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Denis Tegg: Officials muzzled on peak oil

Written By: - Date published: 9:41 am, September 5th, 2011 - 45 comments
Categories: energy - Tags:

The government has finally released its Energy Strategy. There are cosmetic changes from the Draft version but it’s no surprise that the final Strategy continues to completely ignore the threat of peak oil.

There were many submissions, including my own, which detailed the raft of recent reports from oil and energy experts, think tanks and government institutions which are all pointing to an imminent supply and oil price crunch. And in 2009 government officials themselves gave strong warnings to Ministers. So since 2009, have the officials been muzzled?

Summary of Submissions
The summary of submissions does acknowledge that peak oil concerns were raised by submitters:-

“32 submitters (including 23 individuals, the Green Party and the Māori Party) expressed concern about peak oil. They argued that peak oil was understated in the strategy and that the Government needed to act now to mitigate the future effects of oil supply constraints. They argued that this mitigation could not be left to market forces.”

“The draft strategy’s position of leaving consumers to respond via price signals was not supported by many. Many submitters wanted the Government to be more proactive in leading a transition away from dependence on oil for transport.”

Response – Denial and Obfuscation
The comments from officials about the peak oil submissions are typical of the denial and obfuscation that were on show in the recent MED presentation on peak oil.

All of the peak oil submissions are summarily dismissed, with no recommended action from officials.  They rely on just one body – the International Energy Agency — and its 2009 World Energy Outlook which says that global oil production is not expected to peak before 2030.

Cherry Picking

But why do officials cherry pick the 2009 IEA report when the later 2010 IEA World Energy Outlook contains a much more pessimistic view and the IEA, for the first time confirms that global crude oil production peaked in 2006 and will never be exceeded?

“Crude oil output reaches an undulating plateau of around 68 — 69 million barrels a day by 2020, but never regains its all-time peak of 70 million barrels a day reached in 2006.” – IEA 2010 World Energy Outlook

And why are the stark warnings from the later 2010 IEA report quoted below not referred in officials’ comments?  More importantly why are they not a catalyst for the government to “act more vigorously” in its Energy Strategy to use oil more efficiently and develop alternatives? If the IEA is the font of all energy knowledge and it is warning the economic burden of oil and vulnerability to supply disruption will increase, how come the government still weakly abdicates its responsibility to the magic of the market to solve everything?

“The message is clear: if governments do not act more vigorously than currently planned to encourage more efficient use of oil and the development of alternatives …. we might see a fairly early peak in oil production. “

If governments do nothing or little more than present, then demand will continue to increase, supply costs will rise, the economic burden of oil use will grow, vulnerability to supply disruptions will increase and the global environment will suffer serious damage.” – IEA 2010 World Energy Outlook

Another mystery. 
How come in their advice on the Energy Strategy, officials have not repeated the warnings they gave Ministers Joyce and Brownlee in 2009? … when they said:-
• the risks of oil price shocks and a physical shortfall in the world supply are issues of “strategic importance”
• New Zealand is more vulnerable and may suffer more than other OECD economies
• new technologies and fuels will help only “marginally”
• without “sufficient incentives” New Zealand’s resilience will decrease even further
• even if domestic oil production increases we still pay the international price.

Officials Muzzled?
It’s pretty clear that officials have been muzzled by the government. In 2009 they gave some very compelling and concerning advice about the exposure of the New Zealand economy to a looming oil supply/price shock which the government simply didn’t want to hear.

So the strategy ever since is obvious –
• Hear no evil, see no evil and speak no evil and not ask for any further advice on the subject. I know this because I made an official information request asking for documents and emails on the risks and impact to New Zealand of peak oil since 2007. Astoundingly no such documents apparently exist since the 2009 report?
• Refuse to talk about it. That’s why the Acting Minister of Energy flatly refused to respond to questions about peak oil at the launch of the Energy Strategy.

As we move into an election campaign it will be up to us voters to hold Ministers and would-be Ministers from all parties to account. And maybe, – just maybe, a few journalists will ask, and keep asking, the hard questions.

45 comments on “Denis Tegg: Officials muzzled on peak oil ”

  1. Jim Nald 1

    Typical of this Nats Govt – in disconnect and denial.
    Vtbo.

  2. tc 2

    Head meet sand…..bury as deep as possible. NZ breath deeply, the feeling of iritation and chaffing will pass as you become un-comfortably numb.

  3. clandestino 3

    Would more open acknowledgement of peak oil lead to more public support for oil extraction off our shores, based on the perception oil would become cheaper? Could be an unintended consequence there….

    • mik e 3.1

      Oil off our shores is a myth $13billion a year in royalties absolute B/s.This is the same strategy the Bankrupt finance sector conned New Zealand with.If we had that much oil around New Zealand they would be here in droves by now.The down side would be that the rest of our industries would hit the wall because our dollar would sky rocket in value making all our other exports unfordable. Dumb Dumb And Dumber that must be Nationals stategy

      • Colonial Viper 3.1.1

        Any oil extraction operation including the oil extracted must be minimum 50% owned by the NZ Government, the rest by private partners. Energy is an issue of national security.

  4. Zaphod Beeblebrox 4

    Don’t know what Gen Y did to piss this govt off, but it must have been pretty bad.

    First they give tax cuts to top earners (who will be most 40+) then borrow $17.6 bill to pay for it. Ensuring ongoing deficits.

    Then they plan to sell down shares in SOE in exchange for future revenue streams from dividends. The privately owned SOEs won’t really be interested in investing in generating capacity- they will just put up prices- guess who will be paying for that? When the infrastructure falls apart the taxpayers of the future will be left to pick up the pieces.

    Now they are saying don’t worry about the future price of energy- we won’t bother future-proofing our transport system. We will borrow more to build those fabulous monuments- more motorways.

    Check out the latest Herald poll. Nat support is skyrocketing amongst elderly voters- no guesses why.

    • alex 4.1

      The elderly are where the left needs to pick up more votes, there are ways in which more left solutions appeal to a basic spirit of conservatism, though without the negative policies we often associate with that spirit. Labour are talking about keeping the cost of living down, and the Greens are talking about cleaning up the rivers, which is part of a wider environment preservation role. Both of these policies could resonate with conservative thinking voters, which older voters tend to be, as they both in some part appeal to the conservative mentality of maintaining the status quo. However for elderly voters who remember better times, the status quo could be rivers that weren’t filthy, and that working people didn’t feel poor, when they last had a government that tried to help those who were working hard.

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.1.1

        Not while they all think ‘Crusher’ is going to protect them all. That Labour Party they are too soft.

    • AAMC 4.2

      They are just confident enough that Gen X&Y are too absorbed in Facebook narcissism and NZ’s top model that they don’t have to worry about any outcry, they can buy the shares, bank the profits of their sale offshore and it’ll be too late before the youngsters wake up.

      How – with a worthless media manipulative elite and many distractions – to engage young people in the importance of these issues and the prospect of their future being further eroded?

      • Zaphod Beeblebrox 4.2.1

        Obama tapped into them brilliantly- then turned around and caved into the old order when the time came for action. Guess they ahve every right to be disengaged when they see no one looking out for them.

  5.  
     
    Peak oil requires determined leadership and the need to talk honestly with the people of New Zealand about what the future will look like.  It also needs active Government, hard headed policy changes and a realisation that the status quo is not an option.
     
    Is anyone surprised that NACT does not get it?

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 5.1

      Hey when you are 45+, own a couple of properties, have a share portfolio and know you are going to be dead in 30-40 years, you have a lot less incentive to ‘get it’.

      • tc 5.1.1

        Yup, you gotta hand it to them by focussing on the selfish instincts in people (I’m right so F y’all) and improving their mates balance sheets and personal fortunes rather than the medium/long term is a vote winner, dog whistling, biased media, opposiition who don’t understand 10s soundbites/slogans is icing on that electoral cake.

        Message to labour…..roll the sleeves up and sloganise the campaign, don’t intellectualise it, it’s the termianally short of care and attention span you need to get considering such issues. The material labour’s put in my box is a wordy snoozefest with as much punch as an asthmatic ant.

      • RedLogix 5.1.2

        On it ZB.

        I’ve lost count of the number of times when I talk to my contemporaries (45+ as you politely put it) who when talking about all this, finish up shrugging their shoulders and saying something along the lines,”Ah well I’ll be long gone by the time all this happens”.

        Like none of them have children or grandkids?

        • Draco T Bastard 5.1.2.1

          ”Ah well I’ll be long gone by the time all this happens”.

          I get that from some of my nephews and nieces who are in their 30s 🙁 I do try to correct them but they just don’t seem to be able to see anything different from what is.

        • mickysavage 5.1.2.2

          Aye RL
           
          My father always reckons you can spot a tory by asking them about the future their grandkids will occupy.  If they don’t care they are tories.
           

    • AAMC 5.2

      “Is anyone surprised that NACT does not get it?”

      Labour are yet to prove it to me that they get it either. I’ll vote Left in order to vote for the least worse scenario, but I’m not seeing leadership from anywhere.

      I thought Trotter on Bombers show on Friday hit the nail on the head re Labour, I haven’t felt from them any real sense they’re really even trying to be in the race, just letting this one go, let Phil take the fall and then jostle for leadership for the next one.

      Consequences of this politicking, my children having the strategic assets of THEIR country flogged off.

      Stop it with the focus group pandering and the internal politics, step up and engage in this important fight.

  6. alex 6

    The Greens have been fighting the NACTs over peak oil for some time now, hopefully they can get the issue some traction during the campaign, if the next government is Labour led they need to include some Green plans for the shift away from fossil fuels.

    • Zaphod Beeblebrox 6.1

      Unless Norman does a deal with Key and is given a “Peak oil working party” as part of a coalition deal.

      • mickysavage 6.1.1

        Aye Zaphod the Greens giving support to National and then not delivering anything will cause their demise.

        • alex 6.1.1.1

          Very unlikely they would work with them if they get nothing out of a deal, they aren’t the spineless Lib Dems. Membership of the Greens gets a say on the decision anyway, and the party membership is still fairly left wing.

        • tc 6.1.1.2

          All part of the masterplan….MP maybe gone this election, then the greens the one after.

          • Jim Nald 6.1.1.2.1

            If Nats’ coalition partner is not a bouffant or donkey, it is a sheeple and Nats are looking for another* scapegoat.

            *another – since 1998

        • AAMC 6.1.1.3

          “Greens giving support to National and then not delivering anything will cause their demise.”\

          +1

          And unlike those who are flocking to the Greens I’m thinking of heading in the other direction, even saying they’re prepared to talk about going into coalition with NACT has scared me off them.

          • alex 6.1.1.3.1

            What a load of rubbish, theres no way the Greens would work with ACT, and the chances of them working with National are ludicrously small. Act policies go completely against all the central tenets of Green philosophy, it just couldn’t happen. Unlike all the other parties, the Greens stick to their founding principles.

            • AAMC 6.1.1.3.1.1

              And yet at their conference announced that they were prepared to have the conversation. I agree, it’s very unlikely, but give the vast chasm between the Greens and the Nats, wouldn’t it be more honest just to say it’s not going to happen. All that message has done is make me question my support. I guess it may have drawn a few concerned mothers from Remmers and so doesn’t matter, but if they stick to their founding principle, why even entertain the idea?

              Cause they’re politicians like the rest of them, weighing up the balance of potential votes and want to be seen as reasonable and capable of working WITH everybody. Laudable, if it wasn’t for the fact National are destroying the planet and selling our future.

              Or possibly like the Maori Party and the Lib Dems, some hold delusions that they’ll be better “at the table” than on the cross benches?

            • Colonial Viper 6.1.1.3.1.2

              alex – the rationale would go like this:

              – The Greens would never have to work with ACT in coalition, but merely provide confidence and supply to National. It is quite possible that ACT will be extinguished this election anyhows.

              – The Greens and National would work together on joint ‘Blue-Green’ policy initiatives, and ensuring that all National economic policy had substantial Green offsets.

              – The Greens will accomplish more for the environment and for sustainable growth inside Government than outside of it.

              – A National/Green coalition which delivers on environmental promises could stay in power for several terms without fear, on today’s numbers.

              Unlike all the other parties, the Greens stick to their founding principles.

              We shall see. Nothing has been ruled out by the Greens leadership, has it?

              • alex

                Colonial Viper- Thanks for rehashing a bunch of tired and misleading arguments put forward by the Farrars of the world. Firstly, the Greens already are achieving policy goals outside of government, 100,000 homes have been insulated thanks to a Green initiative, not a very sexy policy media wise but incredibly good for the poor who won’t be freezing to death.
                Secondly, it doesn’t matter if the leadership doesn’t rule it out, its not their decision. That decision is up to the voters.
                Thirdly, look at the Green’s economic package, which opposes asset sales and includes a CGT. Is that compatible?
                Fourthly, In response to an earlier post, no it would not be more honest to come out and say there is no chance of a deal, because lets face it, National are a craven and power hungry bunch, and they might offer the Greens clean rivers, a CGT, no asset sales and a truckload of money for renewables. National doesn’t care what policy they implement, just so long as they have power. It would be stupid of the Greens in that situation to not manipulate them for the good of the country.

                • AAMC

                  “It would be stupid of the Greens in that situation to not manipulate them for the good of the country.”

                  And that’s what scares me, there is obviously an appetite to be at the table, Greens = Lib Dems?

                  The Greens are as likely to be in a position to manipulate the Nats as NZ is to Manipulate US business in any free trade agreement we sign.

                  Don’t do deals with the devil! It seems the position is admirable but naive.

  7. Private Parts ex army 7

    Message to labour…..roll the sleeves up and sloganise the campaign, don’t intellectualise it, it’s the termianally short of care and attention span you need to get considering such issues. The material labour’s put in my box is a wordy snoozefest with as much punch as an asthmatic ant.

    How true.

    • Colonial Viper 7.1

      Yeah that must be the Asset Sales one which ended in your letterbox, at a guess. Even I thought it was horrible.

    • mik e 7.2

      Don,t Kill The Goose that laid the golden eggs.Deliver a golden egg to every letter box in the country with the figure on the back of how much we are getting ripped off, vote Labour to stop asset sales.Don,t let these gooses rip you off

  8. johnm 8

    The Imminent Crash of Oil Supply
    What does it imply? The supply of the world’s most essential energy source is going off a cliff. Not in the distant future, but within two years. Production of all liquid fuels, including oil, will drop within 20 years to half what it is today .
    refer link: http://www.countercurrents.org scroll down to 6th article.

    The Government doesn’t have a clue it’s all too much let’s just hope for the best after all the free market will like GOD solve this for us WON’T IT?

    • Jim Nald 8.1

      And we are entering into an age of greater intensity over competition and conflict for energy resources.

      Polly Higgins also referred to that in her LSE podcast – Darfur was about oil; Iraq was about oil.

      It’s the oil, stupid.

      [Btw, can you remember who wrote that we don’t have to save for a rainy day? Go google that. I’ll point out the link in another day or two.]

      • Colonial Viper 8.1.1

        And Libya is about oil…notice how Syria kills its civilians in broad day light too but there are no western airstrikes targeted there. Not enough oil to bother with, or supplies which have already been co-opted by those who want it.

        • rosy 8.1.1.1

          I still don’t agree Libya was, in the main, about oil – Europe had huge oil concessions in Libya already. I think it was about revenge (Lockerbie and other support for terrorists e.g. IRA) and taking the focus off domestic issues of the governments in UK and France (a la the Malvinas/Falkland Islands in Thatcher’s time).

          • joe90 8.1.1.1.1

            And Libya is about oil

            Among other things….

            The revelations come in documents – some marked ‘UK secret: UK/Libya Eyes Only’ – found strewn on the floor of the British Ambassador’s abandoned residence in Tripoli.
            Many of the papers demonstrate the warmth of the relationship between Britain and Libya and, in particular, the extraordinarily close links between the Blair Government and the Gaddafi regime.
            The notes show how:
            Tony Blair helped Colonel Gaddafi’s playboy son Saif with his ‘dodgy’ PhD thesis while he was Prime Minister.
            British Special Forces were offered to train the Khamis Brigade, Gaddafi’s most vicious military unit.
            MI6 was apparently willing to trace phone numbers for Libyan intelligence.
            Gordon Brown wrote warmly to Gaddafi in 2007 expressing the hope that the dictator would be able to meet Prince Andrew when he visited Tripoli.
            MI6’s budget (£150 million in 2002) was readily disclosed to Libyan officials, along with details of how Britain’s Downing Street emergency committee Cobra operates.
            Britain’s intelligence services forged close links with Gaddafi’s brutal security units.

  9. Afewknowthetruth 9

    National are clearly taking a leaf out of Labour’s book.

    All through the early 2000s Labour were repeatedly warned about the impacts of peak oil, i.e. the complete collapse of industrial society and the collapse of the major portion of the food supply:

    Labour took no notice whatsoever and carried on with totally inappropriate policies predicaated on an ever-expanding energy supply (and completely ignored the catstrophic effects emissions were having).

    So here we are now, with the global economy falling off the cliff [due to peak oil] and with a bunch of clowns and liars in charge. Fortunately for National, the bulk of the general populace is completely clueless.

    The real point, as noted in the Hirsch report of 2005, is that mitigation strategies had to have been implemented WELL BEFORE PEAK, i.e. when Labour was in office, to have any worthwhile effect.

    It’s too late now: we’ve hit ‘the iceberg’ and we are sinking. (Most share markets are falling again; unemployment is on the rise; the property market is ‘screwed’. This is just the beginning.)

    There is still time to organise a hard landing as opposed to a superhard landing that causes severe suffering, but at this point of time there seems to be no political will to even attempt that. (The reason is obvious: TPTB couldn’t care less what happens to the general populace as long as they have enough left alive to do their bidding a few years from now.)

    Interstingly, I went over all this stuff in great detail with Andrew Little (yes that Andrew Little) a week or so ago. I haven’t heard a word from him since. And he has failed to reply to the email I sent him on the topic two weeks ago. The clear inferrence is that he has no answers and doesn’t want to talk about any of it.

    That is NOT good look for Labour.

    The big question at the moment is this: will the worldwide economic implosion [due to peak oil and fraudulent money systems] occur before the NZ election or soon after it?

    • Colonial Viper 9.1

      Did Little ‘get it’ conceptually at a deep level, or did it seem to you like he was just nodding for the sake of it?

      • Bored 9.1.1

        Little is probably profoundly depressed by the news, it is th normal reaction when your whole world view is challenged and overturned by reality. Denial, then helplessness, then depression….

        • Colonial Viper 9.1.1.1

          Oh yeah that figures.

          You come back fighting though when you realise that NZ should be able to maintain a 2M-3M population and a 1940+ lifestyle.

          • Afewknowthetruth 9.1.1.1.1

            Anrew Little seemed to get it when I went over it all with him.

            But retreating into denial is a common phenomenon -especially for public figures.

            Of course, retreating into denial is to promote catastrophe for one’s children and grandchildren.

            I have been ‘chasing’ Andew but have not yet managed to catch him.

            This is very much a continuing story.

  10. Lindsey 10

    Kep an eye on the new Auckland District Plan. Interesting to see if peak oil features there.

  11. feijoa 11

    Conservative oldies dont like “flogging it off to foreigners”. Winston Peters knew that.

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