://www.shetlandtimes.co.uk/2008/09/19/what-now-for-hydrogen-car

                  and the Pelamis wave-power machine featured in the GreenPeace Report.

                  So yeah, if the Government were to get behind these types of projects there is much that could be achieved. Unfortunately it will take a Green Government to do it as I don’t have much hope anyone in Labour has the vision, or courage. And if the TPP comes to pass, forget it.

                • Fortran

                  How many cars were there in New Zealand in the 1950s ?
                  It’s all relative, and not truly comparable.

                  • Colonial Viper

                    i suspect the number of cars on the road in 20 years time is going to be heading back to 1950’s levels…

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I suspect that it’s going to be significantly lower. Quite simply, we can’t afford cars.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Indeed. I didn’t want to scare the horses though. There will be quite a few of them on the roads in the latter part of the century.

              • Draco T Bastard

                Developing the technology to replace petrol and diesel is not going to happen in New Zealand. We might have some world-class engineers working abroad but here we don’t have the pure-science infrastructure and we don’t have the money.

                I think you’d be surprised. I know I often am when I see that we’ve developed in NZ a world beating technology. One of those was the ability to manipulate atoms with lasers which has huge potential.

                When it comes to building this future we’re going to be buying the technology – and probably the hardware too – from abroad.

                Only if we keep attitudes like yours that maintain that we can’t do anything.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Technology can’t replace a lack of energy. Technology is not energy.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    Good job I always say that we need to decrease what we pull out of the environment down to what we need then.

            • Peter 10.1.1.2.1.2

              I’d be interested to see the distances from the cylinder, as I’d expect them to be far less than your average LPG cylinder, and the system costs of scaling up that energy system to replace the existing infrastructure. It’s that system cost that usually finishes off all alternative proposals to run cars. Hence my focus on 1950s level tech, with heavy emphasis on rail, in nations that are suited to it (i.e. long stringy ones like NZ, with largely linear flows of people and goods).

    • Draco T Bastard 10.2

      For city-dwellers perhaps, but New Zealand is still a strongly rural and exurban country, unsuitable both for public transport and light-weight electric vehicles with a range of 120 km on smooth flat roads with one adult.

      Although I agree with you about the cars PT is another matter entirely.

      Yes we should be doing all the things the report says, but we should be doing it despite the cost because it makes sense in the larger picture of our relience of a closed, fragile, limited ecosystem.

      Thing is, it’s not actually a cost. It’s a diversion of presently available resources that will allow a better living standard later. As I say, use of money brings about false economics.

  11. ad 11

    Thoroughly looking forward to the full release of this report. Projecting a scenario like this remins me of the Shell Scenarios that have been produced for over a decade now, with several alternative futures for the world.

    Possibly this kind of thinking would be possible here if Labour had its own research unit rather than blowing its budget on focus groups. Anyone remember The Commission for the Future; a kind of leftover utopian backeddy from Think Big?

    Starting from the goal and working backwards usually seems impossible to politicians, but it’s what one does for any serious project, partiuclarly infrastructure ones. One thinks of Israel’s plan for electric cars and their long range arrangement with Renault.

    A New Zealand government prepared to take on that kind of plan – and leading the private sector as well – would be one worth sticking around here for, and working for.

    But masterplan thinking cuts right against the democratising heart of the RMA. Would people really let go of the right to stop things, as they have at, say Lamamoor, Poutu Point, the Rakaia, and every other project killed dead that would have enabled greater energy interdependence. But that’s the political will question. Which is secondary.

    Bring it on.

    • Peter 11.1

      Yeah, agree with the bring it on.

      I agree with the RMA being about democratising decision making and planning, however, there are plenty of existing mechanisms that can be used for nationwide decision making, and plenty more on the way under this government. The issue has been that central governments haven’t used them – both Labour and National.

      A National Policy Statement on Transportation Energy would do the job on the planning side, although any such thing is likely to be a giant whammy. I wouldn’t want to go further on all energy forms, lest one creates another National Development Act in drag.

      But yeah, regulating energy supply isn’t something that central governments have done in the Western world for a very long time, and even then, they haven’t done it outside of war times and emergencies.

      One interesting thing I find about energy is that it’s usually an enabling conversation, once you learn to either leave out or ignore the techno-fantasists who insist that some completely unheard of energy source is waiting just around the corner. This is in stark contrast to climate change conversations, that end in bitterness.

      • Coronial Typer 11.1.1

        I have had a read at the summary report.

        Things I liked:

        – The Green Infrastructure Bank. Helping public and private fund category managers make clearly weighted decisions.
        – Played to strengths New Zealand already has, and has had for 50+ years.
        – Admitted solar, wind, and tidal energy volume will always be unstable, and need shoring up with greater geothermal and hydro base load.
        – Illustrated with countries that are working to a plan, investing, and turning their economy the right way
        – Had a clear leadership role for government, but didn’t expect it to do everything.
        – easy to choose from policy options, nice and broad for interpretation

        Things to improve, and build conversations on:
        – didn’t deal with the continuing domination of Auckland as NZ’s principal energy waster
        – forgot to mention much of the renewable sector is built on dams
        – needed to spell out changing transport fuel that much meant a whole bunch more generation, sited somewhere
        – didn’t really get to inefficiency thermal heat loss in transmission and conversion; waste
        – should have been more up front about what was really possible, and what was very early days. Eg how easy to scale up pine biomass conversion.

        My personal minor fantasy would be a fully electrified rail system, funded by road tolls over every motorway. Ah well.

        On the political front, surely there were other groups that could have been enlisted to build a media cycle about this. Green Advantage. Sustainable Business groups. Mahuia, etc etc. Or launch it at the National Transport Conference next week in Wellington.

        Just amazing to hear anyone remaining so positive and upbeat, right in the midst of John Key and National remaining barely touched in the polls. Very encouraging. Although it still made me want to leave for Denmark.

        • Peter 11.1.1.1

          Yeah, that is excellent.

          Incidentally, the aspect of the Standard I enjoy the most is its ability to have relatively intelligent discussions about energy and resources.

    • Tiresias 12.1

      Don’t worry. New Zealand will stick to the moral high ground by refusing to devalue merely for commercial advantage and shame the rest of the world into following suit, just as we did with nuclear-free.

  12. Mike 13

    “There’s a lot of talk about the benefits of moving to a green, sustainable economy”

    Doesn’t matter what color the economy is, it isn’t sustainable in its current form. Forget about green this and that for a second, the whole monetary and economic system needs to be completely changed if you want sustainable.

    The first law of sustainability:-

    Population growth and / or growth in the consumption of resources cannot be sustained.

    • Polish Pride 13.1

      I agree with the first part of your post

      i.e.
      Doesn’t matter what color the economy is, it isn’t sustainable in its current form. Forget about green this and that for a second, the whole monetary and economic system needs to be completely changed if you want sustainable.

      but Population growth and / or growth in the consumption of resources cannot be sustained

      Both of these can be sustained provided you change the systems from those we currently use today.
      examples
      Population could double or more (and would need to) to make widespread permaculture a replacement alternative for so called modern farming.
      Provided your product design makes maximum use of renewables and you have significant levels of recycling then that too could sustain an increase in the level of resources.

      • Robert Atack 13.1.1

        Sad isn’t it, I think you actually believe what you wrote.
        As soon as you drive a shovel into the earth to get something you need, you cease to be sustainable.
        For example the Ogallala Aquifer
        http://www.telegraph.co.uk/earth/8359076/US-farmers-fear-the-return-of-the-Dust-Bowl.html
        ‘The problem,’ he goes on, ‘is that in a brief half-century we have drawn the Ogallala level down from an average of 240ft to about 80.’
        The aquifer was filled 2-6 million years ago, ‘we’ have used over half in about 60 years.
        While the maternity wards keep pumping out mouths to feed and bodies to keep warm and sheltered, nothing good is going to happen.
        One thing we have an unlimited amount of is gullible people, who are incapable of understanding facts. …… another degree or so of warming and that ‘problem’ will be gone.

      • Mike 13.1.2

        You can’t have an ever increasing population who all consume resources. We live in a world of finite resources. No matter how renewable and how much recycling there is, new consumption has to occur if the population increases. There’s no such thing as increasing our resources, only ways to manage them better, but that simply delays the inevitable if population keeps increasing or if we don’t somehow find a way to travel to the stars. (we might, you never know).

        The only possible way for sustainability to occur (assuming 100% recycling, etc) is for population growth to go down to ZERO. Sooner or later, whether we like it or not, our population growth will stop of it’s own accord. Then, of course, resource sustainability is feasible (but unlikely), but the population is not sustainable and we start to die off.

        (sigh…) pessimistic I know. That damn exponential function!

        • Robert Atack 13.1.2.1

          Yeah Mike
          But it isn’t just population growth that is gobbling up finite resources, bringing people out of poverty, and keeping us from going there is doing damage. What we need to do is get rid of people.
          We seem to do it via killing off pore people, blacks, browns, yellows, youth and the old, you know ‘non contributors’. I’m guessing but I recon we will start to see a drop in global population within 5 years. Starting with the above pesky groups.
          Personaly I place the blame at feet of parents, and if they profess to love their children every parent should fuckoff and make room for their offspring/mistakes, who after all did not ask to be born, we non breeders are the innocent victims of our parents ignorance and egos “I want more of me shit” I want my name to live on for ever, I need children to go with my lifestyle.
          ‘Producing’ another human being is the most destructive thing a human can do, not having children is the easiest way to not increasing your environment destroying foot print, and the only way to reduce future suffering.
          But what the fuck, humans are just like cancer and we will keep doing what cancer does until we kill our host.
          We got Kiwi Saver and the Greens yeah …… happy happy joy joy.

  13. millsy 14

    I looked through the report. It looks pretty well intentioned, but where it falls over is the fact that it relies heavily on the private sector to get to a ‘green economy’.

    If we want a cleaner economy, then the government needs to be more hands on than it has been in the past 30 years.

    Yes. I am talking about a green “Think Big” programme.

    For a start, we need to task our universities and CRI’s (as well as SOE’s — this can be done by using the provision in the SOE act where govt can purchase social services from them) to research clean energy applications, and we need to build up some form of expertise in the public sector, even if it is a design bureau for clean energy systems to be used in public sector organisations.

    Fossil fuels are a nessesary evil, but we can quite easily cut down on their use, and we should be looking at ways in which we can do so.

    • Colonial Viper 14.1

      For a start, we need to task our universities and CRI’s (as well as SOE’s — this can be done by using the provision in the SOE act where govt can purchase social services from them) to research clean energy applications, and we need to build up some form of expertise in the public sector, even if it is a design bureau for clean energy systems to be used in public sector organisations.

      no no no just get on with it. We don’t have the luxury of time.

      We know what needs to be done. Let’s just get it done now.

  14. We are living in a global economy. New Zealand is as dependent on it as much as the states in the CCCP prior to it’s collapse.
    The only ‘green’ economy is no economy, oh sorry you are using the the Green party meaning of green – ie more growth, more manufacturing, more exports, more suburbia … and more fucking children …….. god help you all.

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