Endless greed

Written By: - Date published: 11:09 am, June 24th, 2012 - 57 comments
Categories: capitalism, class war, Economy, Environment - Tags:

It’s sickening to see rich ministers and columnists saying ‘of course we need to green the economy’ and then turnaround and promote fossil fuel extraction and agricultural intensification – things that will ultimately wreck the environment and the economy that is built on it. The truth is, we’re a hugely wealthy country already – it’s just most of the wealth is with the endlessly greedy elite.

On Q+A this morning, you had Amy Adams calling for other countries to drop their fossil fuel consumption subsidies in one breath (because this increases demand, hiking the price for us) and then defending New Zealand’s production subsidies, like the $20m in free seismic data we’re giving to foreign oil companies. While nominally an environmental issue, it was clear that this government’s entire approach was about short-term economic growth.

Then, Steve Joyce was on, calling anyone who wants a sustainable environment to support our future economy and society an idiot and advocating more drilling for fossil fuels.

All Fran O’Sullivan could add was ‘we’ve got to get richer’. Of course, she’s plenty rich already. In fact, the three of them are obscenely rich. Yet their entire economic vision is ‘let’s have more’.

When do we reach ‘enough’? Or, when do we at least have enough that we don’t put having more ahead of the long-term sustainability of our economy and our civilisation? When do we say ‘we’ve got enough not that we don’t have to screw over our children and grandchildren’?

With an annual economic output of $46,000 per person, including children, and something on the order of 8 times more than that accumulated wealth in this country, surely we can now say ‘more growth isn’t worth destroying our environment’.

With fairer distribution of what we have, we can eliminate poverty and have enough jobs – or rather, enough income from those jobs, because work for most is a means to an end.

But the capitalist elite can’t abide by fairer distribution because that would mean them having less. So, they demand more growth, and that most of that growth goes to them – the future be damned, they want to be richer now.

And the kicker is that, despite being willing to sacrifice the environment and our long-term wealth for short-term gain, the Nats haven’t achieved that either. They’re dancing in the streets over 1.7% annual growth. That’s what we used to call a slow-down.

57 comments on “Endless greed”

  1. BernyD 1

    That 1.7% will vanish if the price of oil goes up again

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      Sort of but not quite as there are a few wrinkles; the lower price of oil indicates a massive slow down in global economic activity. That’s going to flow through to us in the next few months. Of course, it pays to remember that 10 years ago, “cheap oil” was $25/bb. Now we think that more than triple that at $85/bb is cheap.

      • BernyD 1.1.2

        True, but it is the one global indicator that seems to reflect actual change.
        It (to me) it points to a major factor in all governments forecasting mechanisms
        “The Defined Economy” is based on those.
        The reality is always going to be a wait and see scenario.
        Bring back / widen OPEC is my end point.

        • Colonial Viper

          OPEC has no export capacity left. Saudi internal energy use is growing as fast as they can possbily increase field production, for instance. And major producers like Russia, Iran and Canada are not part of OPEC anyways and never will be.

          Using some measures, oil (liquids) production globally is still increasing…but that increase is largely being gobbled up by increased energy use of the countries producing it, leading to minimal extra available for export.

          Plus the EROEI of new liquids sources is dismal. Typically less than 10:1. Which means that more and more of the energy from new oil production has to be diverted back into keeping the production process running in the first place. That energy never gets out to the general economy.

          I imagine it as trying to walk faster and faster up a steep escalator which is going the wrong way.

          • Draco T Bastard

            Plus the EROEI of new liquids sources is dismal. Typically less than 10:1. Which means that more and more of the energy from new oil production has to be diverted back into keeping the production process running in the first place. That energy never gets out to the general economy.

            Ain’t it a bitch when the real economy trumps the delusional economy of the economists and politicians.

          • BernyD

            Exaclty …
            It’s the Industry that needs the oil not humans, we will figure out new ways one way or the other.
            When the resource actually dies it’ll be the economies that suffer.
            All the industries reliant on it will stop.
            Electricity is our only viable solution so far.
            The Gloabl community have to recognise this fact, and keep the politicians honest.

            • BernyD

              You can guarantee the pharmo / chemical companies have a “Tablet” now that would replace petrol, it’s just cost of production.

            • Foreign Waka

              BernyD, our steel industry is getting very cheap power for which we are paying the price. This is how the government will use resources, either oil or electricity. None of that will keep politicians honest, an oxymoron in any case.

          • Monique Watson

            What makes you a fucking expert? No really, are you privy to information that the rest of us are not? I always like to research my facts before investing emotion in a conviction.

            • BernyD

              Whys that ?, just an opinion

            • Colonial Viper

              Monique: you should be scared, and being scared, I believe that you already understand at least a little of what is happening in the real energy fueled economy.

            • Draco T Bastard

              What makes you a fucking expert?

              It’s not a question about being an expert but about being informed and that comes down to reading the information that’s publicly available and then thinking about it in practical terms.

              I always like to research my facts before investing emotion in a conviction.

              Researching facts is good, investing emotion in it isn’t as it tends to blind you to a change in facts.

          • Foreign Waka

            CL – I also understand that the Saudis do manipulate the price so that this finite resource is “milked” until the last drop is used. Naturally, as it is after all their economic base. If it wouldn’t be for oil, the population would be infinitely poorer and the insistence of having a lavish life by the few would not be justifiable. This in the end will be another middle east crisis point.

            • BernyD

              Hence Irans stance, export electricity

              • Foreign Waka

                Iran is not part of the OPEC and therefore can use the Saudi position at its own end. Don’t forget their interest mingle very well with those of Russia. The Saudis on the other hand are in political co relationship with Britain. It is very convoluted and difficult to ascertain whether the issue is a lack of future resources or the manipulation of the value in order to stay ahead of inflation.

                • BernyD

                  Very true, their international policies/stances reflect that more than any other factor
                  And their influence on global oil prices is substantial as a result
                  Which has been an American policy driver

            • Colonial Viper

              CL – I also understand that the Saudis do manipulate the price so that this finite resource is “milked” until the last drop is used.

              Actually, tens of billions of known, accessible oil reserves will be left in the ground when oil production stops.

              No use extracting a barrel of oil if it costs more energy to do the extraction, than you would get from the barrel of oil.

              BTW it doesn’t matter if the cost of oil at the time is $100 or $1,000 or $10,000. If EROEI nears one or is less than one, its not happening.

  2. vto 2

    Almost all of that 1.7% was due to the weather. Made more grow last summer.

    • BernyD 2.1

      Really ?, an amazing coincedence that the oil goes up and we’re in recession and it goes down and we’re not.
      If the produce grown last year is having an impact then that would have been forecast/allowed for surely?

  3. prism 3

    So the weather god is going to define our future. Sounds like we have gone full circle to past nature dependence despite living at the edge of a group of developed countries that have had clever ideas to modernise and improve and some have implemented them. We are working backwards in this regard. I think we will have to ask if Maori can fashion a haka of supplication for better conditions.

    • BernyD 3.1

      Demanding to be supplicated using war like mannerisms sounds dangerous to me 🙂
      That’s what got us here in the first place

    • bbfloyd 3.2

      I’ve just had an epiphany…. how much of a tourist trap would having the only genuine bronze age society in existence? We could tell people it was a deliberate move, designed to give average kiwis a better standard of living than neo liberal economics were delivering…..

      We could erect totem poles at regular intervals on the road from the airport, and insist on everyone stopping to bow to our earth, sky, rain, forest, fish, animal, and plant gods…..

      Getting David Attenborough to do a series of documentaries on us would be excellent publicity….

      • BernyD 3.2.1

        The De-Evolved society in New Zealand
        Narrated by David Attenborough
        It’d be a box office smash hit 😉

  4. Descendant Of Smith 4

    We could erect clay feet statues of economists and politicians and ceo’s.

    • BernyD 4.1

      MP’s to John Key in the back room with Peter Jackson
      “It’d be a “Whole New Zealand” Lord of the rings … a true epic!”
      Easy sell 🙂

  5. David Cunliffe’s speech yesterday addressed these issues.

    He said:

    “We need to live the brand, not to leverage it.

    We need a structural shift in how our economy works, not green-wash dreamed up by some marketing guru.

    What does that mean? It means creating more economic value with less carbon, energy and pollution footprint.”

    And in a comment which given current political realities is refreshing and possibly revolutionary,

    “A “100% reality check” means that we’re going to have to learn to live better, more satisfying lives with less pollution and less wasteful material consumption, not more … 

    I think, in 100 years’ time, our great-great-grandchildren will scarcely believe that, even while the world’s oil supplies were known to getting harder and more expensive to source, the citizens of the Western world filled their homes with needless junk that was mostly made from oil.

    Is this sustainable? Of course not. Yet we keep squandering our children’s inheritance as if there was no tomorrow.” 

    • KhandallahMan 5.1

      Micky, Good on David Cunliffe for making strong coherent policy statements.  Where can I find this speech?   Will it be posted on Redalert? 

      [A full copy is here…RL]

    • Labour still has a lot to prove as far as integrating the environment into their economic policy is concerned, and I’ll believe it when I see it. So far all the good environmental policies Labour has passed have been Green policies they’ve agreed to support.

      • Pete George 5.2.1

        This is another fallacy that Greens seem to have convinced themseleves of – that they have initiated “all the good environmental policies”. That attempted ownership is either arrogance or ignorance. All parties are capable of thinking up environmental policies of their own, and there’s quite a bit of common policy.

        • Draco T Bastard

          The Greens have initiated all the environmental policies – ever since they started up back in the 1970s. All the other parties have followed with maybe a unique twist to a policy here and there.

          • vto

            Everyone has always ended up following the hippies. Name one thing that the hippies started which norml people haven’t followed eventually…

        • Just because you disagree with something doesn’t make it an example of a logical fallacy. In this instance it’s more I am expressing my opinion of other parties’ environmental policies: Either anemic, deeply problematic, or simple attempts to greenwash hostile attitudes to the environment.

          If you’d like to point to some other parties’ policies they have initiated, I’d be happy to tell you why they’re not good.

          And as Draco points out, everything the Greens haven’t initiated themselves ultimately has come from a small-g green perspective in the first place, which again, owes its origins to the big-G Green movement around the world.

        • mickysavage


          The Greens have always been at the forefront of environmental issues.  I believe that Labour are fast followers and are convinced on the need of radical change.

          UF though … 

    • MS at 12.27 pm – I agree with quite a bit of what’s in the speech.

      And you’re right saying “not green-wash dreamed up by some marketing guru” – the Greens have come to believe their own hype and seem to think it’s the only way, and so reighteous that any means justifies achieving it.

      One of the biggest problems Greens have is their “with us or enemy” approach.

      A “100% reality check” means that we’re going to have to learn to live better, more satisfying lives with less pollution and less wasteful material consumption, not more …

      Yes. And Greens need a reality check – treating any critics as the enemy will hold back any major shift towards better balance in our lives and on earth.

      I don’t agree with everything Cunliffe said, with that much detail anyoy could quibble at something – but I think it would make a good starting point for a major discussion on where we aim as a species.

      • felix 5.3.1

        “the Greens have come to believe their own hype and seem to think it’s the only way”

        Only if you’re interested in protecting the environment. If you’re not, there are plenty of other ways.

      • You have so little idea about the Green party, it’s actually hilarious. Most Green members look at Labour something like a three-legged dog trying to catch a frisbee: with amusement, frustration, and a sort of gentle sympathy. You confuse disagreeing with someone with being their enemy. Labour aren’t my enemy, nor the Green party’s, they’re simply not up to standard on this issue yet.

  6. Draco T Bastard 6

    One of your best posts to date Zet and you hit the nail on the head. We have enough already it’s just that’s going to the wrong people and thus causing poverty for the majority. Exactly as capitalism was designed to do.

    Time to do something about that.

  7. Oil is awesome. I drive on huge monolithic concrete structures daily. 15 lane freeways are a thing of wonder. Just be glad you were born in a relative time of plenty and let the future take care of itself. Enjoy all the needless junk.

    • Doug 7.1

      As your mother I find your filpancy about the future surprising.

    • Hello troll, how’s it going?

    • Galeandra 7.3

      Happy happy dipstick.

    • vto 7.4

      ha ha Monique, brilliance and simplicity is so liberating. Pity it is so short-lived due to its lack of longevity credentials.

      And anyway mrs monique, while managing some marvel at the modern monstrosities of mankind, I must manouevre to the margins the merriment of massive modern machinery. There are myriad spheres of mind-bending material capable of mirth and mambo in the world and mankind’s marvellous mindless machines are just one from a mangy mammal named man.

    • ropata 7.5

      I used to think the Baby Boomers were the greedy generation
      But Gen X are the existentialist / nihilist generation
      Living for the moment, racking up debt, trashing the Earth

      Stop the planet, I want to get off

    • jack 7.6

      Is this your opinion or fact. Oil is not awsome. There are wars going on because of oil and innocent people getting wiped out because you want to drive your huge SUV to the store to buy a loaf of bread. Truly self indulgent.. You ma’am should start looking to the future and no the future will not take care of itself… Really disgusting.

  8. Rich 8

    Of course, [Fran O’Sullivan]’s plenty rich already

    How did she get that way from being a journalist? It hasn’t been a well paid job for many years..

    Is it daddys/partners money, or do compliant right wing journos get paid an allowance on the quiet by NACT, probably using taxpayer cash?

  9. Fran O’Sullivan needs no protection but I think you will find she has worked very hard for many years to achieve her pre-eminent position. I often disagree with her, like I do with Chris Trotter, but I respect both their views.

  10. Jenny 10

    “Endless Greed”

    “FT1: Mines & Wines”

    The 1%, venal, greedy, decadent, powerful, live it up like there is no tomorrow.
    At a time when the world is heading towards dangerous levels of climate change, plans are being made at a conference in Rotorua in August to increase drilling, mining and fracking. The whole world is begging these powerful men to show some restraint. But they don’t know the meaning of the word, ditching restraint for conspicuous consumption. In between plotting and planning for the increased mining and drilling and fracking of this country, they will be living it up, with joyrides on helicopters, wine tasting, and all the other usual luxury trappings, for as long as the party lasts.


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