Oil and Water Mix.

Written By: - Date published: 11:17 am, June 20th, 2017 - 23 comments
Categories: capitalism, Economy, energy, Environment, Ethics, global warming, political alternatives, science, tax, water - Tags: , ,

When we turn on the tap and pour ourselves a glass of water, fill the jug, have a shower or whatever, we don’t pay for it. All of the infrastructure that delivers the water to our tap has been paid for and is maintained through rates. In times of drought, we might have by-laws enacted that mean we give up watering our lawns or washing our cars. Money does go towards providing a resource – water for households. But it’s not generally paid for on an individual ‘user pays’ basis, and in certain scenarios, regulations kick in to limit its use.

Why don’t we have a similar situation governing our use of fossil fuels?

If climate sensitivity is low (a very optimistic assumption) then we have about 20 years to make our energy system completely fossil free. That would give us an outside chance of holding any rise in the world’s average surface temperature below 2 degrees C, and ensure that only hundreds of millions of people in equatorial and the tropical regions died. That’s probably the best we can aim for now. We can price, tax, or trade in CO2 as much as we like for the next 20 years, and the result will be a world beyond 2 degrees. In the time we have available, there are no existing price mechanisms within our current economic paradigm that will reduce our fossil fuel use anything like fast enough.

But that’s okay – by taking some pointers from how we manage our water we can see possible ways forward.

In 2015, the IMF calculated that the NZ government subsidised the fossil industry to the tune of some $NZ 3.6 billion per year (up $NZ 0.43 billion from 2013).

Now we’re being told that the government intends to pay out another $NZ1 billion per year for 14 years, with the idea that those payments will somehow allow us to continue pouring ever increasing amounts of CO2 into the atmosphere. In some abstract world of economics, one where physics doesn’t exist, that might make some sense. But this is the real world. Physics exists.

So in recognition of reality, why doesn’t the government take that $NZ 1 billion, add on the other $NZ 3.6 billion identified by the IMF, and use the resultant $NZ4.6 billion to buy all of NZ’s gas and oil needs from the oil companies at current wholesale prices, and then, with a caveat that we’ll come to in just a second, provide liquid fossil to end users in much the same way we do water?

Last time I looked, NZ consumed about 2 billion litres of diesel and petrol every year. The wholesale cost of a litre of diesel or petrol is less than $NZ1. So if the government was to buy up the whole lot there’d still be some $NZ 2.6 billion left over in the first year. And with the introduction of a hard sinking cap (that’s the caveat), an increasing amount left over in every subsequent year.

Does anyone think that $2.6 billion wouldn’t be enough to cover gas purchases from the public purse and fit the 1500 petrol and diesel storage tanks in NZ with the  hardware and software required to manage a hard sinking cap on fossil availability?

Confession.

I’ve cheated a wee bit on the figures. The $3.6 billion the IMF calculated was the total cost of both direct and indirect subsidies to fossil fuel. So maybe the government would  need to introduce a new tax for high earners (who tend to be high fossil users) in order to cover any short term gap between on-going but shrinking indirect costs (eg – fossil related health expenditures) and the monies required to buy up the country’s fossil needs.

A hard sinking cap that reduces the availability of fossil fast enough, as per required by the best scientific information we have, gives us some time to adapt to fossil free living. The first year or so would likely be quite painless, and by the time it’s getting around to being difficult well, at least we’d be into the swing of things.

Our other option of course, is to keep on with the strategy from the past quarter of a century, of doing nothing useful in the hope that we (and everything around us) can adapt to all the effects that will come with an ever increasing rise in the world’s average surface temperature.

One of the above two options is complete madness.

23 comments on “Oil and Water Mix.”

  1. Wayne 1

    Bill,

    Clearly you do not live in Auckland. We do pay water rates on a volumetric basis. That is when you fill your glass from the tap, you pay for that use. These water rates pay for the water storage and reticulation system. Many other towns and cities have similar systems of water charging.

    • weka 1.1

      Given that most places in NZ don’t pay for water by the glassful, and you are old enough to remember when all water was free, your comment is pretty much irrelevant to the post and to the comparison that Bill is making as a way of looking at fossil fuel use and how to lower it fast.

      • mordecai 1.1.1

        Actually, given the proportion of the population do live in Auckland, and given that Auckland is far from the only region in which the citizens pay for water, the opening sentence of the post is downright misleading. But then given other comments in the post (eg ” then we have about 20 years to make our energy system completely fossil free.”) the entire article hardly rises above the initial error.

    • Bill 1.2

      Yes Wayne. Obviously I don’t live in Auckland.

      And obviously you didn’t read the post with any degree of mindfulness. This line about domestic water, that I’m helpfully adding emphasis to “it’s not generally paid for on an individual ‘user pays’ basis” covers off your attempt at avoidance.

      Anything to say about the substantive issues raised in the post or about the general thrust of the post?

      • Wayne 1.2.1

        Bill,

        Obviously my comment was not directed to the main point. But the opening sentence was certainly a bit odd for an Aucklander to read.

        As for rationing fuel which is what a “hard sinking cap” would be, well “no.” In principle I dont like that level of government interference.

        Price signals as per the ETS is better. It is really a question of the cost of the credits that gets added to the fuel cost.

        I prefer positive incentives, such as making electric cars more desirable.

        Perhaps a rebate of the GST. Which is different to making them GST exempt, but would provide the same economic incentive.

        That would bring the new price of the cheapest practical E cars down to around $40,000. If the cars were good enough (and the Nissan Leaf wasn’t being too range limited) then we should see substantial purchaser uptake. Even the BMW i3 would be around $55,000 or so without the GST component.

        • Bill 1.2.1.1

          Do any of those measures equate to a 15% reduction in fossil use this year Wayne? And in the following year too? And in every year thereafter? That’s the order of the cuts we need for just an outside chance of ducking 2 degrees C of warming.

          This isn’t about ideological preferences Wayne. This is about doing something that works.

      • mordecai 1.2.2

        ““it’s not generally paid for on an individual ‘user pays’ basis””
        How do you define ‘generally’? Add the population of Auckland, Rotorua etc and you’ll get a substantial proportion of the country’s population paying for their water on a usage basis.

    • RedLogix 1.3

      The whole fossil fuel/climate change issue was politicised, not because of the science, but because the right was afraid of the measures they knew would be necessary to combat it.

      • Bill 1.3.1

        Denial and/or avoidance isn’t a right/left thing RL.

        If it was, there would be plenty of examples of worthwhile action to point to that came from governments that claimed to lean to the left. But there are none. It’s been over a quarter of a century’s worth of meaningless bullshit from left and right.

        • Draco T Bastard 1.3.1.1

          True, Labour’s just as bad about propping up capitalism as National is.

        • weka 1.3.1.2

          Actually Clark’s Labour government at the department level was doing significant work on preparing NZ for the coming climate change issues and they just got ignored by the incoming National Party. Even though the left aren’t there yet, they’re still miles ahead of the right, and at least moving in the right direction.

          • Bill 1.3.1.2.1

            The rhetoric coming from Clark’s government was definitely streets ahead of anything we’ve witnessed this past, however many years in NZ, true.

            But in terms of action or proposed action, it was still very much mired in incrementalism – by which I mean the notion, that although the problem might be recognised, the solution is seen as lying in changes being made to current political and economic settings with an aim of preserving the basic underpinnings of those settings.

            Whereas that might have been possible back in ’91 or whenever, it’s just not an option now. Anything suggesting such a direction of travel today is going very much in the wrong direction.

            To expand. We need cuts that are somewhere in the order of 15% per annum.

            But the very powerful ‘high priests’ of mainstream economics has been very insistent that CO2 cuts above about 5% per annum will lead to the collapse of liberal capitalism. So that 5% as a maximum has been fed into just about every Integrated Assessment Model of global warming. Scientists have accommodated that over-riding ideological consideration by ‘fiddling’ other parameters such as peak emission dates or emission rates. (Kevin Anderson has done a lot of sterling work revealing it if you care to look it up)

            I’m away now, but will pick up on this post/ this thread tomorrow.

          • RedLogix 1.3.1.2.2

            Agreed. Same here over the Tasman, climate change is an issue that has torn apart one government after another. But fundamentally it was the left who strove for a carbon tax and the right which succeeded in sabotaging it.

            Now almost two decades later Turnbull’s govt has tacitly conceded that some form of carbon pricing is necessary … but still fights off reactionary idiocy from the right of the Coalition.

      • Andre 1.3.2

        Opinion pieces that come across as being motivated by wanting to upend capitalism and completely change the structure of society, and responding to climate change is simply a handy tool for that goal, also do a good job of politicising the issue in an unhelpful way.

        • Bill 1.3.2.1

          Opinions that come across as being motivated by wanting to preserve current capitalist settings at all costs, and in lieu of making changes that are necessary in light of global warming are dangerous opinions that deserve nothing but contempt and dismissal.

          Either we change or global warming will force the change that you, Andre want to avoid. You’re position is lose/lose. But it seems you simply don’t want to think it through and don’t give a shit if that means taking everyone and everything down on the back of the stupidity and fear you support and defend.

        • RedLogix 1.3.2.2

          Exactly. While there is plenty of evidence of villainy on the part of fossil fuel corporates funding fear and doubt denier campaigns simply to protect their shareholder profits … it hasn’t helped that various flavours of Marxism have happily fanned those fears into full flame by proposing solutions which utterly upend the world as most people understood it.

          This should have been a relatively straightforward issue to deal with, albeit challenging at scale. No more politically difficult than dealing with CFC’s and the ozone layer. Instead it was polarised into paralysis.

          Actually I don’t have too much issue with Bill’s proposal in the OP. Quite doable as long as there is a clear path painted through the phasing out of oil.

          People do value the freedom of movement the motor car brought them enormously. I still vividly recall the little baby-blue Austin A-35 that was my father’s first car, and how much it transformed my parents lives. We forget that for much of human history the vast majority of women who ever lived probably spent their entire lives within a 5 mile radius of the spot they were born. Sack cloth and ashes is not a political substitute for this freedom.

          No wonder voters have largely opted for a passive-aggressive resistance to what needed doing. No wonder most people know the science is real, but remain tight-lipped about what to do about it. Because the agenda was noisily hi-jacked on both sides of the spectrum by extremists, the majority opted to do nothing.

          Having said this, I think the mood is changing. Fence sitting is becoming less viable as each climate disaster strikes, as the brute arrogance of the carbonites becomes less tolerable, and it becomes clear that renewables, while not yet perfect, are indeed a viable alternative.

          OK so there is every reason to hope for the demise of the fossil carbon giants, and the excess concentration of power they have accumulated. But to move and motivate the great mass of people, it is crucial to have a vision of a future which they can recognise, that they see themselves being a part of, that inspires hope rather than dread.

          • Andre 1.3.2.2.1

            I was getting started on something fairly close to this in reply to Bill, but you beat me to it and did a better job. Thanks

            • garibaldi 1.3.2.2.1.1

              The sad fact is that the changes the whole developed world has to make in their lifestyles are colossal and thus won’t be done until forced upon them.
              The biggest single polluter is the American military. Anyone got any ideas on how to stop them? Any ideas on how to stop the opposing militaries?
              Who is going to stop the other numerous excesses of various industries in numerous Countries worldwide?
              The problem is so vast I can’t see human beings being capable of solving it. Going to Paris and signing an unsatisfactory document was pathetic .

  2. Draco T Bastard 2

    What’s Up With That: Building Bigger Roads Actually Makes Traffic Worse

    Interestingly, the effect works in reverse, too. Whenever some city proposes taking lanes away from a road, residents scream that they’re going to create a huge traffic snarl. But the data shows that nothing truly terrible happens. The amount of traffic on the road simply readjusts and overall congestion doesn’t really increase.

    The simplest way to start decreasing our fossil fuel use seems to be to start digging up roads.

    Just think, if we turned the road outside everyone’s house into a nice community area people might actually start talking to their neighbours.

  3. Gosman 3

    Have you ever wondered why the moves to combat climate change are stalling? It might be something to do with the continued linkage people make between the economic system and the problem. You might well be right but you also will not have much luck getting traction on change. Perhaps you don’t think it is an urgent problem though. In which case please carry on as you are.

    • weka 3.1

      Well duh. Of course it’s linked to the economic (and political) system, and of course people are struggling to accept that and know what to do. Teaching your grandmother to suck eggs there Gosman, but I see you don’t offer any solutions and I suspect that’s because you value money over life. Not to worry, you’ll go down just as fast as the rest of us.

      • One Anonymous Bloke 3.1.1

        Gosman will no doubt try and figure out how to go down faster than anyone else, for a profit.

    • roadrage 3.2

      Building solar panels costs resources, it could be argued that Trumps move to decouple from Paris was to let the US compete with China. So Trump is either irrelevant as we are moving towards compliance or his ineptness is helping. Coz the way it looks is Energy industry is already moving to the new paradigm. As for carbon targets, really, were they ever just a big talk fest.

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    There appears to be consensus – by omission – that the concept of indigenous futures should be accepted at face value. So I scavenged the internet to see if I could locate an academic descriptor or a framework around how we think about it as a concept, and whether it ...
    EllipsisterBy Ellipsister
    1 week ago
  • Cadbury rumoured to be releasing the Pineapple Trump
    Here’s another novelty chocolate to shove in your gob, New Zealand Cadbury could be seeking to make itself great again with a rumoured new release: Pineapple Trumps, a spin on its classic chocolate-encased pineapple treat and do-it-yourself tooth remover. The global confectionery manufacturer and bumbling “before” character in an infomercial, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • The coming resource war.
    During my time in the Pentagon I had the privilege of sitting down with military leaders and defence and security officials from a variety of Latin American nations. Sometimes I was present as a subordinate assistant to a senior US defence department official, sometimes as part of a delegation that ...
    KiwipoliticoBy Pablo
    1 week ago
  • Māori Language Week with The Civilian
    Kia ora, Aotearoa. It’s that magical time of year. Te Wiki o te Reo Māori. In English, the week that frightens talk radio. As you probably know by now, all your favourite media outlets are participating, some more successfully than others. Stuff has changed its name to Puna for the ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    1 week ago
  • Will Horizons act on climate change?
    Local body elections are coming up next month. And it looks like all Palmerston North candidates for Horizons (the Manawatu-Whanganui Regional Council) want to take action on climate change:Climate change is set to be a key issue in Palmerston North for the next three years if those wanting to get ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • BORA reform is stalled
    Eighteen months ago, the government promised to strengthen the Bill of Rights Act, by explicitly affirming the power of the courts to issue declarations of inconsistency and requiring Parliament to formally respond to them. So how's that going? I was curious, so I asked for all advice about the proposal. ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Corbyn and Brexit
    As the Brexit saga staggers on, the focus is naturally enough on the Prime Minister and his attempts to achieve Brexit “do or die”. But the role played by the Leader of the Opposition is of almost equal interest and complexity. The first problem for Jeremy Corbyn is that he ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • A ditch for him to die in
    Last week, English Prime Minister Boris Johnson boldly declared that he would rather die be dead in a ditch than delay Brexit. Unfortunately for him, the UK parliament accepted the challenge, and promptly dug one for him. The "rebellion bill" requires him to ask for and secure yet another temporary ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Warning! Warning! Danger Jacinda Ardern! Danger Marama Davidson! Warning!
    Lost In Political Space: The most important takeaway from this latest Labour sexual assault scandal, which (if I may paraphrase Nixon’s White House counsel’s, John Dean’s, infamous description of Watergate) is “growing like a cancer” on the premiership, is the Labour Party organisation’s extraordinary professional paralysis in the face of ...
    1 week ago
  • Union solidarity with Ihumatao land occupation
    by Daphna Whitmore Every Sunday for the past two months unionists from First Union, with supporters from other unions, have set out to the Ihumatao land protest, put up gazebos and gas barbeques, and cooked food for a few hundred locals and supporters who have come from across the country. ...
    RedlineBy Daphna
    1 week ago
  • Climate Change: The wrong kind of trees?
    Newsroom today has an excellent, in-depth article on pine trees as carbon sinks. The TL;DR is that pine is really good at soaking up carbon, but people prefer far-less efficient native forests instead. Which is understandable, but there's two problems: firstly, we've pissed about so long on this problem that ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • No freedom of speech in Turkey
    Canan Kaftancioglu is a Turkish politician and member of the opposition Republican People's Party (CHP). Like most modern politicians, she tweets, and uses the platform to criticise the Turkish government. She has criticised them over the death of a 14-year-old boy who was hit by a tear gas grenade during ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Speaker: Tadhg Stopford: Why I’m standing for the ADHB
    Hi there, just call me Tim.We face tough problems, and I’d like to help, because there are solutions.An Auckand District Health Board member has nominated me for as a candidate for the ADHB, because her MS-related pain and fatigue is reduced with hemp products from Rotorua.  Nothing else helped her. If I ...
    1 week ago
  • Good little vassals
    The Inspector-General of Intelligence and Security has published their report on whether the SIS and GCSB had any complicity in American torture. And its damning. The pull quote is this:The Inquiry found both agencies, but to a much greater degree, the NZSIS, received many intelligence reports obtained from detainees who, ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    1 week ago
  • Who Shall We Turn To When God, And Uncle Sam, Cease To Defend New Zealand?
    Bewhiskered Cassandra? Professor Hugh White’s chilling suggestion, advanced to select collections of academic, military and diplomatic Kiwi experts over the course of the past week, is that the assumptions upon which Australia and New Zealand have built their foreign affairs and defence policies for practically their entire histories – are ...
    1 week ago
  • The Politics of Opposition
    For most of the time I was a British MP, my party was out of government – these were the Thatcher years, when it was hard for anyone else to get a look-in. As a front-bencher and shadow minister, I became familiar with the strategies required in a parliamentary democracy ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    1 week ago
  • More expert comments on the Canadian fluoride-IQ paper
    The Green et al (2019) fluoride/IQ is certainly controversial – as would be expected from its subject (see If at first you don’t succeed . . . statistical manipulation might help and Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear). Anti-fluoride campaigners have been actively promoting it ...
    1 week ago
  • The return to guerrilla war in Colombia
    by Gearóid Ó Loingsigh On August 29th a video in which veteran FARC (Revolutionary Armed Forces of Colombia) commander Iván Márquez announced that they had taken up arms again was released. There was no delay in the reaction to it, from longtime Liberal Party figure and former president Uribe, for ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    1 week ago
  • Air New Zealand identifies this enormous plot of unused land as possible second airport site
    Air New Zealand couldn’t believe its luck that this seemingly ideal piece of real estate had so far gone entirely unnoticed. Air New Zealand’s search for a site to build a second Auckland Airport may have made a breakthrough this afternoon, after employees scanning Google satellite imagery spotted a huge, ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Redline on the Labour Party
    No-one on the anti-capitalist left in this country today puts forward a case that Labour is on the side of the working class.  There are certainly people who call themselves ‘socialist’ who do, but they are essentially liberals with vested interests in Labourism – often for career reasons. Nevertheless, there ...
    RedlineBy Admin
    2 weeks ago
  • New Fisk
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Labour’s failure
    When National was in government and fucking over the poor for the benefit of the rich, foodbanks were a growth industry. And now Labour is in charge, nothing has changed: A huge demand for emergency food parcels means the Auckland City Mission is struggling to prepare for the impending arrival ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Ardern attempts to vaccinate Clarke Gayford live on television to prove that it’s safe
    Gayford, pictured here on The Project, before things got wildly out of control. A bold public relations move by the Government to encourage parents to vaccinate their children has gone horribly wrong. Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern appeared on tonight’s episode of Three’s The Project, where the plan was for her ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Has Mr. Whippy gone too far by parking on our front lawns?
    Mr. Whippy’s business model has driven it down a dark road of intimidation. Residents in major centres around the country are becoming disgruntled by the increasingly aggressive actions of purported ice cream company Mr. Whippy, who have taken to parking on people’s front lawns and doorsteps in a desperate attempt ...
    The CivilianBy admin
    2 weeks ago
  • Cleaning up the water
    Today the government released its Action Plan for Healthy Waterways, aimed at cleaning up our lakes and rivers. Its actually quite good. There will be protection for wetlands, better standards for swimming spots, a requirement for continuous improvement, and better standards for wastewater and stormwater. But most importantly, there's a ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Fronting up
    Today I appeared before the Environment Committee to give an oral submission on the Zero Carbon Bill. Over 1,500 people have asked to appear in person, so they've divided into subcommittees and are off touring the country, giving people a five minute slot each. The other submitters were a mixed ...
    No Right TurnBy Idiot/Savant
    2 weeks ago
  • Politics of science – making a silk purse out of a sow’s ear
    Anti-fluoride activists have some wealthy backers – they are erecting billboards misrepresenting the Canadian study on many New Zealand cities – and local authorities are ordering their removal because of their scaremongering. Many New Zealanders ...
    2 weeks ago
  • Democracy – I Don’t Think So
    So, those who “know best” have again done their worst. While constantly claiming to be the guardians of democracy and the constitution, and respecters of the 2016 referendum result, diehard Remainers (who have never brought themselves to believe that their advice could have been rejected) have striven might and main ...
    Bryan GouldBy Bryan Gould
    2 weeks ago

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