Open mike 26/06/2021

Written By: - Date published: 6:00 am, June 26th, 2021 - 31 comments
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31 comments on “Open mike 26/06/2021 ”

  1. Jenny how to get there 1

    Why are still subsidising polluters?

    Why are we allowing ourselves to be ripped off like this?

    Can anyone explain it?

    Why aren't we doing this instead?

    The Glenbrook steel mill is one of New Zealand's dirtiest emitters, producing over 1.6 million tons of CO2 a year. The cost to the government is even higher: weirdly, we subsidise it by 2.1 million tons a year. At the government's internal valuation, that's worth $315 million a year.

    According to Bluescope Steel's 2020 annual report (p 66), the total value of their New Zealand assets – including Glenbrook, Pacific Steel (which processes some of Glenbrook's output), and the Waikato North Head ironsan[d]s mine – is $625 million. Its unclear if this is US or Australian dollars, but we're basicly in the ballpark of being able to buy the entire operation and shut it down for two years worth of subsidy. The mill employs 1400 people, so the effective carbon subsidy we are paying for these jobs is $225,000 per worker per year. We could buy it, kill it, pay everyone involved a quarter of a million dollars to find something else to do, and still be better off…..

    Let’s build back better.

    • Adrian 1.1

      And export our old steel to China and buy it back at a dirtier cost. Our lets not have any steel at all and collapse all our manufacturing, building, and all other industries that employ millions of people and just revert back to the stone age which would kill off far, far, far more humans in an incredibly short period of time than any rise in temperatures could. Brilliant thinking.

      • Jenny how to get there 1.1.1


        26 June 2021 at 9:04 am

        ….lets not have any steel at all and collapse all our manufacturing, building, and all other industries that employ millions of people and just revert back to the stone age….

        Hi Adrian,

        I think you are misrepresenting what No Right Turn is saying. They are not the neo-luddites, you are suggesting they are. I think you need to read the whole post.

        [the above paragraph is] ….a pretty compelling case for shutting it down. But there's an alternative: modernising the plant to use hydrogen and electricity, rather than coal and natural gas. For a ballpark of the costs, the Swedish project is spending US$3 billion (~NZ$4.25 billion) to make a plant producing 5 million tons of clean steel a year. Glenbrook produces ~600,000 tons a year, so assuming the cost downscales (it won't, but its fine for a ballpark calculation), we could do this for around half a billion NZ dollars – or two years carbon subsidy. We'd also need a hydrogen production plant, and ~100MW of renewable generation to power it, but from the Huntly case, that's ~$300 million, or another years subsidy. So for a similar price to the kill price we could clean up the plant, keep the jobs, avoid social disruption, and make the global environment better off

        Since at least the Enlightenment, if not earlier, human civilisaton has embarked down a road of scientific industrialisation and technological advancement from which there is no return. This scientific advancement has seen us banish, (for the most part), devastating famines and diseases far more deadly than the current pandemic. Billions of people are reliant on the advances in scientific knowledge, knowledge that was hard won by our ancestors.

        No one, least of all the Author of the above article, is talking about throwing all that away. In fact they are trying to build on it with the hard won knowledge that we have gained about Earth Systems and the buffers our civilisation is running up against.

        The author at No Right Turn recognises the fact that millions will die and everything that human civilisationo has won, is being put at risk by climate change.

        The writer has put forward a pathway, in this instance, for a transition to a more rational way of producing the steel needed by industrial civilisation. This is not an anti-technological return to the stone age, far from it. Using the best knowledge we have, the author is advocating a scientific advance, not a retreat.

        Just as you say, Adrian a return to pre-industrial civilisation would kill millions.
        Continuing to enable climate change would also kill millions, This is not debateable.

        Whether civilisation collapse or climate change would 'would kill off far, far, far more humans in an incredibly short period of time than any rise in temperatures could', as you maintain is debatable.

        Either way, continuing to enable climate change will still kill millions.

        Debate that point if you like.

        Adrian, the reversal you fear of a collapse of civilisation and a 'revert back to the stone age' will more likely be brought about by climate change, than by any rational attempts to address it.

    • Pat 1.2

      Lets build better (nor sure why they add the 'back')…..but as Adrian notes, we need something to build with

      • Jenny how to get there 1.2.1

        The 'back' part of 'build back better' is referring to the hiatus forced on our cilivisation by the pandemic. The endles 'growth' strategy that we have all come to know and love was brought to a complete standstill.

        Like all Interregnums it is an opportunity for a change in direction.

        We can take this opportunity, or we can ignore it.

        Whatever we decide to do from now on, is up to us.

        Already, what was done to beat the pandemic in this country, the radical actions taken, that could also be applied to protecting the biosphere, are fading from collective memory.

    • Molly 1.3

      Glenbrook Steel does use coal from Huntly to generate it's own power. Pacific Steel, uses the grid, so depends upon the source of that electricity that is provided to all Aucklanders.

      Bluescope purchased Fletchers Pacific Steel operation a few years ago, and all big decisions are now made by Australian managers, who seem to consider the NZ outfit an annoyance rather than a business unit. As well as being woefully unprepared for Covid, they have also been woefully unprepared for the rise in the domestic market due to both Covid and shipping delays. Profits have risen sharply – but not as much as they would have done if they had had a system in place – and currently there are negotiations with the workers that – viewed from outside – seem not to be entered into in good faith.

      Steel imports are not as rigorously scrutinised as the domestic product, and often duplicate steel profiles of NZ steel so that at first glance it looks the same. If the issue of energy generation is resolved, the use of quality domestic steel is a bonus for NZ, and also reduces shipping costs in terms of climate.

      (That employment figure is unlikely to include the many hundreds of workers who are contracted to the mill, rather than directly employed.)

      • RedBaronCV 1.3.1

        Why buy it and shut it down? Why not buy it and clean it up which is also economically possible per the article? And I'd prefer buy rather than subsidise the current owners clean up and leaving them with the option to shut it at some future date on a whim

        • Molly

          "Why buy it and shut it down?"

          I think you are probably replying to Jenny, but I agree.

          The problem is that the mill is operating under current regulatory requirements which mean that management make BAU decisions without regard to environment or sustainability. The plant at Pacific Steel was operating from the grid which was at least partly renewable energy. They sold that almost immediately – it is now up and running in Mexico. The plant retained at Glenbrook uses the Huntly coal. From my house, we hear the trains regularly delivering it to the mill. Bluescope also sold off a recycling component of their operation. About a decade ago, LanTech was given a $10-12 million dollar government grant, IIRC, in order to develop a method of capturing carbon as it was emitted. So, support the manufacturing system that utilises dirty fuel so that it can continue for as long as possible…

          Everything is aligned to support business to continue as usual, instead of supporting those that are already pivoting to make changes.

          Given Australia's reliance on dirty industries for economic performance, it doesn't surprise that their trans-tasman decisions regarding the NZ operations makes no regard for climate change or transition.

      • Grumpy 1.3.2

        …..and Huntly uses low quality coal from Indonesia. So the choice you give us is between NZ made steel using low quality coal from Indonesia or low quality steel made from possibly high quality NZ coal (or low quality from somewhere else) from China.

        The choice missing is high quality NZ made steel from high quality NZ mined coal….

        • Molly

          No. Grumpy. Until recently, the choice was cheap imports of variable quality, and NZ produced steel from Pacific Steel that utilised the same electricity as Auckland residents (mostly renewable) to produce NZ standard steel.

          The lack of regulatory requirement for transition changes, and the purchase of Pacific Steel by Bluescope who almost immediately sold that manufacturing component to Mexico, meant that the choice has retrograded unfortunately.

          "The choice missing is high quality NZ made steel from high quality NZ mined coal…."

          OR require the currently Glenbrook Steel Mill to change their energy use to one that is more sustainable. Wouldn't that be a better investment in the future?

      • KJT 1.3.3

        My experience of Chinese steel products, is that we should produce our own.

        buying crap is false economy.

    • Ad 1.4

      So how many millions of taxpayer subsidy per job would that be?

      Sometimes, as per my post yesterday, "transition" means "let it fail".

      • RedBaronCV 1.4.1

        The subsidy is the "free" carbon units we are are allocating to the plant. If it goes electric/upgrades then the "subsidy" vanishes. The numbers means it makes more sense to upgrade than continue the free carbon allocation. I'd prefer that we owned it onshore/ upgraded it which leaves a viable business rather than continue to subsidise an off shore owner.

        • Ad

          If it is really free, how is it a subsidy?

          I would rather the price of carbon enables the owners to figure this decision out, before racing in. Similar to Tiwai Point.

          We don't own it.

          What it supplies isn't unique as a product that we need local strategic security of supply.

          Certainly it was a "nationbuilder" project 50 years ago. It's long since finished that job.

          • RedBaronCV

            Back in the Thatcher years Germany modernised it's steel industry Britain shut theirs down. A few decades later Germany has a high quality steel industry still.

            My view is that it is better to modernise ( and retain the benefits onshore by way of ownership change maybe) that to just dump all the skills that form part of the industry and spill over into other industries.

            • Ad

              Totally accept the sentiment.

              I would have agreed with that more fully if there was good evidence of whole clusters of industries forming around the raw manufacturers.

              Industry after industry you can name, it just hasn't happened here.

              And yes it is a total tragedy.

              • RedBaronCV

                Yes they don't seem to have seeded other manufacturers like they should have but they still trade train quite a lot of industrial skills – fitting and turning and others . Would be interesting to dive in and see why this mill, Tiwai the refinery etc didn't spawn more. But pretty automated factories are becoming much more the norm ( with the higher skills maintenance and IT etc jobs) Love to know how to kick start some of these to build up local capacity and resilience.

                • Molly

                  Agree. We seem to have an echelon of business managers here that are highly paid to ensure business remains as usual. The supposed high remuneration that exists because of forward thinking and innovation is a screen. We don't have many organisations that are agile and adaptive, especially the bigger juggernauts. As Bluescope has shown, they are determined to do what has always been done and do it as long as they can.

            • greywarshark

              Rferring to Germany. I have read recently that Tesla (Musk) has criticised their regulations. So he wants their high performance but wants to do away with the controls that ensure its maintenance. And there is a political party looking for this sort of change. So there is no good way for the future with the modern system of control by big business. Better to hold onto old systems that employ people and limit the competition so they can manage their market but have a running mate that is kept separate with no cartel? We must have jobs performed in our own country, all this talk of modernisation to robotics etc is taking us further from a balanced economy that includes all with modest expectations.

              And Ad at 1.4 So how many millions of taxpayer subsidy per job would that be?

              Sometimes, as per my post yesterday, “transition” means “let it fail”.

              Totally last centtury man. The century that offered us time to make necessary changes, theoretical ‘peace’ times in which to respond to pollution and build up processes suitable to take us into the centuries to come. But instead the ‘Chemical’ century, the grifters century, the make-hay-while the sun-shines century, the wealth accumulators century with ‘take no prisoners’ approach.

              This is the century of thought before action, of actively saving humanity, our planet, our culture, and new economic systems where we can squirm out from under the ‘iron’ claw of the World Financiers. It is to step back cautiously watching both our front, and our back.

    • RosieLee 1.5

      Not to mention selling off NZ rural land to a foreign waste management company for toxic landfill, some of it imported. And a supposedly Green MP signed it off?

    • Sacha 2.1

      That the author of that article is Janet Wilson is significant (my bold).

      Sadly, the madness isn’t confined to the parliamentary wing. News this week that the party intends to shelve two key recommendations from its internal review is proof (if you needed any) that zero, zilch, nada has been learnt from last year’s election drubbing. The change that’s sorely needed if the party is to be successful at the ballot box isn’t arriving any time soon.

      A disclosure; I have skin in this game. Last year I accepted a suicide mission. Partly out of a need to put bread on the table (Covid-19 had momentarily destroyed my business, like many others), I signed a three-and-a-half-month contract as the National Party’s chief press secretary.

      It turned into four-and-a-half months of turmoil that started with one leader and ended with another, and included the leaking of Covid-19 patient details and a fantasist’s tawdry sex scandal for good measure. And those were just the stories that hit the headlines. Add into that hellfire mix the fact that the caucus leaked faster than a pasta sieve and the result on October 17 was inevitable.

      • bwaghorn 2.1.1

        Yip when the former press sec speaks you tend to believe them .

        • Sacha

          Interesting that she feels free to speak up now too.

          • bwaghorn

            I suspect after 4 1/2 months of that ahit show she thought fuck I'm never going back there!!

            So shes got nothing to lose.

            • Sacha

              Wilson and her hubby would also be well-enough plugged into Nat party networks to take cues about what extent of public speech is OK. Not a disinterested spectator now or then.

  2. Incognito 4

    An informative article on the Auckland’s transport plan’s woes, including the Eastern Busway project that is a bridge too far, for now, at least.

    The nasty surprise, at least to the general public, raises questions about lack of oversight, lack of leadership, lack of communication, and inefficient use of internal resources paid for by ratepayers in a contest for funding. Unfortunately, this hopelessly inefficient model for making funding decisions for contestable funding through formal and informal application rounds is far too widespread in New Zealand. It breeds competition and secrecy at the expense of consolidation, collegiality, openness and transparency, and genuine accountability.

  3. Koff 5

    Gladys has finally acted…..Greater Sydney and surrounding area in a 2 week lockdown because of the rapdly developing Delta variant outbreak. Fingers crossed Wellington and NZ has so far dodged a bullet after the visit from the infected Sydney visitor. Crossing fingers not a good strategy of course.

  4. Anne 6

    Interesting story in the Guardian about Covid responses in Russia.

    What has changed are a series of strict new measures by Moscow and other cities that will target those who refuse to vaccinate. From Monday, Moscow cafes and restaurants will require vaccine QR codes for patrons to be seated. Hospitals will turn away patients seeking non-emergency surgeries. Public spaces, including outdoor playgrounds, have been closed. Government and service industries have been set a goal of vaccinating 60% of their employees.

    Seems they have their fair share of anti-vaxxers peddling conspiracy theories and those who are afraid because they think the vaccines surfaced too quickly and weren't properly tested.

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