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Big Oil in plain packaging

Written By: - Date published: 7:30 am, September 10th, 2016 - 95 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, energy, Environment, global warming, peak oil, us politics - Tags:

The plan packaging legislation that passed this week through Parliament got me thinking.

In 1977, one of Exxon’s senior scientists noted that “the most likely manner in which mankind is influencing the global climate is through carbon dioxide release from the burning of fossil fuels.”

You can check out the extent to which they had researched and buried this at the Twitter hashtag #ExxonKnew.

U.S. Attorney General Loretta Lynch has been asked to launch a federal racketeering investigation of Exxon. You may recall the image of all those tobacco companies lying in unison.

U.S. Democratic Representatives Ted Lin and Mark DeSaulnier, together with a whole bunch of activist grounps like the Environmental Defence Fund and the Sierra Club, are also trying to get the Securities and Exchange Commission to launch a fraud probe against Exxon.

New York Attorney General Eric Schneiderman has opened a formal investigation into whether Exxon has misled investors and regulators about climate change. Exxon has so far turned over 1 million internal documents.

Granted, Exxon is probably quaking in its boots as much as Apple is about its Euro tax bill. And it’s too soon to say how much of a danger any investigation into Exxon poses. They are bigger and more powerful than all but the largest countries.

They should probably ask Big Tobacco. That’s how you learn the hard way. This week, New Zealand passed its tobacco plain packaging law. Big warning on every packet, no branding, plus of course higher and higher taxes every year, and products available only from age-restricted lockups. The same applied to petrol would be quite a change at the local petrol station.

Leftie dream? ExxonMobil as the Philip Morris of climate liability? Well, few thought Keystone Pipeline would die. Few thought Paris 20 would success. And this week the two biggest national polluters signed a major agreement. Who’da thought?

The comparison of Big Oil to Big Tobacco was started by the Union of Concerned Scientists several years ago. Exxon in turn is well versed in founding custom-built disinformation NGOs. It’s game on for civilization-scale addiction.

Stories of corporate attack worthy of legendary Jeffrey Wygand (see The Insider) will keep coming – such as shutting down attacks from weak small island states. The Virgin Islands had a go, and Exxon argued successfully against constraints to their free speech rights as a company.

It’s also possible there will be no final schadenfreude, no final accountability to petro companies or their petro-client-states. The Good may not prevail.

In the end, social marketing over years, higher and higher taxes that force substitutes, grinding regulation, and education, are the surest end to them both.

95 comments on “Big Oil in plain packaging ”

  1. Bill 1

    In the end, social marketing over years, higher and higher taxes that force substitutes, grinding regulation, and education, are the surest end to them both.

    Unfortunately Ad, we don’t have years. For an outside chance at 2 degrees, we have around 15 years to be off of fossil. Forget the taxes. Grinding regulation and restrictive standards, brought in today ,alongside a huge educational drive and other circuit breaking measures I’ve written about before, offer our only and best last chance.

    Based on our track record, I could pick that we won’t grasp that chance and reject ‘The Good’ you speak of.

    I suspect that most people are under the somewhat comfortable illusion that 2 degrees of warming just means that days will be about 2 degrees warmer – as though our daily experience of the elements is climate rather than the weather it produces.

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      For an outside chance at 2 degrees, we have around 15 years to be off of fossil.

      I think that we will be *at* 2 deg C warming cf. pre-industrial *within* 15 years…

    • Ad 1.2

      A huge educational drive is a part of what social marketing is.
      It takes years. All elements need to work together.

      I have no idea what ‘time we have left’. I’ll leave that to others.

      The post was about corporate accountability, which is another part of the changes required.

      • Bill 1.2.1

        I’m only going on the numbers published by the scientific community.

        The IPCC has published various CO2 budgets for the century and attached probabilities to them (ie -the chances of achieving 2 degrees in relation to given amounts of CO2)

        When the emissions to date are subtracted from the total budget, and when optimistic assumptions about future emissions for cement and land use are also subtracted, then we get a headline figure for possible emissions from energy that would still leave us with an outside chance of 2 degrees.

        It’s not a lot.

        And we chewed through 15% of this century’s ‘outside chance of 2 degrees’ budget in the space of 5 years. (Between 2011 and 2014 inc.)

        • Bill, the IPCC research is out of date by the time it’s agreed on. It’s the reason environmentalists get frustrated with it, because the research is constantly revising down timeframes but they insist they only want to review settled science. (normally a good approach, but not when you’re in a moving-target situation!)

          2 degrees is, unfortunately, a virtual certainty at this point. The real question is whether we can arrest climate change at that… and it’s getting to the point where even I find this issue too depressing to think about.

          • Bill 1.2.1.1.1

            I know that IPCC reports are ‘historical’ when they’re published.

            But carbon budgets are carbon budgets…all that shifts is the amount of the budget remaining. And that can be easily calculated using very recent data – eg, last years total emissions, current emission rates etc.

            If we (globally) get off carbon by about 2050 (the west has to move faster than that), then there is something like a 33% chance of not overshooting 2 degrees.

            So 2 degrees isn’t quite a ‘virtual certainty’… merely odds on to be the case 🙁

            • Colonial Viper 1.2.1.1.1.1

              doing my broken record act, IMO we will smash through 2 deg C well before 2050.

            • Matthew Whitehead 1.2.1.1.1.2

              The amount of carbon budget remaining is so small compared to the pace at which people are even aspirationally promising to move (let alone actually achieving) that “virtual certainty” is a fair call, Bill.

              You are looking at the wrong data if you think we’ve got thirty years to go net zero-carbon.

              • Bill

                Not net zero. Zero. (That’s in relation to energy and assuming huge strides are taken in relation to land use emissions)

                The data I’ve been looking at is the IPCC budgets for this century – ie, between 2010 and 2100. The IPCC stands by a budget of 1300 Gt for a 33% of chance of avoiding 2 degrees. And sure, given that it’s the IPCC we’re talking about, that budget might be bloated.

                Regardless, 15% of the 50/50 budget (150Gt of 1000 Gt) was blown in the years between 2010 and 2015 inclusive.

                So sure, we’re heading for about 3.5 degrees is all Paris commitments are followed through on.

                And if climate sensitivity isn’t really fucking low, then we’re going to get feedback loops way before we reach that milestone.

                Stretching to the very edge of the science to get a possible positive perspective leaves us with the following as our very best last chance.

                Cut energy emissions in the west by about 15% per year as from now and rely on the developing world to peak around 2025 and reduce their energy related emissions to zero by about 2050 and alongside a huge amount of luck (low climate sensitivity) and marked reductions in land use emissions…it’s just feasible to say that we can afford ourselves a 30% chance of avoiding 2 degrees C of warming.

                But hey. Regardless of where you or I choose to sit in terms of perceiving possible/impossible, I’m going to pick that we both find ourselves asking the same question from time to time –

                Why aren’t we doing anything?

                • Zero-carbon for energy isn’t particularly ambitious given our starting point. We need to be looking at zero carbon systems for all energy and transport investment from now on if we want to be able to continue agriculture anywhere near how it is now, or a significant reduction from agricultural emissions (like say, mass switch to veganism) if we want to be slow on either energy or transport. (and at least in New Zealand, it looks like we want to be slow on transport AND agriculture, because we’re simulateously too small to matter and too special to need to do our part)

                  I’m sure the IPCC stands by its conservative figures, but if you had to order pizza under the IPCC rules, you’d end up with flatbread because someone vetoed cheese. The IPCC data gets you the absolute best case scenario.

                  So yeah, excuse me for having a bit of a fit because nobody takes this shit seriously anymore and even environmentalists are reduced to saying “So what if we only wreck the climate a little? Can we agree to that in principle?”

                  • Bill

                    Energy is transport and whatever else you care to mention that uses a source of energy…farm machinery, planes, ships…

                    I know the IPCC throws up ridiculously rosy results.

                    And I agree that too many environmentalists, and certainly all of the environmental orgs I’ve looked at that are claiming to be serious about climate change are offering up woefully inadequate prescriptions…Greenpeace, 350.org, Gen Zero, Green Parties the world over…

                    I’m also aware that’s likely due to them putting far too much store by IPCC reports with all the embedded negative emission assumptions and what not.

                    At least I’m only taking their carbon budgets, aye?

  2. Colonial Viper 2

    Leftie dream? ExxonMobil as the Philip Morris of climate liability? Well, few thought Keystone Pipeline would die. Few thought Paris 20 would success. And this week the two biggest national polluters signed a major agreement. Who’da thought?

    The Keystone Pipeline has been delayed; the impetus to build it is much less with oil at $45/bb and the current (temporary) surplus supply situation.

    COP21 was a success in only one way – all the countries who attended finally acknowledged that man made climate change is a scientific reality.

    It was a failure in all other ways – unenforceable provisions, reliance on ineffectual cap and trade mechanisms, voluntary measures with no hope of hitting the lofty PR goals which were so widely celebrated.

    Jim Hansen describes more here (he describes continued cap and trade attempts as “half arsed” and “half baked”, as well as being a proven failure)

    • Indeed, COP “succeeded” by making all targets voluntary and shifting the goals to an agreement in principle. It has been an abject failure in actually accelerating action to prevent climate destabilisation.

  3. Ad 3

    Great to see the Standing Rock people forcing a real rethink in the US Army about a big oil pipeline though their area, and big ups to Jill Stein getting in there during the Presidential campaign:

    http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/native-american-tribe-north-dakota-oil-pipeline_us_57d2ddc7e4b06a74c9f4511f?section=&

  4. weka 4

    Good post Ad.

    Granted, Exxon is probably quaking in its boots as much as Apple is about its Euro tax bill. And it’s too soon to say how much of a danger any investigation into Exxon poses. They are bigger and more powerful than all but the largest countries.

    I really hope that Exxon get everything that is coming to them, including individuals who made key decisions over the years. However I think the bigger value in investigating them is how it will change public consciousness. People get tobacco company evil, and the framing of oil in the same light is going to lead to some very angry people. If it took 40+ years to get society on board with tobacco company evil, the shift around oil companies will happen faster because the template is already there.

    The dual aspect of understanding that we’ve been lied to on a massive scale (again), only this time the stakes are not only individual health and public health funds but include the biosphere and civilisation, and the increase in people taking on board what climate change is, those two things are going to be hugely influential.

  5. mosa 5

    That “comfortable illusion” is the most dangerous aspect to the whole climate change disaster.
    Ignorance is bliss and this suits the oil industry and neo lib governments perfectly because there will be no public pressure to make changes meanwhile as the climate heats it will destroy the entire eco system and kill large numbers of animal and mammal species and directly harm our own food and water supply.
    It wont make any difference making changes designed to take effect in the next 40 years because the change is now irreversible and we are now spectators to our own and the planets destruction.

  6. mauī 6

    Considering oil is what drives the economy, any discouragement of it would be like telling everyone not to spend their money or to discourage monetary transactions. In doing so wouldnt that crash the economy? I can’t see this policy coming from a government for that reason. It would have to come from a massive grassroots campaign and I struggle to see that too.

    • Colonial Viper 6.1

      A massive slow down of consumption in the richest countries in the world with a mild increase in consumption in the poorest countries in the world, is what needs to happen.

      In doing so wouldnt that crash the economy?

      Yes. That’s basically what needs to be done, but in a controlled, planned fashion, as opposed to how it is currently going to happen.

    • Ad 6.2

      Big Oil exists often in a codependent relationship with many states, including Brazil, Venezuela, Russia, much of Africa, and most of the Arabian peninsula. They own each other. Rock those companies and whole governments fall in unpredictable ways, and often make the world less and less stable.

      Transnational corporations can change, but there are just a few states left who have the capacity to force it. I do think Philip Morris is a positive example. The recent flurry about ethical pension fund investment is also a really positive further route. It requires people to utterly dedicate their lives to shifting them, and often destroys them in the process.

      There is no easy way through this. But Big Oil needs a great big target painted on them by more NGOs than has yet been the case.

      • Draco T Bastard 6.2.1

        Transnational corporations can change, but there are just a few states left who have the capacity to force it.

        A state can always force a transnational corporation even if it is only banning them from operating in the state.

    • weka 6.3

      Considering oil is what drives the economy, any discouragement of it would be like telling everyone not to spend their money or to discourage monetary transactions. In doing so wouldnt that crash the economy? I can’t see this policy coming from a government for that reason. It would have to come from a massive grassroots campaign and I struggle to see that too.

      I agree the grassroots is imperative. But let’s not forget that the push to electrify transport is already happening and in some places that includes government and the business sectors. Irrespective of whether we think electric transport is going to make enough difference, the acceptance of it and the active push for it show us that people’s thinking and expectations can change. That drive is coming directly from awareness of climate change and the need to change.

      • Rocco Siffredi 6.3.1

        What are you going to do when Tesla finally goes bankrupt?

        • weka 6.3.1.1

          I take it by ‘you’ you mean we. In which case, I expect we will then get on with the real work. In the meantime if you have a way of getting the bulk of the population, say in NZ, to powerdown now, please explain, I’d live to hear it if it includes actual strategy not just ideas of what we should be doing (most of us here already know what should be done).

          Have a look at my comment to CV below, and then feel free to reread my comment above and see if you can understand what I was really saying (hint, I wasn’t suggesting that electric cars will solve climate change).

        • Ad 6.3.1.2

          Plenty of car companies went under in the years prior to WW2, but the combustion engine was here to stay. It will probably be the same way with Tesla.

          I think Tesla are a glorious over-reach, but they are suffering principally from lack of global competition, which would help the global supply-chain industry for its technologies a whole bunch.

          • Colonial Viper 6.3.1.2.1

            Since electric motor cabs were working Manhattan city streets in 1910, there’s no reason why they couldn’t do exactly the same again right now.

            • Ad 6.3.1.2.1.1

              Australia’s Gold Coast and Sydney have been rolling out electric light rail for quite some years now. And happily, the retailers and the public alike now love it.

              We have a good shot in Auckland at forming light electric rail through some of the core arterials. But it’s freaking hard work, and billions of capital in a capital-scarce joint.

              • Colonial Viper

                A capital scarce joint? One to two billion dollars worth of residential real estate gets bought and sold in Auckland every month. There’s plenty of financial capital if we want to access it/create it.

                • Lanthanide

                  Are you suggesting the government / council confiscate private property and sell it?

                  Or are you suggesting the private owners of these houses will sell them, so they don’t have anywhere to live, and invest the money in some sort of PPP rail system, for the greater good of the city?

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    No, that’s not what he was suggesting.

                    • OneTrack

                      So what was he suggesting then? Because it sounded like exactly what Lanthanide asked.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      He was pointing out that there’s no limit to money – especially for government.

                    • Lanthanide

                      Except there is a limit to money for the government.

                      It may be a self-imposed limit, but to say it doesn’t exist is to deny reality.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I’m pointing out that there is plenty of financial capital in the NZ economy.

                      And that people who say things can’t be done because we are short of (keyboard created) financial capital, have let themselves become mental prisoners of the status quo “There Is No Alternative” economic framework.

                      It may be a self-imposed limit, but to say it doesn’t exist is to deny reality.

                      Nobody denied that there are limits to what is desirable in terms of government funding and government spending.

                    • Lanthanide

                      @CV:
                      So what are you suggesting, then, if you’re not suggesting the council/government confiscate the houses and sell them, and not suggesting that the owners sell them and invest the proceeds in a rail network themselves?

                      You explicitly mentioned the existence of houses as if that shows there is lots of financial capital available, so I want to know what it is that you’re actually suggesting and why you brought the houses up as an example.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Are you primarily concerned about your property rights Lanth? And the valuation of your property?

                    • Lanthanide

                      Since I don’t live in Auckland and own no property there, no, I don’t have any concerns about your plan to build rail through Auckland while somehow using houses to pay for it.

                      What I am concerned with, though, is you actually answering the question. I noticed you’ve deliberately avoided answering twice now.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      I’m not an expert on reserve bank monetary operations.

                      The guts of it is to provide the government with a way to fund critical, well defined, popularly accepted, clearly budgeted infrastructure projects, either by the government tapping into existing monies eg via taxes, levies or bonds, or by issuing brand new monies to itself from the Reserve Bank, say either in the form of a loan or a bond, or simply government issued credit.

                    • Lanthanide

                      So nothing to do with private houses then, despite what you originally said. Got it.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Lanth, if a future government is serious about dealing with the housing problem, then the solution will have to tie into that as well, as land for more rail could easily drive up property prices.

        • Lanthanide 6.3.1.3

          You know, when a company goes bankrupt, all its assets, employees and intellectual property don’t suddenly vanish in a puff of smoke.

          If Telsa goes bankrupt, another company will emerge to buy the assets and operate them in a profitable manner. It is highly likely for a company with specific knowledge such as Telsa, that the new corporate overlords would be a merger between the current managers and an outside financier.

          The “operate them in a profitable manner” might mean the expectations and capabilities of the company are scaled back, possibly significantly from what was being attempted. But there’s an undeniable market, and need, for electric cars in the world.

          Contrast this with Martin Jetpack, with when they go bankrupt, are unlikely to ever have their (crappy) jetpack see the light of day, because it’s simply not a feasible product offering.

      • Colonial Viper 6.3.2

        weka, personal cars are the problem. It doesn’t matter if we replace all our petrol driven personal cars with electrical personal cars, we’ll just have a brand new set of resource consumption problems on top of some of the old ones (fossil fuels required to manufacture tyres, steel, aluminium and plastics, as well as constant maintenance of road surfaces).

        • weka 6.3.2.1

          You’re teaching your grandmother to suck eggs there CV.

          I did say ‘Irrespective of whether we think electric transport is going to make enough difference…”, so from my perspective you’ve picked something from my comment, taken it out of context, miscontrued what I believe about that thing (despite me having been talking about that very thing for years on ts), and failed to get what I was actually communicating.

          We don’t have time for this shit. I was reading Derrick Jensen 10 years ago. I was on board with Peak Oil before then. The overall materials audit and their carbon impact (not to mention their overall ecological footprint) was integrated into my thinking a long time ago. From my perspective I’m one of the most radical people on ts in terms of climate change and what we actually need to do. More radical than you or Bill for instance. What exactly do you think I mean when I use the term ‘power down’? Can you consider that when I talk about electric cars elsewhere I might not actually believe in the Green Party vision as the thing we should be doing, but be talking about something else instead?

          (and btw, I didn’t say anything about personal cars in my comment. Reread it).

          I guess I’m at the end of my patience for being misunderstood.

          It’d be really great if you could stop reacting to what you think I am saying and instead engage with the actual ideas that I am bringing forth. I’m always happy to share more if people don’t understand.

          • Colonial Viper 6.3.2.1.1

            We don’t have time for this shit. I was reading Derrick Jensen 10 years ago.

            I only became aware of Derrick Jensen 3-4 years ago.

            And already I know that he would consider supporting the NZ Green Party a laughable activity.

        • alwyn 6.3.2.2

          Why do you think that “personal” vehicles should be so much worse than public transport? I presume you aren’t going to make people walk everywhere are you?
          Public transport is effective if all the vehicles have a full passenger load. With the buses, at least in Wellington, that is only the case for a couple of trips by each bus each day Those are the ones at the morning and evening rush hours.. The rest of the time a 40-50 seat bus only has half a dozen occupants or so at any give time.
          If we could have autonomous electrically powered cars the size of a Smartcar I think they would be much more efficient. Summon one when you need to travel. Other people then get to use it. You wouldn’t need to own a personal vehicle at all for local travel around town. The only parking required would be for recharging points.

          • Ad 6.3.2.2.1

            In Auckland, trains are fully electric, and Auckland Transport and Kiwirail can choose whether the electricity comes off the Huntly coal or from other sources.

            Auckland Transport are ready to trial fully battery buses. I hear Wellington is getting ready for the same thing.

            So yes, in some parts, public transport is a direct competitor to oil-based transport.

            I like the idea of electric Smartcars – as does the Minister of Transport and Ministry of Transport. Helpfully the Secretary of Transport is somewhat more skeptical of transport technophilia.

          • Draco T Bastard 6.3.2.2.2

            Why do you think that “personal” vehicles should be so much worse than public transport?

            They use far more resources to achieve a significantly worse result.

            Public transport is effective if all the vehicles have a full passenger load.

            That’s actually wrong and then the system can be configured where the vehicles are always more efficient.

            With the buses, at least in Wellington, that is only the case for a couple of trips by each bus each day Those are the ones at the morning and evening rush hours.

            Yeah, I think that you’re talking out your arse there. I use the buses in Auckland daily at various times and the buses are almost always better than half full. I pretty sure that Wellington’s buses will be the same.

            If we could have autonomous electrically powered cars the size of a Smartcar I think they would be much more efficient.

            Nope, still end up more resources to achieve the same result. And there’s no way that they’d be ‘on demand’.

            • alwyn 6.3.2.2.2.1

              Do you have a reference to something that explains your claims?
              I find it very hard to see, for example, how a bus is “always” more efficient?
              Even when it is travelling completely empty?
              The Wellington buses, at least when I use them, which I when they are free for us oldies are almost never half full except possibly for the section of the route through the CBD.
              Without some evidence to back up your claims I have to think that you are making some pretty wild extrapolations.

              • Lanthanide

                Draco is probably talking about full-lifecycle costs vs benefits granted.

                If you take the capital cost of an average bus and its fuel and amortise it over the passenger-miles travelled, I’m sure it’ll be at least 10 times more efficient than 98% of private passenger vehicles, over its entire lifetime.

                Of course the primary reason people want private vehicles is because of flexibility and reliability, which you don’t get with bus services or most public transport except in the densest cities where transport is ubiquitous (usually in the form of subways).

                • Draco T Bastard

                  If you take the capital cost of an average bus and its fuel and amortise it over the passenger-miles travelled, I’m sure it’ll be at least 10 times more efficient than 98% of private passenger vehicles, over its entire lifetime.

                  Yep, once you take into account everything, then public transport is far more efficient. Especially when you count it in resources used rather than through the delusion of economies of scale which hold that if you use more resources it costs less.

                  Of course the primary reason people want private vehicles is because of flexibility and reliability, which you don’t get with bus services or most public transport

                  Which is actually a load of bollocks. Public transport is, due to advances in manufacturing, just as reliable as a private vehicle. Especially when you consider how old our vehicle fleet actually is.

                  • Lanthanide

                    Reliable as in, the bus was supposed to be here 45 minutes ago, and now I’m late for a job interview.

                    Not ‘breaks down a lot’.

                    I used to bus from home to university, normally a 25 minute trip on the bus. One time the bus was over an hour late – this was on a route that was supposed to have busses every 15 minutes at that time of day. When it finally did turn up, it was in a convey with 4 other of the same-route busses immediately behind it.

                    Very odd.

                    In my 10 years of using a private vehicle to get to work, I’ve only been late due to that vehicle not working once – a couple of weeks ago when the battery went flat because I left an interior light on. Purely my own fault.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Reliable as in, the bus was supposed to be here 45 minutes ago, and now I’m late for a job interview.

                      And that’s not an issue either – unless the bus/train actually breaks down.

                      I used to bus from home to university, normally a 25 minute trip on the bus. One time the bus was over an hour late – this was on a route that was supposed to have busses every 15 minutes at that time of day. When it finally did turn up, it was in a convey with 4 other of the same-route busses immediately behind it.

                      Sounds like an issue with traffic.

                      In my 10 years of using a private vehicle to get to work, I’ve only been late due to that vehicle not working once

                      And in ten years of only using public transport I’ve only been late once due to the train being pulled, I assume, for emergency maintenance. When I was using a car I was often late due to the vagaries of the excess traffic that using cars causes and a few times due to the car breaking down.

                      IME, public transport is more reliable. Of course, when it does break it affects a lot more people.

                    • Lanthanide

                      These two statements are contradictory:

                      And that’s not an issue either – unless the bus/train actually breaks down.”

                      Sounds like an issue with traffic.

                      People are late for job interviews by 45 minutes, because of traffic that delayed the bus. And if you say “well traffic would make you late to the interview anyway” – not correct. If you’re at position B and need to get to C, and the bus is delayed getting from A to B, then you will be delayed getting to C, regardless of the state of traffic between B and C.

                      And in ten years of only using public transport I’ve only been late once due to the train being pulled, I assume, for emergency maintenance.

                      Yes, and I’ve been talking about my experience with BUSSES, because that’s all there is in Christchurch.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      These two statements are contradictory:

                      Not really. Differentiated by time. With a huge numbers of cars on the road public transport gets slowed down and accidents are more likely to hold them up. Remove the cars and public transport moves freely at all times making it so that only break downs will cause interruptions.

                      People are late for job interviews by 45 minutes, because of traffic that delayed the bus.

                      No, it would have most likely have been the bus delayed by private cars.

                      If you’re at position B and need to get to C, and the bus is delayed getting from A to B, then you will be delayed getting to C, regardless of the state of traffic between B and C.

                      More buses/trains means less cars and thus less traffic meaning that the chances of the bus being delayed by cars reduces.

                      Yes, and I’ve been talking about my experience with BUSSES, because that’s all there is in Christchurch.

                      What you’ve been doing is looking to the past and assuming that it will be the same into the future despite the fact that all cities the world over is investing huge amounts into public transport and thus ensuring that the future won’t be the same as the past.

                      Of course, reality ensures that the future won’t be the same as the past anyway as the present private transport system is unsustainable.

                    • Lanthanide

                      What you’ve been doing is looking to the past and assuming that it will be the same into the future despite the fact that all cities the world over is investing huge amounts into public transport and thus ensuring that the future won’t be the same as the past.

                      No, what I’ve been doing is explaining my original statement, which you’ve been bizarrely arguing against:

                      Of course the primary reason people want private vehicles is because of flexibility and reliability, which you don’t get with bus services or most public transport except in the densest cities where transport is ubiquitous (usually in the form of subways).

                      Now it is clear why you’ve been arguing against it – because while I was talking about the reasons why people want private vehicles NOW, you have been talking about a completely different topic – the future.

                  • alwyn

                    I wasn’t talking about today’s private passenger vehicles though.
                    I was talking about personal vehicles, electrically powered and about the size of a Smartcar. They wouldn’t need drivers either.
                    You would use it when you need it. Once you got out it would be available for anyone else who summoned a vehicle via a smartphone app.
                    They wouldn’t be used for half an hour a day and sit parked for the remaining twenty three and a half. That is the real reason that private cars are so cost-inefficient. They rust out a great deal faster than they wear out.
                    I don’t think that you can compare existing public transport with existing private vehicles. The vehicles I am envisaging, and they may be 10 or 15 years away, will simply be 2 seated public transport that will take you anywhere you want to go, not restrict you to specified bus routes.

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      I know what you were talking about and it’s still going to suffer from what we see today with private cars. Too many on the road at the beginning and end of the day causing congestion with most of them going off between times while using more resources as public transport.

                      They won’t be as inefficient as present private vehicles but they still won’t be as efficient as buses and trains.

                      And buses and trains already mostly go wherever you want to go in cities and that’s getting better all the time. If we’d invested in public transport instead of private cars they’d already go everywhere and it would cost us less.

                      IMO, the only reason why we invested so much in private cars instead of public transport is because more profit can be made out of everyone. In other words, cars are great example of the profit motive brining about uneconomic and socially damaging results. The exact opposite of what the economists and politicians tell us it will.

        • Draco T Bastard 6.3.2.3

          fossil fuels required to manufacture tyres, steel, aluminium and plastics, as well as constant maintenance of road surfaces

          Why do you hold on to this delusional belief that we need fossil fuels to manufacture stuff?

          We need the resources and the energy to transform them in to the desired products but that energy doesn’t have to come from fossil fuels. And, yes, even roading could be made using electric construction vehicles.

          • Lanthanide 6.3.2.3.1

            Roads are literally made OF oil / fossil fuels.

            • Draco T Bastard 6.3.2.3.1.1

              They’re made of tar and other stuff that happens to be produced from fossil resources but they’re not used as fuel and the energy required to lay them down as road or even to extract them from the earth doesn’t need to be produced from burning fossil fuels.

              And we don’t actually have to make roads of fossil resources either.

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    They should probably ask Big Tobacco. That’s how you learn the hard way. This week, New Zealand passed its tobacco plain packaging law. Big warning on every packet, no branding, plus of course higher and higher taxes every year, and products available only from age-restricted lockups. The same applied to petrol would be quite a change at the local petrol station.

    What is this supposed to accomplish exactly? Will you fuel up your car less often if petrol stations become completely boring black and white bunker emplacements?

    Does your proposal also include making it harder and harder to get a drivers license, to buy a car and to keep a car on the road?

    And to massively restrict both international and domestic air travel? (See those big tankers full of AV Gas on the tarmac?).

    I notice that the cost of an annual car rego has plummeted to just $88. Great for families who like running 2 or 3 separate vehicles.

    • Blackcap 7.1

      Thats intersting CV. Where I come from in Holland car rego is related to how heavy your car is. Ie the heavier the more you pay. For a large V6 type vehicle you can be paying upwards of 70 Euro (about $120) per month for registration, whilst for a smaller 1000L type vehicle regio is about 25 Euro per month. Encourages smaller cars and it costs a heck of a lot to have 2 cars in your family.

    • Ad 7.2

      To your first question, I’m not sure what a social marketing campaign against oil would look like. More creative minds than mine would I am sure remember that making an entire social shift against tobacco took many different kinds of campaign. As to what it would achieve, it would alter the collective view of society about oil addiction.

      Car licenses are being taken up by a decreasing strata of the population anyway. Sometimes the wind blows the right way.

      I was quite surprised to see the last local government conference openly promoting higher taxes for tourists. It can be done if there is unified local political will. Again, I was only talking about one instrument, and that’s the effort to hold Big OIl to account.

      • Colonial Viper 7.2.1

        Again, I was only talking about one instrument, and that’s the effort to hold Big OIl to account.

        Nice conceptual idea, to hold a big transnational “to account” but there is nothing to stop NZ banning the import of goods and services from these corporations straight away.

        Except of course that we need to use their fuel to power our economy and lives every day.

        • Ad 7.2.1.1

          New Zealand doesn’t hold much to account anymore. We have neither the institutional strength anymore nor the public policy will to do so.

          Or lead.
          With the Christchurch rebuild, this government squandered the ability to model sustainable industry and cities that don’t rely on burnt carbon. It’s amazing what three terms of a directionless government can do, even with a couple of really good crises.

          We are astonishingly incoherent for such a small country.

          • Colonial Viper 7.2.1.1.1

            We are astonishingly incoherent for such a small country.

            And that’s a direct outcome of the character and quality of our business, academic and political leadership.

            • Philj 7.2.1.1.1.1

              I would characterize the leadership as business dominant, which underpins academic and political leadership. We have the veneer of government but it is mainly corporate interest in drag.

              • Colonial Viper

                It’s not even really business dominant, unless you mean domination by ultra-short termism and lazy, low quality strategic thinking.

                Take as an example Fonterra, supposedly one of NZ’s premier corporations. An executive suite full of six figure suits supporting a million dollar executive team but who still can’t figure out industry and market trends until it is on top of them and bites them and their supplier shareholders in the arse.

                • Lanthanide

                  I think within 10 years, lab-grown milk and meat will devastate our farming industry.

                  Wonder what Fonterra are doing about it.

  8. Brian Smith 8

    No mention of the effects of dairy/ beef/ pig farming on the environment? Why not? Why do we always ignore the catastrophic effects of methane on the environment (not to mention the resulting waste after the fart, which is poisoning our waterways)?

    Watch: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iA3gcx2CUVo

    • Ad 8.1

      Yes I probably could have done an entirely new post just on the role of Fonterra and Federated Farmers in New Zealand’s disproportionately large role in climate change from methane.

      But I thought I’d start with Big Oil, not Big Agri and its methane production. I’m generally happy with the activist rise against Big Agri simply through fresh water and dam protests – that’s the rising activist tide here anyway.

      • Poission 8.1.1

        Different species,biogenic ch4 reduces to isotopically light co2

        • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1

          Methane is methane, surely? How does CH4 from a cow break down any differently to CH4 from a coal seam?

          • Poission 8.1.1.1.1

            Photosynthetic process for plants and plankton discriminate for isotopically light co2.

            • Colonial Viper 8.1.1.1.1.1

              OK but how does that affect the GHG potential of the methane produced, given that it takes a few decades for methane released today to mostly break down into CO2?

              • Poission

                It doesn’t, but it has a definitive pathway in the carbon cycle and the concomitant sinks it is called natures recycling eg Nisbet 2012

                Methanogenesis is largely dependent on the degradation of organic compounds and thus is in essence the recycling of photosynthetic productivity

                • Colonial Viper

                  Yes great its nature’s great carbon recycling scheme but on a climate change timescale which matters to our civilisation i.e. the next 50 years, even routine methanogenesis is going to fuck us because the transformation of CO2 (which is a mid powered GHG) into CH4 (which is a massively overpowered GHG) is very very bad for our future.

      • McFlock 8.1.2

        yeah, and there’s crossover between bigoil and bigagri with some “biofuel” production.

        • Ad 8.1.2.1

          Are you watching the Z Energy biofuel plant process? It’s big.

          Even a 10% mix would be a start to compete against Gull’s version.

          • Chuck 8.1.2.1.1

            Z Energy has already commenced engineering / design to increase the tallow to biodiesel plant output from 20m liters to 40m liters. They (Z) see the future as Bio-fuels only, and any new investment is Biofuel only.

            • Ad 8.1.2.1.1.1

              Wont be easy until oil goes up a further US$20 pr barrel.
              But there’s plenty of customers on their books waiting – so I wish they’d hurry up.

          • McFlock 8.1.2.1.2

            I was thinking more about taking arable and pastoral land away from food production around the world (as well as replacing forests with monoculture) and the fact that many intensive farming fertilisers are created from natural gas – replacing one fossil fuel for another, just with a couple more steps.

  9. Bigoil/Bigagri/Bigciv/Biggov/Bigbig

    Small is beautiful. Snail is beautiful. Shell is beautiful (not BigShell, small shell, smallfuel (rocket stoves fired with twigs, beautiful!), small farm, small holding, small mall (farmers’ markets – is there a pattern here??

    • Ad 9.1

      I don’t mind the small scale, so long as one can make it productive enough to be profitable.
      Personally, the best and highest billing per hour is the most-decarbonised one: talking, with whiteboards. The joy of consultancy.

      • Whiteboards? Give me a matt-blackboard and white chalk-stick any day – talk about your decarbonised learning interface! Better yet, slates! Make a roof from them afterwards! Talk though, that’s the way! And talking sticks are fuel for the gazing-fire when the chatter dies down.

      • The New Student 9.1.2

        Why does it need to be profitable

        • Ad 9.1.2.1

          Go ahead. form a commune. See if the world alters.

          • Colonial Viper 9.1.2.1.1

            It’s a serious question. Why does it need to be profitable?

            • Ad 9.1.2.1.1.1

              Because almost all people need more motivation than altruism or sharing equally.

              • Colonial Viper

                You can still buy nice trinkets with your electronic money. Enjoy it while it lasts.

                Do you think we should also implement the profit motive in schools and hospitals?

                • Ad

                  Life’s not pretty without money.
                  Life’s pretty with it.
                  Everyone understands that.

                  Answer to question:
                  sometimes. There should always be a public system, but if people want to have a crack at it, they should be free to do so.

  10. Patrick Cummoskey 10

    Why not just re-introduce carless days and gradually increase the number of days per week that people can’t drive their car until cars are effectively banned?

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