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NRT on transitioning off fossil fuels

Written By: - Date published: 9:10 am, March 21st, 2018 - 68 comments
Categories: capitalism, climate change, Economy, labour, transport - Tags: , ,

Two posts from norightturn.blogspot.co.nz yesterday.


No Right Turn: Digging her own hole

Yesterday, while accepting a petition from 45,000 people calling for an end to oil exploration, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern said her government was “actively considering” the issue. Then, faced with criticism from National and its oil industry backers, she tried to roll back the comments. And so this morning on Morning Report she’s “refining” them and making it clear that she was talking about the annual block offer of exploration permits.

Which, when you think about it, is how you end oil gradually: you cut off new exploration, and simply refuse to grant new mining permits for it (or rather, introduce a clause into the Crown Minerals Act requiring the impact on climate change and New Zealand’s emissions to be the overriding factor in decision-making, which would have the same effect). Existing emissions gradually taper off as fields are exhausted, problem solved. At the same time, by trying to be all things to all people, Ardern is just digging her own hole. It’s the same problem Labour has always had: a refusal to actually say where it stands. But when you’re going to talk big about climate change being this generation’s nuclear free moment, you need to follow that up by actually picking a fucking side. And you certainly don’t wibble around talking about how to accommodate the fuckers who are literally trying to turn a profit by destroying the global climate and ruining the lives of future generations.

Fundamentally, climate change means it is us or the oil industry. We know whose side the Greens are on. But people are doubting Labour, and they only have themselves to blame for it.


No Right Turn: Climate change: The necessary transition

If New Zealand is to meet its long-term emissions goal of net zero emissions by 2050, we need to drive an enormous technological shift towards a decarbonised economy. Banning pointless oil exploration is a necessary part of that on the production end. What about the consumption end? Writing in Stuff, Thomas Anderson and Jonathan Boston suggest an obvious measure: banning fossil fuelled cars:

Of such measures, perhaps the most effective would be a ban on the sale of all new or imported used vehicles with internal combustion engines. Such a ban could take effect, say, from 2030. Many developed and developing countries have already introduced or are seriously contemplating such bans (see the accompanying table). New Zealand should follow suit.As it stands, our transport sector accounts for around 18 per cent of annual gross greenhouse gas emissions and over a third of carbon-dioxide emissions. Emissions from road vehicles make up over 90 per cent of our total transport emissions. Hence, a ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles would, in due course, considerably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

Moreover, New Zealand is ideally placed to accelerate the switch to a low-carbon transportation system. Given current technologies, this implies relying heavily on electric vehicles (EVs).

About 85 per cent of our stationary energy comes from renewable sources and this percentage continues to increase. Accordingly, EVs can be recharged in New Zealand with a very low carbon footprint.

Several other countries have already adopted such bans, with varying target dates, and its easy to see why: if you want to drive technological change, then putting a use-by date on outdated technology is an easy way to do it. That’s what we did with analog TV and cellphone networks. Of course, cars are more expensive than those, but that’s just a question of lead-in time. And on that front, twelve years before an import ban seems like plenty of time to adapt. It’ll take longer for the tail of existing fossil-fuelled cars to shrink, and they’ll never completely disappear – there will always be antiques and museum pieces, just like the old Model T Fords or 50’s gas-guzzlers you still sometimes see on the roads. But it will push the shift we need to make, and with enough time for infrastructure networks to prepare and adapt. And by having a long lead time, it uses the usual upgrade cycle to our advantage, minimising the costs of the transition.

I don’t expect the government to announce this sort of measure in a hurry – it needs serious policy work on the implementation details. But I’m hoping they’ll announce it in a year or two. The longer they wait, the further back it pushes the necessary transition, and the more we pollute. And that’s something we can’t afford to do.

68 comments on “NRT on transitioning off fossil fuels ”

  1. KJT 1

    This is what really annoys me about labour.

    Say or do something that looks like they are heading in the right direction, then back down to the right wing spin and framing.

    Almost SOP for the last ten years.

  2. Pat 2

    Its not that complicated

    The Greenpeace petition calls for end to issuing further exploration permits not an immediate cessation of oil and gas extraction.

    The government has said it is considering this with an eye to managing the impacts and expects to have a decision in the next 2 months.

    Given a commitment to be carbon neutral by 2050 it is a given that oil and gas exploration with cease (and without exploration there can be no new extraction) the question is how this will be managed and the timeframe.

    We will know that soon enough…but to suggest that working out that management plan and its implementation means the extreme positions of no action or disastrous instant change is foolish in the extreme.If the timeframe is too long then there may be a case for the Government to answer….IF.

    No one, not even the Greenpeace petition is calling for the overnight closure of the industry in NZ and if the government agrees to cease issuing new permits tomorrow oil and gas from NZ will continue to extracted for years to come…and it needs to be while we change our infrastructure and lifestyles to adapt to that carbon neutral future.

    we need to get a grip


  3. Draco T Bastard 3

    Hence, a ban on the sale of new petrol or diesel vehicles would, in due course, considerably reduce our greenhouse gas emissions.

    Followed by a ban of importing fossil fuels about five years later.

    Long lead time to build up public transport with the necessary electric infrastructure, getting all trains in the country electric as well and then removal of pretty much all fossil fuelled transport a few years later.

    • Pat 3.1

      yes all those types of considerations…to be carbon neutral by 2050 NZ needs to reduce carbon emissions by over 3% (linear of todays consumption) per year…that means less oil and gas used each year.

      What the gov needs to model is the rate of supply demand interaction of a cessation of exploration with mind to other policy implementation to determine what impacts it will have…none of these decisions are in isolation….one would hope a hell of a lot of that work has already been done.

    • cleangreen 3.2

      Draco,T Bastard.

      I wished it would begin to happen and it should if jacinda was honest about tackling climate change as being “her generations nuclear moment.

      If we don’t begin to move now it is to late as when right wing parties come back to govern they will just cancel any action to lower the carbon emissions.

    • Wayne 3.3


      A government that tried a complete ban on fossils fuels anytime within the next 30 years would find at the next election they were no longer the government.

      • KJT 3.3.1

        The Government that allows continued use of fossil fuels, will be deposed by millions of climate change refugees, probably in less than thirty years.
        I don’t expect National hacks to understand time scales that long, however.

        • mikes

          Bollocks. Got any evidence to back up such claims?

          • KJT

            Plenty. But nothing you could understand.

            • Draco T Bastard

              I’d like to see this evidence.

              • KJT

                You don’t believe that climate change, properly called “anthropogenic global warming” is not going to cause millions of climate refugees heading for New Zealand? Many with much more weaponry than us.

                Seems pretty obvious to me. Already happening, with climate change induced crop failures, in many parts of the world.
                And the wealthy from elsewhere buying up boltholes in New Zealand.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  You don’t believe that climate change, properly called “anthropogenic global warming” is not going to cause millions of climate refugees heading for New Zealand?

                  I’ve been saying that for a while but I’ve just based it upon logic. Seems pretty obvious. Once some place becomes unliveable people are going to move and it’s obvious that NZ will be one of the destinations.

                  But you said you had evidence.

            • mikes

              So you don’t then.

      • mikes 3.3.2

        I think this is the first time I’ve ever agreed with you Wayne!

        These alarmists never seem to factor in the poor and the working class, those whom such a policy would harm the most. Unless you want to give everyone a free electric car?

        Pie in the sky stuff and only a small minority of the population would want such a change.

        Let it happen naturally, it will happen.

        • KJT

          The poor and working class will be better served by efficient and cheap, electric, public transport.

          • Draco T Bastard


            Make it free electric public transport.

            Concerned about who’s paying for it? Easy – have the businesses that depend upon having workers arrive at their place of work pay for it.

            Actually, that should be done now.

      • Draco T Bastard 3.3.3

        That’s not what I said now is it Wayne?

  4. Paul Campbell 4

    It dawned on me the other day that one thing we could do to get rid of gas and coal electricity generation in NZ would be to build a giant battery (like the SA tesla installation) and locate it close top the North Island fossil fueled generators – such a plant would buy cheap wind power at 2am and sell it in competition to the fossil fueled generators at peak times.

    There’s a good chance this would actually be a profit making enterprise power would be cheaper than that made by gas/etc and drive the CO2 emitters oput of business.

    It might be a great plan for lefties to pool our money to build a starter plant and then plow profits into expansion

    Note: I’ve not actually done the numbers here, but probably we should, it might be a great way to do some good in the world, and eventually make a little money

    In the South Island we don;t need batteries – the Clyde dam for example has 2 unused penstocks, attach generators to them and let the lake fill when the wind blows and you have a more efficient battery and extra peak generating capacity when it doesn’t

    • weka 4.1

      what’s going to happen to the Clyde upstream storage and recharge going into climate change? Presumably different rainfall and snow patterns and smaller glaciers.

      We need to be using less power. Or at least sustainably designing society around the actual resource not some mythical idea of perpetual growth.

      If we started powering down now we could reduce our FF plants much faster.

      Using Clyde as a battery makes sense, but would be far better served if we approached this with sustainable systems thinking.

      • Paul Campbell 4.1.1

        Oh I agree, let’s start by shutting down the smelter and redeploying that electricity to more productive (to the NZ economy) use

        • weka

          I was also thinking that we have to stop expecting perpetual increase in overall usage and that means reassessing domestic, commercial and industrial end use.

          So for electric cars, I’d like to see some auditing with that in mind. Mostly what I see currently is hey this will solve transport fuel emissions (never mind we are outsourcing the manufacturing emissions) but we still have to figure out how to generate that within a finite generating capacity.

          • KJT

            A lot of our generating capacity is wasted at present.

            We have to allow for peak use.

            Without storage, excess hydro lake capacity is dumped, for one.

            Vehicles can charge off peak.

            • weka

              does that mean we are guessing here?

              Yes, we can improve efficiency, but there is still a limit on how much power we can generate with existing hydro (and I think we’re not going to build and more big dams).

              • KJT

                We have barely touched the capacity of wind tidal and solar power. All of which are well suited to NZ.

                Not to mention energy from waste and sewage plants.

                • weka

                  All of which require FF to build and maintain. And assuming we want to burn those FF to do that, there is still a physical limit on how much power we can generate from those too.

                  • Draco T Bastard

                    All of which require FF to build and maintain.

                    No they don’t.

                    I’ve explained that to you time and time again. We have the technology and the resources to be able to build all renewable power generation without using fossil fuels.

                  • KJT

                    Even where they do, it is a fraction of the amount we use now.

    • KJT 4.2

      Don’t need batteries. We already have enough hydro lakes to use for pumped storage.

      • weka 4.2.1

        got an audit on that? And projection for energy needed vs power provided via hydro in a changing climate?

        • KJT

          Was part of one of my uni environmental technology papers. Unfortunately burn’t with my shed.

          I can probably find it all again. Then it is just simple arithmetic. Transport energy use vs excess electricity.

          More unsettled climate will, most likely, be good for hydro, wave and wind power.

          We could have already had all our stationary power from sustainable sources. If the National party had not intervened.

          • weka

            “More unsettled climate will, most likely, be good for hydro, wave and wind power.”

            Will decreased glaciers affect it? How about changes in snow patterns? Rainfall is supposed to get heavier but with longer periods in between, which I think strengthens my argument not yours. Afaik we already drop hydro storage lower than we should because of drought.

            “We could have already had all our stationary power from sustainable sources. If the National party had not intervened.”

            Wasn’t the Clyde Dam supposed to provide enough power for NZ and Aramoana. What happened to the excess?

          • Draco T Bastard

            More unsettled climate will, most likely, be good for hydro, wave and wind power.

            Not hydro – projections show that NZ will be dryer as ACC advances.

            We could have already had all our stationary power from sustainable sources. If the National party had not intervened.

            Was it the National Party?

            I seem to recall the 4th Labour government having a whinge about Muldoon’s Think Big which is, of course, what got us to our high rate of renewable energy generation.

            • Pat

              “I seem to recall the 4th Labour government having a whinge about Muldoon’s Think Big which is, of course, what got us to our high rate of renewable energy generation.”

              Not really…there was only one hydro scheme under Think Big….Clyde ,which accounts for around 5% of capacity…..most were developed well before that.

              Not that it is terribly important in relation to ceasing oil/gas exploration….which interestingly is almost entirely exported…well the oil not, the gas.

      • Paul Campbell 4.2.2

        not so much in the north island, plus batteries respond a lot faster to changes in demand

  5. Bill 5

    Pick a time scale in line with the basic laws of physics that might see us ducking two degrees if we get to zero carbon from energy and low carbon from land use. That’s easy done and is about 20 odd years.

    Now buy the approx 2 billion litres of petrol and diesel burned in NZ every year (about $2 billion from the public purse) and give it away for free under the auspices of a hard sinking cap that would achieve that zero carbon from energy in the time available, while simultaneously freeing up money for businesses and individuals to invest in whatever appropriate non-carbon energy suits their needs (eg solar in the stead of oil boilers or gas heating. Electric bus fleets in the stead of diesel. Etc)

    It’s not rocket science.

    Alternatively, encourage elected representatives to keep on with the hand wringing and fine rhetoric.

    • cleangreen 5.1

      My son is employed to install solar power units.

      Next week he is contracted to install a massive 180 panel power system this will power up to ten homes, so it is a no brainer.

      Overseas now large test solar panel power units are being added to electric powered trains to use as backup power supplies, and are finding them to be effective so trains are the future not the past here, as trucks use tyres that use oil fuel and generate pollution and friction drag and trains do not as steel wheels are far less cause of friction, being steel on steel

      Rail freight not road freight is the future,.

      • patricia bremner 5.1.1

        The newer solar panels are more efficient and have a longer life So do modern batteries. Australian homes almost all have solar panels and double glazing.

        Business appears to be on board, and architects and town planners are putting up buildings which are 20deg aprox day and night.

        More decisions are going the way of conservation and developments have to meet standards to get permits. That is just beginning here.

        I personally applaud every step large and small.

    • funstigator 5.2

      Have a guess at the energy required and CO2 produced building the storage for your 2 billion litres.

      • Bill 5.2.1

        Well, since the 2 billion litres is the approximate yearly consumption of petrol and diesel in NZ right now, I think we can take it as a given that the storage already exists.

        Or did you think the 2 billion litres needs to be bought and delivered in one go?

        Anyway. In the second year, with a hard sinking cap, NZ would be looking at 1.8 billion litres, then 1.62 billions litres and so on. (Assuming a conservative year on year reduction of 10% is sufficient).

        Rough back of the envelope calculations suggest that the total cost isn’t too far away from what I recall as the total spend on carbon credits proposed by the last government. (ie, $14 billion over 10 years?)

  6. Jenny 6

    Demand the Acquittal of the Andarko Two

    Weaken in practice the Andarko Amendment,

    Win back the right to protest on the high seas.

    Politics is all about pressure

    Witness all the pressure that is coming on the Prime Minister, to “walk back” from her comments made on the steps of parliament, that suggested that oil exploration may cease..

    We need to strengthen the government’s hand.

    To put steel behind the Prime Ministers words and stop oil and gas exploration in our waters we need to build up a countervailing pressure to that of the fossil fuel lobby.

    This means building up the same sort of protests that made New Zealand nuclear free.

    Update of Russel Norman’s defiance of the Andarko Amendment Act

    “Greenpeace NZ executive director to face judge only trial over ‘repugnant’ charges”

    Greenpeace executive director Russel Norman and a fellow activist will fight charges Norman has previously labelled “morally repugnant” in a judge alone trial next April.


    This is the way to stop gas and oil exploration in this country.

    Will the government make a cause celebre of Russel Normand and Sarah Howel?

    Will Russel Norman and Sarah Howel become New Zealand’s first political prisoners of conscience in a very long time?

    There is no doubt that this is a political trial. Note the judge only nature of the trial.

    No jury in this country would convict Russel Norman and Sara Howel of what Russel Norman rightly called “repugnant charges”.

    After a jury trial, resulted in the acquittal of the Waihopai Three, The National Government was going to make sure that wouldn’t happen again.

    Demand the Acquittal of the Andarko Two

  7. AsleepWhileWalking 7

    The idea of banning cars with combustion engines has serious flaws.

    Firstly all alternatives currently require either metals like cobalt, lithium in quantities that would far outstript available supplies if such a ban took place. There are already slavery concerns with children in toxic conditions mining cobalt. Your electric car may not be as innocuous as you thought.

    Secondly all alternative energy production requires fossil fuel to produce the equipment in the first place. This includes wind + solar.

    I was watching an interview with Boogie Boy (Boogie Brew). He pointed out that growing things hydroponically required ingredients derived from oil. Holy heck I didn’t realise even hydroponics were affected. (FYI he also described how to make Boogie to superfuel your garden – YT Reluctant Preppers, “Grow more for less in half the space” with Josh Cummings.

    • weka 7.1

      Everything we do is supported by fossil fuels. We could ban cars with combustion engines and power down (e.g. redesign society and our lives to travel less, and to use public or shared transport).

    • Bill 7.2

      Why replace banned combustion engine vehicles with electric ones?

      Apart from your concerns over mining, there’s the question of to what degree current power supply would need expanded to “feed” all that electric stock – on top of the all the other carbon related energy that’s going to have to switch to electric.

      We don’t just use energy. We waste it in copious amounts by way of thoughtless, frivolous and sometimes downright pointless daily activity.

      And that’s before getting onto the pathetic efficiency standards that gnaw at production specifications like the teeth of a rag doll.

      • KJT 7.2.1

        Electric trains vs private cars?

      • KJT 7.2.2

        “Schafer (2011) cites two studies which suggests that if EVs are charged off-peak, they won’t have much effect on New Zealand’s electricity demand or the need for new power plant capacity”. https://www.greaterauckland.org.nz/2016/01/30/electric-vehicles-part-5-2/

        The studies, of course are unfortunately behind the Journal pay wall, or subject to copyright even though paid for by public money.

        • Bill

          Maybe so.

          But since about 80% of the energy we consume is from carbon emitting sources, I can’t see how 80% of current energy use getting transferred or switched to non-carbon electrical sources gets done without a huge increase in generating capacity – even allowing for unprecedented cuts in energy demand.

          • KJT

            Because we have power plants set up for peak demand, a lot of “of peak” capacity simply goes down the spillway, as we have no way of storing or using it.
            That can be used for charging electric transport. Of course freight trains can be run, off peak, also.

            • Bill

              So…”we” is as in humanity – ie, a global thing.

              Now take out all the gas and coal fired stations that provide peak capacity. Take out the bio-fuel ones too.

              And we struggle to provide the 20% of our current energy demand that comes from electric.

              Stack on top of that demand, not just electric vehicles which, as you say, can theoretically be charged “off peak”, but all the heat pumps, electric stoves, municipal heating systems, industrial processes and “million and one” other energy needs that have to be shifted from coal, oil, and gas sources… – ie, fully 80% of our current energy use. And it simply doesn’t stack up in the nice way you imply.

              Not even for NZ as an isolated case.

              • Pat

                No it dosnt stack up….and NZ is probably the best placed advanced economy to make it work but even here will require a massive change in expectations….that is something that is widely misunderstood or ignored….and in some cases deliberately unspoken for fear of backlash.

    • timeforacupoftea 7.3

      About 5% population can do without a carbon burning monster.

      20 years time it may change but a problem on the horizon is a major shortage of cobalt.

      Without cobalt some of the largest tech companies on the planet – like Tesla and Apple would file for bankruptcy.

      60% of the worlds cobalt production comes from war-torn Democratic Republic of the Congo.

      A lot of trouble will be coming from this, just like the oil industry in the Middle East.

      • Draco T Bastard 7.3.1

        About 5% population can do without a carbon burning monster.

        100% of the population can do without a ‘carbon burning monster’.

        Without cobalt some of the largest tech companies on the planet – like Tesla and Apple would file for bankruptcy.

        [Citation Needed]

        Lack of cobalt does seem to be an issue for NZ:

        In the early 20th century during the development of farming on the North Island Volcanic Plateau of New Zealand, cattle suffered from what was termed “bush sickness”. It was discovered that the volcanic soils lacked the cobalt salts essential for the cattle food chain.

        Or, perhaps, we just need to get rid of the cattle.

      • KJT 7.3.2

        As most cars in New Zealand travel less than 50km a day at a speed of less than 60km/hr, I don’t see the lack of exotic metals, for fancy batteries, as a limiting factor.

    • Draco T Bastard 7.4

      Firstly all alternatives currently require either metals like cobalt, lithium in quantities that would far outstript available supplies if such a ban took place.

      Which just means that there won’t be private cars and everyone will be using public transport. Also, a few companies have developed alloys that’s almost as good as rare-earth magnets for motors.

      There are already slavery concerns with children in toxic conditions mining cobalt.

      We certainly need to look into this and ban imports of products and from nations that have slave labour in their make up.

      Secondly all alternative energy production requires fossil fuel to produce the equipment in the first place.

      No it doesn’t.

      I was watching an interview with Boogie Boy (Boogie Brew). He pointed out that growing things hydroponically required ingredients derived from oil.

      1. He’s actually wrong
      2. So? Using hydrocarbons isn’t a problem – burning them is

  8. Matthew Whitehead 8

    Worth noting that there is absolutely a rationale to whip NZF to their coalition agreement on this, if any legislation is necessary: Their agreement only obliges Labour to support extractive industries when they aren’t threatening conservation goals. Climate Change is arguably the biggest threat to conservation in New Zealand, so they should be obliged to support Labour’s conservation goals in mitigating it.

  9. Macro 9

    Have to say I was in serious breach of the 10th the other day .. My neighbour has a really sweet donkey – and mine is only half an ass. I asked him if it was heaven sent and how long did he have to wait to get his hands on it. Lucky bugga.

  10. Pat 10

    I despair

    • Pat 10.1

      this is likely the easiest decision we will have to make to achieve carbon neutral by 2050…it should be a slam dunk.

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