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No Social welfare handouts for multinational corporations

Written By: - Date published: 8:33 am, November 2nd, 2019 - 98 comments
Categories: climate change, Economy, energy, Environment, global warming, uncategorized - Tags: ,

 

Tiwai Point is in the news again. 

Its owner, multinational corporation Rio Tinto has practised brinkmanship on the Government in the past and has managed to secure not only very cheap electricity but also gained a $30 million payout from the last National Government to make it resign a power contract.  I bet they did not even have to prove they did not have illegal income or assets.  It seems that National is not so upset about multi national corporations exploiting taxpayers.

At the time it was a sweetheart deal to make sure that the partial privatisation of the power companies went without a hitch.

What are the implications of closing Tiwai Point?  James Henderson wrote this in 2013:

Once Tiwai closes, the cheapest power in the country would flood the market (Tiwai currently demands about 14% of our total electricity but at the lowest demand periods, it’s closer to a third). The expensive fossil fuel baseload plants like Huntly would close. Because the current market power price is set by the price of the most expensive unit and because most of our power is quite cheap apart from that fossil fuel shit, it would mean a dramatic reduction in wholesale electricity prices. By the time that flows into retail and commercial prices, you would expect it to be on the order of a 10-20% reduction.

Consider that the country currently spends nearly $6 billion a year on electricity (and Tiwai only $250m of that despite consuming 1/6th of the power). Knock 10% off the price of power, effectively what NZ Power aims to do, and you save power consumers about $600m a year. That’s $600m that businesses can spend on plant and employing people rather than on electricity, and that households can spend on other things or invest in businesses.

And, as a nice bonus, you’ve turned off the most greenhouse polluting power stations and the smelter, which is also a major greenhouse polluter.

Fast forward another six years and there are reports of Rio Tinto sending in a closure team to assess the future of the plant.  Except this time the Government is much less inclined to get out the cheque book.

From Thomas Coughlan at Stuff:

There’s a barely perceptible consensus emerging within Parliament that Rio Tinto’s Tiwai Point aluminium smelter should close. 

No-one wants to say it in public – what politician would want to stick their neck out for job losses? – but for their own reasons, politicians from most parties think the smelter’s days are numbered. 

The reasons are complex. Some of a free-market persuasion see Tiwai as a business on life support, kept alive as a result of a sweetheart deal from Meridian Energy and propped up by a $30 million cash payment from the government in 2013.

Treasury, guardians of the free-market orthodoxy, damned the 2013 bailout. A briefing at the time said assistance should be rejected because it “would result in a significant transfer of value from New Zealanders to PA and Rio Tinto shareholders”.

He also makes out a compelling environmental argument:

It consumes 13 per cent of New Zealand’s entire electricity supply. Almost all of its electricity is sourced from a hydro dam in Lake Manapouri that was built for the purpose of supplying the smelter. This allows Tiwai to claim it produces the greenest aluminium in the world, but it also means that an enormous amount of clean hydro-energy is tied up supplying the smelter. Freeing up the 13 per cent capacity and feeding it into the grid would mean we could probably afford to reduce our reliance on the Huntly coal generator.

This coal-fired power plant is kept online to accommodate for peaking periods and dry seasons, when the hydro lakes that generate the majority of our electricity are stretched. 

Environmentally, closing Huntly makes sense. Burning coal is no way to make electricity in the 21st century. 

It also makes sense in terms of lowering electricity prices. Once installed, renewable energy is cheap to produce: water, wind and sun are free. The only cost is that of transmission. 

He notes the implications for the power companies:

The announcement that Tiwai might be set to close saw $1.5 billion wiped from the value of New Zealand’s listed power companies. Clearly people who own shares in those companies don’t want to take a chance on that “adjustment”. 

The crash in those companies share prices shows that while allowing Tiwai to shut might be the right thing to do, it wouldn’t be easy. 

Someone, either the government or consumers, would also have to step up to pay the cost of getting the electricity from Manapouri to the rest of the country. It’s already hooked up to the national grid, but Treasury estimated in 2012 that an additional $200m will need to be invested to upgrade the lines. 

I would question the need for the Government bearing the cost of upgrading the power lines.  If Meridian wants to sell its power shouldn’t bear the cost of upgrading the power infrastructure?

There will be job losses if the plant closes.  But there will be opportunities as low power costs and the need for infrastructure drive activity.

And why should we be supporting a profitable multinational corporation?  Why should the free market determine food prices for ordinary people yet huge profitable multi national corporations receive a hand-out?

And, dare I say it, but I agree with occasional Standard commenter Matthew Hooton who says this:

For its part, the National Opposition seems more interested in the perverse effects of handouts on welfare beneficiaries than on the culture of the corporate world. As yet, it appears to have no inclination to call time on the corporate-welfare machine it presided over and expanded through its last nine years in office.

We can only hope that one of the benefits of the Prime Minister being the parent of an 18-month-old is insight into where her Government caving in to another tantrum will lead. And once again, NZ First’s so-far unstated position may be pivotal. Is it really going to subsidise the profitable offshore owners of a loss-making local operation?

Let the market rule. And at the same time lets have cheaper electricity costs and reduce the country’s carbon output.

98 comments on “No Social welfare handouts for multinational corporations ”

  1. cleangreen 1

    National was always a "patsy" stool pigeon, (for handing public finds over to corporates in NZ),

    It can be seen as a "political bribe" by using our own taxpayer funds for them to secure corporate support to govern this country.

    • Enough is Enough 1.1

      I agree with you 100% but the practice continues.

      Three words "Provincial Growth Fund", or welfare to corporates outside of Auckland.

      • KJT 1.1.1

        I'm not entirely opposed to support for industry development, where it helps the country as a whole. That is how successful countries work, after all.

        Tiwai, however, is an expensive job creation scheme. Where most of the profits end up offshore.

  2. Andre 2

    Tiwai claims it produces the greenest aluminium in the world? Smelters in Iceland have a bit over 3x the capacity of Tiwai Point, and Iceland's electricity supply is very nearly 100% renewable (70% hydro, 30% geothermal).

    I suspect that "greenest aluminium" bullshit is just a mind game to try to sucker a bit of emotional support and misplaced pride in the product to soften up some of the population for the emotional blackmail about the Southland jobs.

    Meanwhile, Tiwai Point sucking down that 600ish MW round the clock 365 days a year of the greenest hydro means the rest of us are locked in to taking the dirty shit produced at Huntly and Stratford and elsewhere. Worse still, the possibility of closing Tiwai Point and releasing that steady 600MW onto the rest of the market is severely inhibiting the construction of new renewable sources – why invest when there might be a sudden massive oversupply at just a year's notice?

    Taking the cleanest electricity to sell as an exported product at a bargain basement price while the rest of us pay inflated prices through being forced to buy dirty electricity seems as stupid as, say, taking all the premium beef cattle to sell overseas at bargain basement prices while selling the lower grade stuff domestically at inflated prices because "international market prices" … wait … we aren't doing that too, are we?

    • alwyn 2.1

      "Tiwai claims it produces the greenest aluminium in the world?".

      Where does this claim come from? I have seen, on many occasions, the claim that the Aluminium produced at the Bluff smelter was the purest in the world but I don;'t remember them saying it was the greenest. They aren't of course the same thing.

      When, and where, did they start promoting the "Green" claim?

      • Andre 2.1.1

        That question might be best directed to the likes of Thomas Coughlan from Stuff, as quoted in the OP. Or the authors of any of the other many hits that come up when you search for Tiwai Point greenest aluminum.

        As far what NZAS claim,

        NZAS has one of the lightest carbon footprints per tonne of aluminium of a smelter anywhere in the world. We are proud to have our metal marketed under the new Rio Tinto RenewAl brand. Under this umbrella, NZAS can take advantage of international demand for greener, more sustainable, low-carbon products.

        https://www.nzas.co.nz/pages/our-product/

        Not quite exactly word for word "greenest aluminium in the world", but fairly close.

        • alwyn 2.1.1.1

          Thank you. I saw that comment when I was trying to find a source for the "greenest" story. I didn't think it qualified as being "greenest in the world" but that is just a matter of my opinion. I thought it a bit of a stretch to push it out into the story being promoted.

  3. Andre 3

    This Guardian piece is a good read on aluminium in production in Oz. Particularly interesting is the new efforts to make the smelting pots better able to operate at variable production rates. This makes them better able to take advantage of cheap solar and wind energy, as well as being able to help stabilise the grid.

    https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2019/oct/31/australias-aluminium-sector-is-on-life-support-it-can-and-should-be-saved

  4. Cinny 4

    Tiwai should produce their own power, goodness knows the technology is there and they sure can afford to set it up.

    • Andre 4.1

      Uhh, what technology did you have in mind for Tiwai Point to just go out and buy to supply the round-the-clock 600ish MW they take? Nukes?

      • Cinny 4.1.1

        Fields of solar, like they have in China and USA.

        Would that not be enough?

        How much solar would they need Andre? I’m honestly not clued up on that topic.

        Edit… I found an article will put it here to read later
        https://www.nbcnews.com/mach/science/supersized-solar-farms-are-sprouting-around-world-maybe-space-too-ncna901666

        • Andre 4.1.1.1

          To use an intermittent source like wind or solar, they would first have to completely rebuild the potlines to work with variable input energy.

          Since the 40s when aluminium production first started ramping up, the cheapest electricity has been baseload 24/365 steady demand/output. So all aluminium production facilities have been developed and optimised to take advantage of that.

          It's only been in the last few years that the major shift in electricity economics has taken place whereby wind and solar have become cheapest on a "levellised cost of energy (LCOE)" basis, but the negative of wind and solar is they're only available when the sun shines and the wind blows. So a massive amount of storage would be needed for wind and solar to provide that guaranteed steady power current smelting equipment requires.

          What that means for Tiwai Point is if somehow they were required to produce their own energy for their operations, their best option would likely be to fund wind elsewhere to supply NZs grid and use the hydro distributed throughout NZ effectively as storage to manage supply/demand variability, while continuing to use Manapouri as a dedicated supply.

          As far as how much would be needed to supply Tiwai Point from solar, well the Ouarzazate solar plant in Morocco annually produces about 1/4 what Tiwai Point uses from 2500 hectares. Call it somewhere around 25,000 hectares (that's 25km x 10km) of Southland that would be needed to supply Tiwai's energy needs from solar, plus storage, accounting for the reduced solar resource in Southland compared to the Sahara.

          From wind, the biggest wind turbines are around 10MW each (and are taller than the Sky Tower or Eiffel Tower) and operate at around 50% capacity factor. So around 120 of them would be needed, plus storage. Or looking at it another way, New Zealand's current total installed wind capacity is around 700MW, operating at around 35% capacity factor. There would need to be around 3x that in new capcity (plus storage) to supply Tiwai Point.

          Longer term (as in decades) for the global smelting industry, chances are the economics will shift towards changing potline design and operation to take advantage of cheaper but variable electricity from wind and solar. (see the Guardian article linked above). That generation can happen closer to where the bauxite is mined, rather than shipping bauxite and alumina massive distances to electricity sources that are no longer as cheap as what could be produced locally.

      • Robert Guyton 4.1.2

        Tiwai sits on a wind-swept coastal flat. Perhaps they could consider wind-turbines made from…aluminium?

        smiley

      • alwyn 4.1.3

        I suppose that they could simply offer to buy the Manapouri station, as they tried to do in the early 90's.

  5. David Mac 5

    I wonder if there is a way to raise efficiencies at Tiwai Point. Rio Tinto are a mining outfit, they produce raw ingredients. Rather than pure aluminium being poured into ingot molds could it be poured into vehicle wheel or wind generator housing molds and shipped to the parent companies for machining to their tolerances.

    • Robert Guyton 5.1

      Oops! I see David's and my thinking is linked smiley

      • David Mac 5.1.1

        If I concentrate and focus I sometimes lift my train of thought up to a track on your level Bob.

    • Pat 5.2

      that aspect well covered in the podcast…was never (and will never) going to happen ….recommended listening

      • David Mac 5.2.1

        OK, I'll have a listen Pat. I like it when people say " Can't be done David, impossible." After I've cleared my gutters, I can see needles sticking up.

    • Dukeofurl 5.3

      Raw mined Bauxite requires a chemical process to turn it into Alumina which is used in the smelter by electrolysis – which is where the power is used.

      Aluminium is the result. Without knowing all the details they have improved the various processes over the years.

      Ingots of Al are used for all sorts of things , some are cast like you suggest , some are cold extruded from large diameter bars to make things like window frames ( they are built up from different shapes)

  6. Pat 6

    Wouldnt be too quick to assume retail electricity charges would fall at NZAS' close..that is not the opinion of someone whos studied Tiwai extensively

    https://www.rnz.co.nz/programmes/the-detail/story/2018720116/the-tiwai-point-aluminium-smelter-bluff

  7. Blazer 7

    Multinationals have come to rely on corporate welfare for decades.

    Whether its bailouts a la the GFC,or preferential tax incentives,RD grants,subsidies ,golden hello's to set up in regionA instead of B,creative accounting,or heavyweight lobbyist donors influencing politicians,the pitch is always the same =jobs created or lost….and in/divestment in local economies.

    The bluff and spin and lexicon of meaningless platitudes 'trickle down,rising tides and other such nonsense is parasitical and serves… very few.

  8. Sacha 8

    I would question the need for the Government bearing the cost of upgrading the power lines. If Meridian wants to sell its power shouldn’t bear the cost of upgrading the power infrastructure?

    Sadly our broken 'market' model separates the organisation in charge of transmission from the generating and retailing ones.

    Thanks Max Bradford and your successors who have merely tinkered with a fundamental millstone around our nation's neck. And the last govt that flogged off half the rock to chancers.

  9. Dukeofurl 9

    " The expensive fossil fuel baseload plants like Huntly would close."

    Thats not necessarily so. Manapouri power station is at the bottom of the South Island while Huntly is near the highest demand Auckland.

    There is a direct DC line from Benmore in the Upper Waitaki area to Haywards in Upper Hutt which also goes under Cook St.

    Sometimes at night when there is extra capacity from the Wind farms in the Lower NI , power flows back South to Benmore ( it doesnt branch off to Christchurch).

    From my limited knowledge the power from the lower South Island cant get through capacity constraints in Haywards and Bunnythorpe ( near Palmerston North) major substations and further north around Stratford to even think of getting to Auckland.

    Another reason for Huntly is to support the voltage of the grid in the upper North Island when you are bring power a long way. The Cook St cable connection from Benmore does that for the Wellington area

  10. Stuart Munro. 10

    Although the energy argument for closing Tiwai has been open and shut since the 70s, the original reasoning behind having a smelter was presumably to feed a variety of added value aluminium businesses, which, with the possible exception of window frames, don't seem to have eventuated in NZ.

    The nature of the international aluminium market is complicated, and by no means driven by environmental concerns, given that some of the largest new smelters in recent times have been built in the Gulf states to take advantage of cheap petroleum pitch (used for making anodes) and equally cheap petroleum fired electricity.

    The smelting itself is only half of the carbon side of the aluminium ledger, alumina production also requires significant energy inputs. Never having had the wet and red mud sides of aluminium production (for which our environment may be grateful), Tiwai was always at the mercy of the much smaller international market for alumina than that for bauxite, which has been something of a political football as countries like China and Indonesia moved to bring the whole production cycle in-house.

    The question the government should be asking is: Why did the hoped for downstream industries not develop here, and what would have been required to create them. For all the empty talk about economics in political discourse, little or nothing is being done to grow our wealth and productivity besides the accounting trick of mass immigration.

    • Pat 10.1

      the forever curse (although in many respects also a blessing) of being a small economy a long way from world markets….not going to change anytime soon

      • Stuart Munro. 10.1.1

        More the forever curse of an unaccountable bureaucracy with a prejudice towards a hands off approach ill-suited to a small economy. The level of creative destruction that can be tolerated within a continental economy is greater than that within a small country where skill and capacity losses are significant long term issues. We simply cannot afford to continue to generate failure with the consistency and enthusiasm that characterises the braindead hidebound chair-polishing assholes of Treasury.

        • Pat 10.1.1.1

          as long as we can import 'growth' we can though (and have across various administrations)….for a time at least, especially if you turn a blind eye to the costs.

          Is it sensible or sustainable?..certainly not, but it is easy

        • greywarshark 10.1.1.2

          SM That should be flashed onto walls of buildings across from the offices around Parliament, Treasury etc. No use writing it in stone, it is a message that needs to be absorbed immediately.

          Writing in stone is for dead peoples headstones, and even those might be better being replaced by a small plaque on a covering tree on land high enough not to be flooded out. But one of my friends looked at me recently and said they didn't believe in the sea level rise furore, 'It won't happen for say 200 years'. This person is retired after a hard life, needs ‘equaninimty’ I understand it is hard to cope with. So young people like Greta who have all to lose need to keep the ball rolling.

          'We simply cannot afford to continue to generate failure with the consistency and enthusiasm that characterises the braindead hidebound chair-polishing assholes of Treasury.'

      • David Mac 10.1.2

        The aluminium is being shipped to world markets as ingots. Our distance from world markets situation improves when shipping the aluminium as cast or extruded products, waste tipped back into the process at source.

        • Pat 10.1.2.1

          the problem isnt the shipping per se it is the manufacturing costs, scale and support in larger markets we cannot compete with

          • Stuart Munro. 10.1.2.1.1

            It's not distance but competence. Aluminium is worth more as hard drives than coke cans. We can't compete because Treasury is committed to ensuring that we don't compete. If they have their way – and they have for decades – we'll end up importing wool and pinus radiata too. It's nuts, it hasn't worked at all, but for Spierling-like reasons our country is committed to their worthless advice.

            It's time to analyze the results of these wretched"experts" whose predictive value is consistently less than chance, and replace them with responsible pragmatic people who manage to get things right more often than not.

            It's a democratic issue as much as anything else.

            Voters: We want a solid domestic manufacturing base so that we do not become price takers in the global economy.
            Treasury: We can't compete – we're just too lazy and incompetent.
            Voters: Have you noticed that we now pay more because we're price takers.
            Treasury: You just don't understand – we're making you rich.
            Voters: We understand perfectly – even the housing crisis is the result of the poverty your policies have created. We understand because we have to pay the exploding rents and padded prices resulting from your gross and sustained incompetence.

            This is neoliberalism – Treasury is a self-styled elite who consistently overrule the people, and insist on policies like mass immigration that could never attract popular support. And, if we go back to the basic economics Treasury buffoons have abandoned in their crazed far-right ideological zealotry – the ordinary voter is MUCH better placed to understand the effect of these policies on them than a Wellington civil servant insulated from consequences by several multiples of the median wage.

            • Pat 10.1.2.1.1.1

              Cannot agree…yes we have numerous examples of incompetence (as do other economies) but that is not the reason we cannot compete in manufacturing (other than small scale niches).

              Is it neoliberalism? …the same problems existed pre Thatcher et al

              • Stuart Munro.

                There are plenty of countries with other significant manufacturing "disadvantages"- take Germany – with a median wage of 39k euros (2017) roughly 68k NZ. They are competitive in plenty of advanced manufacturing in spite of this – maybe because their state servants don't throw up their hands and quit at the first hurdle.

                • greywarshark

                  I think this sounds right from 6.1 SM: "Treasury is committed to ensuring that we don't compete. If they have their way – and they have for decades – we'll end up importing wool and pinus radiata too. It's nuts, it hasn't worked at all, but for Spierling-like reasons our country is committed to their worthless advice."

                  How can we get rid of these high-priced Treasury gods from the high places? They were supposed to keep the pollies grubby hands off the lollies but they don't seem to do an adequate job, and just have their own supply and demand lines.

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    Well of course the same kind of screws need to be applied to them that they have imposed on so many other state functions – to begin with.

                    But the end of the smelter represents an opportunity to reflect also; we had forty years to make good on the opportunity the smelter represented but lacked the political will to create a tech cluster around it. Shameful!

                    • greywarshark

                      You don't understand SM the businessmen who know about these things would have looked at it and were not sure that it would be profitable for them and worth the risk. So they invested in water robbery instead, and built channels which first collapsed, and then they improved on that and got together in a huddle and did a charge like a bunch of rugby forwards and took it further, then took over Environment Canterbury.

                      They are better at sorting priorities and doing future planning than government and the ordinary man in the street. /sarc

                • Pat

                  lol…yep Germany (esp old west) is a perfect example of a managed economy…and one that has manipulated its trading currency (euro) and right next door to its low wage suppliers and close to its markets not to mention a population of 80 odd million…nothing to do with not 'throwing up their hands'

                  • Stuart Munro.

                    I would believe you – if I could find examples of them not throwing up their hands.

                    • Pat

                      https://www.dw.com/en/cep-study-germany-gains-most-from-euro-introduction/a-47675856

                      https://www.ft.com/content/04f48e1e-f97f-11e9-98fd-4d6c20050229

                      this may help…and is worth remembering that its impossible for all economies to be consistently net exporters

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      @Pat – yes, they have proven competent – in spite of having to absorb a substantial population http://www.levyinstitute.org/pubs/hili67a.pdf

                      Unlike NZ, where successive governments fell all over themselves to divest us of assets, putting them in private or foreign hands, without producing the benefits they asserted would be obtained.

                      Of course, financial market clowns have a horror of productive enterprise – it doesn't fit their models, it requires skills they don't possess, and its outputs are varied and complex.

                      It is safe to say that the greatest difference between NZ and Germany, is that the Germans are less forgiving of failure on the part of economic "experts". NZ is too forgiving, hence the endless parade of bubble boys and self-styled gurus who could not secure serious economic positions abroad were the ranks of their colleagues decimated by ebola, swine flu (to which they are particularly susceptible), and the rage virus.

                    • Pat

                      you did read your linked article?

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      @ Pat of course – it leavened your presumptions of Germany's privileged EU position – and has some relevance to NZ, as, in pursuit of the asinine and unmandated goal of a population of 15 million, Treasury has managed to almost double our population in my lifetime. We'll need management at least as astute as Germany's to get through that debacle unscathed, and we certainly don't have that now.

                      And I notice you could not find evidence to support your contention that our new model civil services aren't throwing up their hands.

                    • Pat

                      I find it somewhat curious you would claim such when you link an article that summarises itself thus…

                      "Ironically, the Bundesbank's deflationary quest proved to be counterproductive, as the overall fiscal tightening and deterioration of public finances after 1992 were far in excess of what would have been required to cope with the challenges and responsibilities of unification. At the most critical stage, the Bundesbank's argument that fiscal consolidation would prevent inflation did not hold, and measures undertaken to cut borrowing actually pushed inflation higher. With recession, public finances deteriorated and inflation declined rather sluggishly, owing to continued tax-push inflation. Unfortunately, this did not stop the Bundesbank from squeezing inflation down to zero by 1999. As a result, the period from 1993 to 1999 stands out by far as Germany's worst economic performance on record. The stark consequences of high unemployment, slow growth, and fiscal deterioration, however, were anything but inevitable. To an important extent, Germany's structural problems today are a reflection of these unsound fiscal and monetary policies. The country (and Europe) paid a dear price for a policy experiment based on doctrines and beliefs whose relation to economic theory was anything but clear. The dismal results of the great German deflation of the 1990s cannot be blamed on unification, nor do they represent the burden of unification. Instead, they are the economic consequences of the self-serving policies of the Ministry of Finance and the Bundesbank."

                      ..as supporting evidence for your contention of German competence…truly strange.

                      That NZ is using an unsustainable (and lazy) migration policy to prop up 'growth' was noted by myself in earlier posts, something you appear to have overlooked, and alongside that criticism was my opined remedy (and expectation)….wishing we were Germany (or Japan) as a solution to our very different challenges is NOT a rational nor workable proposition

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      Well of course people take different facts from the many on offer in such articles. The one that was needed to leaven your anomalous position on Germany as being the beneficiary of Euro fallout, was their management of the non-trivial problem of assimilating a substantial post soviet population.

                      Since you seem to be at pains to defend Treasury's every lackluster impulse, perhaps you could pull your head out of your arse long enough to provide a comparably positive local instance? Because we're not experiencing any.

                      It is not about "wishing we were Germany", but benchmarking competent international practice and noticing that our civil service appear to aspire more to third than to first world outcomes. Germany has proven to be adaptive, NZ Treasury has proven not to be. Which, you noisome contrarian, represents the better model?

                    • Pat

                      Oh dear…suggest you go back and read the thread again…..you are arguing against yourself and attributing positions to me never taken. Comprehension is a wonderful tool

                    • Stuart Munro.

                      Yes I know you have not – can not in fact – support your position.

                      Which being so, you should lay off the patronizing. Your comments weren't worth reading the first time.

          • David Mac 10.1.2.1.2

            I'm self employed in an ever changing environment Pat. I can't afford to spend too much time with why things can't be done.

            I think you're putting up hurdles, not deal breakers.

            I know little about the metallurgy of aluminium but I keep seeing references to how pure the Tiwai Point product is. Next step, determine what products gain an advantage when made from pure aluminium. Seek out the strong earners from that list. It may be something like medical applications, so be it.

            Like our logs and milk powder, we let someone else milk the 'Premium $' out of our premium exports….Rio Tinto's products. Next time they threaten to walk lets hand them their hat and coat.

            • Pat 10.1.2.1.2.1

              am not averse to a limited autarky but it must be within a reformed economy …if we attempt it within the current paradigm it will fail (again)…and youre not alone in the precariat.

              • David Mac

                Fisher and Paykel Healthcare have an international distribution network established. Pure aluminium knee with teflon friction surfaces could be a big hit at the multiplying retirement villages. Maybe it's ideal for Bentley dashboard switchgear, buggered if I know.

                Doesn't matter, what matters is that we behave like a third world country. We stand on our coasts and wave goodbye to our good stuff as those raw ingredients of potential Cash Cows sail over the horizon towards somebody else's pocket.

                • Pat

                  Yes F&P Health are a good example of a niche manufacturer even so their manufacturing expansion is offshore (near their markets) and the parent company failed due to its inability to compete….a series of niche exporters and a greatly reduced import level along with a managed economy and population is our best future option IMO….and we should have started yesterday but all signs indicate we never will

            • Andre 10.1.2.1.2.2

              The substantial uses of pure aluminium are foil and electrical conductors. For those applications the difference between 99.98% pure and say 99.9% pure isn't really significant. Apparently a lot of Tiwai Point production goes into electronics in Japan, but the price premium for high purity seems quite small, around $34/tonne out of a total price of around $2000 a tonne.

              http://www.scoop.co.nz/stories/BU1812/S00180/tiwai-point-well-positioned-in-trump-roiled-aluminium-market.htm

              For all the other applications I can think it's the alloying recipe that really adds the value, so there's not really a premium associated with starting from ultra-high purity. Biomedical applications are unlikely, the corrosion resistance is very poor inside wetware, which is why titanium alloys and various kinds of stainless and nickel and chrome alloys are preferred.

    • SPC 10.2

      Keeping Tiwai Point smelter operational is inconsistent with our growth by immigration strategy- which requires more clean power (such as this hydro) given our Paris Accord commitments are unrelated to our population level.

  11. SPC 11

    The company is threatening to close its Oz smelters if they do not get cheaper energy from burning coal.

    If they get cheaper power from this source they will keep these smelters open – their business model based on extorting cheap (as cheap as required) power prices to guarantee profits – and thus close the New Zealand smelter.

    If we provide cheaper power then they close an Oz smelter to place pressure on the Oz government down the line.

    The reality is they are facing cheaper aluminium from Asia and a smelter is going to close, here or in Oz, as part of their longer survival gambit of using jobs to coerce subsidised power.

    • Graeme 11.1

      The sad thing is that every aluminium smelter receives subsidies of some sort, usually energy. So it becomes a race to the bottom, and with a current global over capacity the refinery owners can play one host country off against another.

      This OECD report from Jan 2019 portrays a sorry picture of the industry. It's a lengthy read and good quote bites are few but tl:dr there's way to much capacity, there's subsidies everywhere for as many reasons as there's subsidies and it may not end well.

      One little takeaway was that China only allows a partial VAT rebate / zero rating on raw aluminium exports to encourage local processing.

  12. The only thing that still and always WILL stick in my craw is the 4th Labour govt and its successor, the Bolger led National party who thought they had a right under THEIR shoddy neo liberal ideology to flog off decades of taxpayers assets that belonged to THEM and THEM only… not for some bunch of self celebrating up and coming privileged University grad students in economics to jerrymander things to their pecuniary advantage…

    I loathe and have contempt for each and every one of them involved , – on BOTH party's.

    However, this is a good conversation to be having ,… not just for the future regards these matters , but also as a glaring example of what happens when you let a small group of aggressive, self seeking political ideologues anywhere near the corridors of power.

    Great article, mickeysavage,… and many good conversations need to be had concerning these issues…

    Katsumoto enjoyed his conversation

  13. Paul Campbell 13

    Smelting alumina to aluminium (what happens at Tiwai) makes a lot of CO2 – 3 molecules of CO2 for every 4 of Al as well as other green house gases.

    High school, chemistry tells us for every tonne of aluminium Tiwai makes it emits 1.2 tonnes of CO2 – in 2014 Tiwai made 409728 tonnes of CO2, about 5% of New Zealand's CO2 emissions that year

    If we shut down Tiwai we reduce our CO2 output by 5%, AND we can use that power to also shut down coal and gas fired power generation (up to another 2.3M tonnes/yr – ~20%) – shutting Tiwai could drop our CO2 output by up to 25%

    (note this is slightly handwavy since I'm mixing numbers from different years and different sources – the results however are compelling, whether it's 15% or 25% it's still a pretty massive drop)

    BTW I think it’s great that the govt has finally put Tiwai in the position that we’re NOT arguing this in an election year (as they did the past 2 times)

    • Andre 13.1

      Well, Rio Tinto have said there will be an update of the review will come out in February or March next year, so that means it will indeed be argued in an election year.

    • Pat 14.1

      "Electricity demand in New Zealand will double by 2050 As the New Zealand economy electrifies in pursuit of the most cost-efficient and sustainable energy sources, electricity demand is likely to more than double from ~40 terawatt hours (TWh) per annum today to ~90 TWh by 2050. Electricity demand as a percentage of total delivered energy demand is The efficiency of converting electricity to transport energy is ~80 per cent while the efficiency of petrol is ~30 per cent and diesel is ~20 per cent. In industrial process heat, electricity’s efficiency rate is ~95 per cent compared to ~80 per cent for coal, natural gas and oil. TE MAURI HIKO – ENERGY FUTURES // WHITE PAPER 2018 6 estimated to increase from 25 per cent in 2016 to 61 per cent by 2050. Meeting this projected demand will require significant and frequent investment in New Zealand’s electricity generation portfolio over the coming 30 years."

      https://www.transpower.co.nz/sites/default/files/publications/resources/TP%20Energy%20Futures%20-%20Te%20Mauri%20Hiko%2011%20June%2718.pdf

      • greywarshark 14.1.1

        Electricity seems very efficient for producing whatever it is required for.

        But it is not efficient for the country to be completely dependent on it, and especially to have this commodity provided by profit-desiring companies whether overseas or local. We don't want the last businessman/or pseudo, to turn off lights and power, when they exit the country. NEXIT – what form would it take in a country denuded of resources and scrabbling for new initiatives for making things out of grass etc. 1800-2000 from raupo whares and flax everything to Back to the Future. I am trying to hold on to my copper wire landline. Am I behind the times, or wise, precautionary, far-seeing and ahead of the herd?

        • Pat 14.1.1.1

          Totally dependent?…no but predominantly so, especially at the expense (pun intended) of 6 billion of oil imports and climate emissions.

          What use a copper land line to nowhere or nothing?

          • greywarshark 14.1.1.1.1

            You don't appear to get my point Pat of which there is one. I am talking about the vanishing of options, the monopoly of one technology and how bad I think it is, and that it needs to be noticed and defended against.

            You talk about copper land line to nowhere or nothing! Exactly what I am concerned about. Can you get that I am trying to raise awareness and retrenchment partly, before we do end up with no value from our present useful system because of the empty-headed enthusiasm for the latest and greatest machine and gadget which is wholely for the advantage of business and profits and growth of the same.

            Perhaps some people need to wear 3D glasses for an hour a day just to change their perspectives, to blur around the edges of things that seem so straightforward when the accepted view is all they know.

            • Pat 14.1.1.1.1.1

              dont think I missed your point and share it to some extent however the fact remains that while individuals may seek to retain some forms of 'resilience' it needs to be in forms that dont require systemic compliance….as copper cable communication does. Remember that in a resource depleted world we have to do with less and that will include redundancy

        • Drowsy M. Kram 14.1.1.2

          A copper wire landline continues to be my only means of telephonic communication – no doubt I will be obliged to 'upgrade' from this perfectly serviceable technology at some point – "What's your driverless car?"
          https://www.sparklab.co.nz/tools/5G-inspiration.html#/

  14. David Mac 15

    "Uh oh my business is going broke, what can I do? I know, I'll get cheaper electricity."

    It's a strategy reserved for one. 501 em.

  15. David Mac 16

    Pre Rogernomics much NZ manufacturing was for the local market. For the NZ vacuum cleaner and radiogram industries to survive we stuck a hefty tax on any imported models.

    We don't have the population to support a vacuum cleaner factory producing products for the domestic market. I'm with Stuart, we could be turning our trees into Ikea's table tops and bauxite into Tesla body components.

    • Dukeofurl 16.1

      The market protection was for two things : Full employment ( which was acheived) and to restrict the foreign exchange spent on goods for domestic production. With a mostly farming income producing foreign exchange we had to have car assembly lines to push up the local content and so on for clothes vacumm cleaners, TVs washing machines and virtually all new household items. There wasnt the idea we just borrow offshore to pay for the things we import, even the housing market was restricted as banks had to hold a large proportion of customers savings in government stock. A 20% deposit and had been a customer for 5 years wasnt unusual to borrow from the Savings banks, which mainly lent for housing. The other side was the State would rent a house for life for those who couldnt meet lending criteria. State houses werent seen as now as social housing for those on benefits

      • WILD KATIPO 16.1.1

        Keynesianism was based on the idea 'we just borrow' for the things we import, however, projects such as dams, roading, hospitals and schools were paid for by the taxpayer. Along with helping to pay those 'borrowings' back. Back then overseas corporate's generally didnt have a look in and domestic corporate's were expected to pay their fair share in tax. Now they dont.

        That was what the IMF and World Bank was originally set up for. Loans for infrastructure and economic development.

        We also had tariffs to offset the negative impact on our domestic and export industry's and our employment , – now we dont

        We were the Gunea pig nation and the original economic prostitutes for the neo liberal experiment.

        I find it curious that all these free market exponents NEVER MENTION the USA, – which practice's tariffs and incentives at its borders, – the good old USA, – home of free market capitalism.

        What a crock of shit.

    • or in place of vacuum cleaners we could set up a broom making factory…

  16. SPC 17

    Unsurprising the former MBIE boss Steven Joyce supports endless amounts of subsidy to a corporate and a National apologist columnist at Stuff, Damien Grant, does the same.

    I wonder if they have shares in our power companies …

    • Dukeofurl 17.1

      Well they believed in buying 45% of Chorus for $950 mill, but couldnt hang on to power companies we already owned.

      Im thinking Joyce is …how can I say this…."consulting" for the Tiwai Pt smelter, as he hasnt found a 'real job' after leaving parliament.

  17. KJT 18

    Neighboring US cities. One which subsidised big business to "provide jobs" and the other which put money instead into local small business. Guess which one has mass unemployment after the big business went, to the next city to bribe them. The city which backed their own people escaped the recession.

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