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A goal is not a strategy

Written By: - Date published: 11:36 pm, April 4th, 2011 - 26 comments
Categories: climate change, energy, sustainability, transport - Tags: ,

Last year, the New Zealand Institute lambasted the Nats’ ‘aspiration’ to catch Australia by 2025 with a report entitled ‘A goal is not a strategy‘. Did the Nats change? Of course not. Yesterday, their energy strategy was released. It offers some goals but is mute on how to get there. It’s not really a strategy at all.

In the middle of another oil shock, with more on the way, and with the effects of climate change becoming ever more undeniable, we need an energy strategy. It should be a visionary document outlining how we will reduce our dependency on fossil fuels through efficiencies and utilising energy from other sources, while achieving our social and economic goals.

The International Energy Agency’s comment on the New Zealand Energy Strategy was that it is “missing a firm set of actions to achieve its stated goals”. Well, I don’t know about you, but “a firm set of actions to achieve stated goals” is pretty much how I define the word ‘strategy’.

So, what is in this Energy Strategy if not a strategy?

Not a lot.

The thing is only 40 pages long with 20% being blank pages and more filled up with whole-page graphics. Its content reminds me of nothing so much as Don Brash’s wafflely 2025 Taskforce reports (although not as long, thank goodness) or those insultingly vague Whanau Ora documents.

Like Whanau Ora, there’s even a stupid circle graphic that sums up the ‘strategy’:

Notice there’s no ‘how’ in there. Each circle going outwards is just a more detailed way of saying the next layer inward. Then, there’s the timeline of energy intensity:

Note that, again, there’s nothing to say how these energy intensity improvements will be achieved. And, moreover, nowhere in the document does it admit that if they do improve energy intensity at the goal rate (1.2% per year) that will be less than the rate of economic growth the government projects for the same period. That means total energy use and greenhouse emissions rise under this strategy.

Remember, the government just recommitted to its goal of reducing our greenhouse emissions by 50% by 2050. Yet here is its energy strategy with a goal of more emissions.

I/S at No Right Turn puts it well:

So, what’s changed [from last year’s draft strategy]? Apart from the photo of the Minister on page 1, virtually nothing. The plan still puts finding oil first and the environment last. It still proposes no concrete actions to achieve its goals. It even claims that this is appropriate:

The decision to not list specific programmes will ensure that the strategies remain relevant over the next five years. The 2011 NZEECS sets clear targets, objectives, policy directions, acceptable means, and names the government agencies responsible for facilitating delivery. Details of government energy programmes are available elsewhere. This approach is also more honest. Goals will be achieved not due to lists in the NZEECS, but due to ongoing Cabinet commitment to prioritise energy efficiency across its overall work programme to meet its obligations and targets set out in the NZEECS.

Which is bullshit. Lets be clear: the absence of specific actions in both the NZES and NZEECS is for one reason and one reason only: so the government can’t be held to account for not doing anything.

It would be a mistake, however, to think the government has no plans for energy , just because its energy strategy isn’t worth the paper its printed on. Behind the waffle, the government’s intentions can be found:

– drill, baby, drill: the Nats plan to push ahead with offshore oil drilling, and lower the royalties we get from foreigners taking our oil if that is what is necessary to get them to drill in, so far, disappointing areas like the Great South Basin.

– power your car on coal. Well, not quite but the Nats are keen for Solid Energy to dig up huge swathes of Southland and turn the watery, energy-poor lignite beneath into briquettes for industrial heating and diesel. The only problem is that making lignite into something useable requires huge amounts of energy and emits heaps of greenhouse gases (not to mention other pollutants). Fortunately, the government has arranged it so that you and I pick up most of the bill for Solid Energy through the Emissions Trading Scheme subsidies.

The government ought to be ashamed for producing such a vague, useless document and trying to pass it off as a strategy to guide or energy sector for the next two decades. They’re not, of course, because it’s waffle skillfully misdirects us from what’s really going on – the rejection of the energy sources of the future and the commitment of New Zealand to dependence on fossil fuels.

26 comments on “A goal is not a strategy ”

  1. Jenny 1

    Thanks Marty for exposing this very poisoness waffle – as poisoness as the government’s plans for the environment.

    As you point out a goal or aspiration is not a strategy.

    I may aspire to live to 100, but if my strategy is to drink heavily and smoke and take no exercise, it is irrelevant if I still harbour the desire to live to 100.

    I am willfully fooling myself.

    With this document the government has willfully and deliberately set out to fool us. 

  2. tc 2

    Yes the nats adopt the corpratocracy approach where just like in business we have management proclaiming their goal which is essentially a slogan with no idea how to achieve it (strategy).
    CEO’s have to convince boards they have a strategy that will get to the goal whereas shonkey’s mob do no such thing to the public because their board (bus roundtable, fed farmers etc) are getting what they want…..all this is just PR for the great unwashed.

    • Bored 2.1

      Actually TC CEOs in my experience dont have strategies either, they have a vague belief that the corporate mission statement will transmute into a reality through the will of the empowered workers who are allowed to do anything so long as it involves cutting costs and becoming more “efficient”. Comparing Nact to “business”is quite apt as the methodology used by both resembles the shambolic approach of MBAs from the  Havard Business School who introduced this wholly updated alchemy. As we all know, alchemy is a sham, as by consequence is Nact and the corporate kleptocracy they represent.
      So, in summary, dont expect anything from corporate Nact which has plans where (pardon the petrol head expression) “the rubber hits the road”.

  3. lprent 3

    Exactly the type of document that these idiots would produce. Or at least Brownlee would. Useless waffle with just enough detail that they can do anything with.

    Brownlee’s catch call is obviously “screw democracy and avoid accountability”. Just look at how he has been running the house with completely unrequited urgent. Not to mention that he is clearly sloppy when it comes to doing any real work, like most of this cabinet.

    Pity the poor people of Christchurch though…

    • Marty G 3.1

      it’s kind of ironic that English complains the public service produces too much waffle but the most wafflely documents I can think of are the ones covering for National: 2025 taskforce, Whanau Ora, this steaming pile of crap…
      meanwhile, some of the really excellent regular reports that have been produced are now being cancelled or produced less frequently.

  4. Bored 4

    As an aside Brent Crude topped $121 yesterday…..normal crude is $108 and we have been over $95 for a month.

    • Afewknowthetruth 4.1

      Exactly. Oil is headed towards the price range which demolishes globalised economic arrangements.

      Part of the reason for the latest rise is currency movement. However, the writing in on the wallin big letters for anyone who cares to look. Of course, most people prefer to look the other way and pretend the oil-based globalised economy has a long term future, despite all the evidence to thr contrary.

      Watch the space to see if we get another fuel price rise in NZ this week.

  5. joe90 5

    Oh dear, a long time critic of the scientific consensus on climate change has reported back.

    The Berkeley Earth Surface Temperature project was launched by physics professor Richard Muller, a longtime critic of government-led climate studies, to address what he called “the legitimate concerns” of skeptics who believe that global warming is exaggerated.

    But Muller unexpectedly told a congressional hearing last week that the work of the three principal groups that have analyzed the temperature trends underlying climate science is “excellent…. We see a global warming trend that is very similar to that previously reported by the other groups.”

    • joe90 5.1

      The TV weatherman responds.

      Originally the specification was for lime based whitewash – the paint of the era in which the network was created. In 1979 the specification changed to modern latex paint.

  6. joe90 6

    Some links too: the Earth as a bathtub full of co2 and the approaching dust bowl.

  7. Blue 7

    So its very much like Goffs tax policy, all words, but no idea how he’s going to pay for it.  Still waiting for this little vignette of information from the left.

    • lprent 7.1

      So you’re comparing government ministers with their hands on my tax dollars who appear incapable of planning details about how to go to the toilet* with a opposition party giving an outline of their intended direction. In one case we expect the accountability that goes with handling my tax dollars. In the other, a political opposition party hasn’t released detailed policy yet.

      You really are an inadequete jerk aren’t you? You must spend hours straining some organ to come up with these ‘insights’. If you ever had a sense of scale, then it got lost behind the billshit and bluster years ago…. Makes you a perfect blue supporter – as stupid and as inadequetely egotistical as Brownlee.

      * the similar lack of a clear plan about the Christchurch sewerage system or even how to pay for it, is another example of the Brownlee route to incompetent screwups.

      • joe bloggs 7.1.1

        Nice Lyn, just love the personal approach…

        • lprent

          Question: are you talking to my partner Lyn or myself? If it is the former I can get quite irritable. Perhaps you’d better clarify? And be somewhat more accurate (not that is your forte)

          BTW: My personal favorite part of the role is ‘educating’ fools – especially ones who act like trolls. But look at the comment. It specifies exactly why I think that Blue is a fool. Of course I could have been somewhat more subtle and quite a lot nastier. But I kept it simple for the recipient.

  8. Steve Withers 8

    One has to wonder how people who can’t actually be stupid….can be so thoughtlessly cavalier about the future of New Zealand, their own children. Combine this nonsense with their approach to transport and wages and working conditions and education if they restore interest to student loans……..and you have to wonder what the hell they think they are doing. We went here, in large part, in the 90s. These people appear to be incapable of learning anything from their mistakes.

    • Draco T Bastard 8.1

      Rich people got richer (at everybody else’s expense) so they don’t actually see those policies as mistakes.

  9. Bored 9

    Steve, I also never cease to be amazed by the selective inability to place the needs of future generations alongside our own. You describe it as stupidity, I incline toward venality. Classic case in point is nuclear fuel rods which we use to satisfy todays demands and then leave for thousands of future generations to deal with. It is selfish in the extreme, and a form of intergenerational theft. Unfortunately the ethos of “now” and “more” is inculcated throughout the collective psyche of our whole society, the prevalent political discourse from both sides of the spectrum is “more” and “now”. Which comes down to, if we were honest, “lets drink the last beer before we get ejected from the party”.

  10. ianmac 10

    From the Circle of Hope: “Efficient Use of Energy.” Hey what a great idea. How about economical light-bulbs and smaller shower-heads? Nah. Too practical.
    Perhaps National could use words like Aspirational to describe their sense of Achievement. Works every time. (oops. Already overused? Sorry.)

  11. Afewknowthetruth 11

    National does have an energy strategy. Publicly released documents are just red herrings, full of neuro-linguistic catchphrases and buzz words, designed ot make it look as though there is a consultation process.  It’s all Orwellian.

    The real strategy is to open up NZ to exploitation by overseas corporations and allow local opportunists to make a killing at the expense of the general public and future generations. It’s the same as Labour’s real policiy.

    Everyone I have ever come across in maintream political parties is a scientifically illiterate ideologue, and doesn’t give a toss about the next generation’s future -which will be on an energy-poor and severely envrionmentally degraded planet if they are lucky. Otherwise, no future whatsoever because abrupt climate change has rendered the Earth largely uninhabitable.  

    Marty G, you constantly practice intellectual deceit by harping on about altenatives without actually naming them: ‘utilising energy from other sources, while achieving our social and economic goals.’ 

    There are no alternative sources of energy that come anywhere near the energy density and convenience of oil. And implemnetation of rather poor EROEI systems like wind turbines requires cheap oil.  To talk in terms of achieving our social and economic goals is pure drivel, the kind of nonsense that comes out of politicians mouths. 

    It’s ‘game over’ for present ecomomic and social arangement once global oil depletion reaches an ill-defined critical point, arguably when global oil extraction is down by 10% from peak, which is likely to occur between 2013 and 2016. 

    This is a crisis which was flagged decades ago, and every government for decades, both Labour and National, totally ignored the repeated warnings. So now we must pay the price for the greed and stupidity that have characterised an entire generation of politicians (and the uninformed/misinformed fools who voted for them).

    Actually, it won’t be us who will pay the horrendous price for all that greed and stupidity, it will be our children and grandchildren.

    Politics is a very sick game for very sick people, a game which is actively destroying the very land base and ocean base that make life on Earth possible.

    • Colonial Viper 11.1

      Everyone I have ever come across in maintream political parties is a scientifically illiterate ideologue, and doesn’t give a toss about the next generation’s future

      Come on dude, I’m in a mainstream political party and I am NOT scientifically illiterate (heh am I an idealogue though lol), and I am actually still young enough that this might be MY future which is going down the tubes. Deadly aware of that, especially if the current economic arrangements start to seriously fold within the next 3-4 years.

      There’s a fair chance that $3/L petrol will happen by Christmas, that an international oil spike will trigger another debt crisis, and yes the pollies are all behind the curve by a good 20 years.

      • lprent 11.1.1

        I’m in a mainstream political party and I am NOT scientifically illiterate…

        Ditto. Amongst the people I deal with in Labour, I’m frequently astonished about how many members are scientifically trained. It is far far higher than the average in the population.

        But I suspect that he is referring to politicians? But that is understandable – if you actually have something interesting to do, then why would you want to become a politician? It is simpler to find a sucker who is interested in that kind of high public exposure and to support them.

        • Bored

          Might this higher proportion of scientifically trained Labourites  be related to the “rationalist” approach to society evident in leftist politics (he said subversively…thinking of Marx)?

          OK I am just being contentious, but it does strike me that politicians of both sides but particularly of the right play on emotion and instinct far more than rationalism. Even ACT who are of the ultra rationalist school of materialists very rationally play the emotion thing (on immigration, crime etc) when the rational argument fails to get traction. Lets face it, when the science does not meet expectations (aka aspiration) people (aka the electorate) will look quickly for alternative “science”.

      • Afewknowthetruth 11.1.2

        Sorry. Imprecise wording. I meant politicians or political candiates of mainstream political parties are scientifically illiterate.

        Lest face it, the vast majority of politicians are lawyers, accountants, economists, part-time farmers etc. and never got beyond fifth form science, which they had largely forgotten a year later.

        Oh, we did have an intermediate school metalwork teacher as Minister for Looting the Planet in the last Labour government. What a clown he was (is). He’s now been given a nice cosy position in local government to carry on with the destruction of his children’s future.  

      • Afewknowthetruth 11.1.3

        I try to talk in general terms, with particular reference to the youngsters whose lives are being wrecked by the incompetent fools we have as leaders, but yes CV, anyone under the age of 65 is very likely to be severely affected by the economic and environmental meltdowns which are on the horizon.

        • Bored

          As an “older person” I share the concern. In my (very sick) dreams the oil runs out at the very moment a bus full of these wreckers we call leaders runs out of fuel on a railway crossing. An electric train ploughing ahead passes an out of fuel abulance prior to hitting said bus full….justice is served. A mass of younger people arriving on the scene of carnage ask immediately how and where did these old fools get fuel to kill themselves? Why did they not take the train like any normal person?

  12. browncoal brownlee 12

    Gerry Brownlee the dirty energy minister and quake tsar has to go!!!

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