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We’re going to burn it all, until we burn it down.

Written By: - Date published: 12:11 am, May 20th, 2016 - 173 comments
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I am preparing a post about a thought experiment that I would like Standardistas to consider over the next few days.

This isn’t that post. This is the warm up.

We’re going to think about what reducing NZ’s use of fossil fuels by 50% (compared to NZ’s current usage) by 2030 is going to look like in terms of hard nosed, real life, social and economic practicalities. Health, education, social services, economy, population, family life, etc.

The whole gamut.

BTW 2030 is as far away from us today, as GW’s 2002 invasion of Afghanistan (thanks Psycho Milt) was in the past.

Today’s 5 year olds will have recently started university. People born in 1965 will be eligible for NZ Super. It’s not really that big a span of time. In fact, it is a tiny span of time, in the even admittedly short history of NZ. But a very critical one.

And then we’re going to think about what the required politics to successfully take us to this goal in 2030 is going to look like. And what it actually means to be “Left” in this scenario.

Full disclosure: my belief is that reducing NZ’s fossil fuel burn to 50% of today’s levels by 2030 almost certainly can’t be done*. Not in terms of the financials. Not in terms of the physical real world economics. Not in terms of the politics. Not in terms of the public psychology. And certainly not in terms of how the Establishment (i.e. Parliamentary or Within Official System/Systemic) Left sees itself or the world today.

Bill has already relayed to us the scientifically based opinion** that NZ must get 100% off fossil fuel energy by 2030 (yes, this thought experiment posits a much softer scenario than that). I don’t necessarily disagree, but in the end this is what I think is going to be the much more likely scenario – far more likely than getting off fossil fuels 100% by 2030, and even far more likely than getting off 50% of fossil fuels by 2030:

We’re going to keep burning fossil fuels at speed, until we burn it all, or until we can’t burn any more because we have run out or because we can’t get our hands on any more.

And that’s going to result in a true low carbon economy. Albeit a rather involuntary and very likely sucky one.

NB As I mentioned at the beginning, this post is the intro to the thought experiment: something to warm up a general discussion with. I will write the actual thought experiment post up in a day or so, within which we can ditch the dreamy impractical concepts and instead go into the concrete detail of what it means to cut back our fossil fuel use by 50% by 2030.

Cheers to all Standardistas


*Short of some kind of authoritarian, probably martial law based economic war footing, including accepting our international status in the near term as a semi-failed pariah state ripe for targetting by global powers via a “colour revolution”.

**Altered the wording of this as per Bill’s suggestion. My general issue with this is quite simple: science doesn’t tell society what to do. The science only gives us the facts, figures, probabilities and possibilities. People applying value judgements – and yes they may be scientists – then tell society what should be done.


173 comments on “We’re going to burn it all, until we burn it down. ”

  1. weka 1

    I’m confused. What’s the point of talking about cutting our energy by 50% if you think it can’t be done (short of a dicatorship-type scenario)? Are you wanting to somehow prove that it can’t be done? Then what?

    I’d really like to understand the purpose of this post (and the subsequent one).

    • Colonial Viper 1.1

      lets see if collectively, Standardistas can demonstrate that the premise of this post is wrong, and that the Left can help to create a clear realistic pathway to a 50% (or 100%) reduction by 2030.

      • weka 1.1.1

        Sorry but that sounds like we are being set up to fail. If you think it’s not possible then will you be arguing against anyone who puts forward ideas on how it might work? Not critiquing those ideas but arguing against them in principle?

        I also have a problem with approaching a thought experiment on such a topic in such a negative starting point way. It’s hard to see how it would engender the lefties here to work together and bring their best. I don’t feel inspired to try and as you know my own position is that people need to be encouraged and proactively challenged to change. But I can’t see the point in bringing those ideas here. The atmosphere is wrong.

        I’ll be interested to see what your next post does.

        • Colonial Viper

          hi weka, feel free to exclude yourself from this exercise. Also note. This isn’t an exercise in fairness; this is an exercise in reality.

    • It is called facing reality M8, or eyes wide open, or removing cognitive dissonance from the human brain.
      Instead of believing the BS without any true facts, maybe it is more adult to look this beast in the eyes, instead of believing in fairy tales like TPTB want you to. ie Cop out 1 through 21.
      It’s toilet paper for your brain ) or like sticking suppositories in your ears.
      Truly understanding how utterly fucked it all is, might, just might prevent one child being born???
      That big white thing you see in the rear view mirror is the iceberg we hit – 130 ppm CO2 ago.
      I predict a 100% reduction in fossil fuel use by humans by 2030 easy.

      • Colonial Viper 1.2.1

        I’m picking the 2060s but whats a few decades between mates.

      • weka 1.2.2

        You can’t remove cognitive dissonance from the human brain. Everyone adapts in their own way. Yours is not better than people who still think we should change. IMO yours in on par with the denialists, it’s just taking a different form.

        “Instead of believing the BS without any true facts,”

        Thanks for saying that. I can now just discount everything you say as being ideologically based. You appear to be incapable of recognising that many people are looking at exactly the same facts as you and reaching different conclusions.

        I’ll also note again that you continue to use Cowspiracy as a source of information, when it is fundamentalist vegan propaganda which manipulates data to suit its own agenda. That makes me not trust your judgement.

  2. Thinkerr 2

    1. Bill’s setting of a difficult (100%) goal probably puts it in the unachievable box, and less likely than a lesser target that is more realistic and worth trying for.

    2. Be careful to go to the source of energy to make your assumptions. For example: replacing petrol vehicles with electric sounds good, but if the electricity has to come from a coal-fired power station, the electric vehicles still have a fossil-fuel impact.

    3. I believe there’s going to have to be some eco-related compromises to get to the target. Solar & wind surely can’t give the quantity of energy NZ needs to get rid of fossil fuels. In present day knowledge, I can’t see it happening without new hydro dams or nuclear. But, I’m not an expert and hopeful there’s a solution out there.

    • Colonial Viper 2.1

      and new hydro or nuclear cannot be built and commissioned without a massive burn of fossil fuels.

      • Robert Atack 2.1.1

        ‘new hydro’ We have just about run out of rivers to dam, and the ones we have are about halfway through their expected life, see silting.
        And there isn’t enough uranium to run nuclear for much longer (like 40 years?), let alone increase capacity.
        Currently with 70,000 more Kiwis per year, we need to build a Nelson worth of infrastructure, just to stand still.

        • Andre

          “And there isn’t enough uranium to run nuclear for much longer (like 40 years?)”

          That may be true if the only nuclear fission technology used is U235-enriched. Ie, the 1950’s style light water reactors that throw away more than 99% of the available energy in the fuel as waste that remains dangerous for thousands of years. And are also really conceptually dumb in that they require functioning active control systems outside the containment vessel to prevent a serious accident.

          But there’s other fission technologies that address these issues. They haven’t been popularised, because fossils fuels have been allowed to trash the planet at zero cost, and there’s enormous institutional inertia around the installed base of U235-enriched light water reactors. Not to mention the military interest in U235 and plutonium streams around the 50’s style reactors.

          Fast neutron reactors are capable of taking what is currently “hot” waste, and “burning” it for fuel to greatly reduce the amount of radioactive waste and extract much more of the available energy in the fuel. Reactors using Thorium as the primary fuel are possible (and are much harder to divert to military purposes). Technologies such as pebble-bed reactors are much less likely to have an accident that has effects outside the containment vessel, because they de-power using basic physics rather than an external control system.

          There’s a lot of companies working on small modular reactors, from around 5MW up to a few hundred MW. The idea being that economies of scale from producing many identical units will overcome the huge design, custom build and regulatory costs associated with the huge utility scale reactors (Chernobyl, Three Mile Island, and Fukushima were all in the range of 3000MW thermal, 1000MW electrical output).

          If the world ever gets serious about pricing carbon emissions, then I’m picking we’ll see a big resurgence of nuclear power, particularly in the small modular reactors that would suit shipping in the 5MW to 100MW range. For scale, the Arahura Cook Strait ferry engines were 14MW, the largest container ship engines are about 70MW.

          • Colonial Viper

            Agree Andre but one central question here is the 2030 time limit. Are any of these new generation reactors going to be commissionable and connected into the grid in time in NZ, before 2030?

            And how do you safely decommission these reactors 50 years afterwards, without the use of fossil fuels and CO2 emitting concrete?

            • Andre

              50% reduction in NZ by 2030 looks politically impossible to me. The Nats will fight it, it looks to me like Labour isn’t close to caring enough to make it happen, Greens don’t have enough clout, don’t know about NZ First.

              Make me dictator, and I’d try to tackle it mostly with price signals and a few outright regulations. Start with a Greenhouse Gas Tax at $50/tonne CO2 equivalent, rising by $20 (or more) every year. Huntly et al would close by lunchtime.

              Just pricing emissions will set the likes of Fonterra hard at work sorting out alternatives. It will also make it more worthwhile for agriculture to produce electricity from their waste, such as biogas fermenters from cowshit (as Germans do already)

              Require solar hot water for all new builds, and make it really simple and low-cost to retrofit solar hot water. Incentive passive solar heating, and long term sub-foundation heat storage for new builds.

              Now that smart meters are common, require time-of-day pricing (like Flick Electric does) and implement some kind of pricing communication system, to knock the peaks off the electricity demand curves. I’m sure a lot of people will be happy to put timers on freezers, hot water heaters, dishwashers, clothes dryers etc, if there’s enough money in it. Put in some kind of system so it’s worthwhile for people with large battery storage, home or EV, to supply back into the grid particularly at peaks.

              Put Kiwirail to work on setting up some kind of roll-on/roll-off system so long haul trucks can drive onto a flat-bed railcar say in Auckland, go by (electrically powered) rail to the nearest railhead to its destination, then drive off to the final destination.

              As far as concrete goes, yes currently cement uses a lot of coal to produce. Purely for process heat. That process heat could be electrically supplied. The end of fossil fuels does not mean the end of concrete. Yes, cement emits CO2 from the chemical reactions in its production. But generally it reabsorbs the same amount of CO2 as it cures.

              I could spend all day on this…

        • Lanthanide

          There’s plenty of thorium to last for ages, and China are working on thorium reactors right now.

          • Pat

            so assuming they are successful in proving, designing and constructing said reactors we may see the first operational one sometime around when?….2040?

            • Andre

              Since the Chinese authorities don’t seem too bovvered about…erm…”collateral damage” to their citizens, I’m picking it will probably happen a lot quicker. Maybe in India, too, since they’ve got most of the world’s easily extractable thorium.

              • Pat

                they may ….given our own treatment of citizens we should probably be a little reticent re China.

                • Andre

                  Yeah, I’m disgusted and discouraged by how callous we’ve become. For me it used to be a major positive point of difference to my time spent in the US. Now… not so much.

              • Pat

                At the 2011 annual conference of the Chinese Academy of Sciences, it was announced that “China has initiated a research and development project in thorium MSR technology.”[38] In addition, Dr. Jiang Mianheng, son of China’s former leader Jiang Zemin, led a thorium delegation in non-disclosure talks at Oak Ridge National Laboratory, Tennessee, and by late 2013 China had officially partnered with Oak Ridge to aid China in its own development.[39][40] The World Nuclear Association notes that the China Academy of Sciences in January 2011 announced its R&D program, “claiming to have the world’s largest national effort on it, hoping to obtain full intellectual property rights on the technology.”[17] According to Martin, “China has made clear its intention to go it alone,” adding that China already has a monopoly over most of the world’s rare earth minerals.[14]:157[19]

                In March 2014, with their reliance on coal-fired power having become a major cause of their current “smog crisis,” they reduced their original goal of creating a working reactor from 25 years down to 10. “In the past, the government was interested in nuclear power because of the energy shortage. Now they are more interested because of smog,” said Professor Li Zhong, a scientist working on the project. “This is definitely a race,” he added.[41]

                In early 2012, it was reported that China, using components produced by the West and Russia, planned to build two prototype thorium MSRs by 2015, and had budgeted the project at $400 million and requiring 400 workers.”[14] China also finalized an agreement with a Canadian nuclear technology company to develop improved CANDU reactors using thorium and uranium as a fuel.[42]……do you know if that 2015 deadline was met?

                • Colonial Viper

                  China has an issue with not enough renewable electricity generation.

                  That’s not necessarily our problem in NZ.

                  Their thorium research is focussed on solving a major challenge that they face. IMO transport fuels are a very big issue for us, and one that nuclear power generation isn’t necessarily going to address.

                  • Pat

                    wasn’t considering it in NZ context…was interested as a global option

                    • Draco T Bastard

                      Interestingly enough though – NZ actually has quite extensive thorium deposits.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  China already has a monopoly over most of the world’s rare earth minerals.

                  Which, of course, is misinformation. Both the US and EU could easily replace the present Chinese production if they decided to. The only reason why China produces 95% of rare earth elements is because of the delusional financial system we have and the drive for profits.

                  • Pat

                    and we have seen the results of processing them….its a misnomer i know to call them rare however the extraction/refining processes required are what gives them their name.

            • Lanthanide

              Apparently the first commercial reactors will begin operation in 2030: https://www.technologyreview.com/s/542526/china-details-next-gen-nuclear-reactor-program/

        • joe90

          And there isn’t enough uranium to run nuclear for much longer (like 40 years?)


      • Gristle 2.1.2

        New large hydro will take 10 to 15 years to commission from now given that nobody has any current plans and permission to build. Meridian and Contact have been selling off land they had purchased for various dam scenarios on the Clutha and Waitaki Rivers.

        Thermal plants can be sited closer to users but that means coal or gas.

        Tawai point smelter closing would free up a smidgen of generation.

        Sourcing generating capacity is one thing, getting to population centres is another. Redeveloping the national grid will take 10 years.

        Distributed generation relieves some of the pressures from the big dam or thermal and grid but places a lot of pressure on distribution companies to redevelop locks grids. If distributed generation occurs without backup from the national generating system then we should expect rolling blackouts.

        If you want to see the effect of rolling blackout, then keep your eye on Tasmania. The DC link across the Bass Strait has been broken since last year. Hydro storage levels are dropping over there. Hopefully the link can be fixed.

        Anyway the fragility of Tasmanian power supply is similar to the North Island who are dependent on what the media calls “the Deep South.”

        • Colonial Viper

          its good to be living in Dunedin…

          Thanks for your comment. Stuff all politically active lefties have any personal experience of how long and difficult the process of building major infrastructure is any more. A degree in Pol Sci doesnt cut it.

  3. …GW’s 2002 invasion of Iraq…

    Needs correcting to 2003.

    • Colonial Viper 3.1

      ahhh thanks, probably should change it to the invasion of Afghanistan.

  4. Short of some kind of authoritarian, probably martial law based economic war footing, including accepting our international status in the near term as a semi-failed pariah state ripe for targetting by global powers via a “colour revolution”.

    Well, yeah. So, it can’t be done with the people we have available, and won’t be done by the people we have running things. So, what will be the point of this thought experiment?

  5. Pat 5

    await your post with interest….though wonder if the length of such a topic may prevent its publication…..or will it be one sentence in length?

  6. vto 6

    Good idea CV.

    I would like to be around to see how the world changes to deal with this and its effects. Also wouldn’t mind being around for a couple hundred years more to see personal-flying-devices, more missions to mars, discover significantly more archaeological remains to piece together the many human journeys out of Africa all the way to aotearoa, see what happens to the population growth, find organic compounds in outer space, …. all while being in a fine and healthy state and catching fush in the local river …….

    what are the chances?

    But yep, 50% reduction…. for us = 50% less driving (fine, prefer long walking anyway), more grow own veges and kai, heating by … not sure … , business will be interesting as we burn shitloads to do what we do. Not sure how that would be effected… but it would be dramatic…..

    Get into it CV

  7. Colonial Viper 7

    sorry this was a reply to Psycho Milt

    well, we might find out who here believes that there is a way to a 50% reduction, and what the details of that look like.

    btw even though I dont think it can be done, I will be putting my effort in the next post to advancing the pro-50% argument.

    • Gristle 7.1

      CV Will this self imposed energy poverty will be universal in this thought experiment?

      • Colonial Viper 7.1.1

        We can direct which areas of society get priority access to fossil fuels.

        For instance, I imagine that the emergency services will still get full access to all the fossil fuels that they need to do their job.

        It is basically up to us in this thought experiment to decide how todays 50% is shared out between a population of 5M or 5.5M.

        But we can only control what happens within NZ. The Australians and the Chinese and the Americans might simply choose to keep burning at 100%.

  8. Xanthe 8

    Most windfarms use overseas designs which are for lower energy winds and shut down just when things get going, the power availiable being the cube of wind velocity this means considerable underusage.

    I propose a string of high energy (up to 80 knots) windmills arranged on the west coast of both islands , the reason for this is that fronts hit the deep south and then take 48 -72 hours to travel up both islands this would mean that there would be some predictability and continuity to this source allowing load to be transferred away from hydro and the water stored or released to improve river quality.

    Likewise high energy wintmills directly associated with hydro would allow water to be stored or released during gales

    • vto 8.1

      but there is typically more wind on the lee side of mountain ranges

      better to build them on the eats coast

      plus they will just clutter up the serenity of the empty west …….

    • Gristle 8.2

      Typically the costs of constructing and maintaining heavy duty structures is exponentially larger than “normal” structures. Building a turbine to operate at 160kmh wind will see the performance at 6ms (this is a useful annual average threshold to judge whether or not to build ) severely throttled back.

      A useful comparison would think about the amount of resources that are mobilised for President Obama to go to the local fish and chip shop versus you doing the same thing.

      If you are positing that 160kmh winds are going to be the new normal, then this will have to be factored in to other infrastructure ( underground housing) as well as agriculture etc.

  9. Richardrawshark 9

    Here’s my simple take on pollution.

    There is no target reduction, instead, we cut whatever emissions as much as we can.

    This stops failure issues.

    Next identify the area’s we need to improve pollutant reduction.

    Subsidize solar and self powering homes. Kiwi’s love this and will take it up. The more of us self powered the less consumption the less reliance on coal and gas stations and we can phase them out.

    Transport. Deisel vehicles drop the diesel taxes and road taxes for private vehicles. FFS!!!

    Rail. Reinstate electric or diesel rail throughout NZ.

    Cancel all oil and gas exploration permits.

    Ban coal fires.

    Work on anything else

    To note science journal recently an article on an air scrubber that just pumped large volumes of air through carbon filters. Build a few high flow rate air scrubbers or research the idea.

    All I got. I’m not much of a greeny really.

  10. Lanthanide 10

    I can’t really imagine what the world would be like with 50% less fossil fuel usage in NZ across all sectors. It would be radically different. It also is fairly different if we’re talking about an enforced reduction due to cost / shortage, or some sort of largely voluntary reduction.

    But I think what probably isn’t difficult to imagine, is that there would be very high unemployment and significant economic contraction alongside it, assuming we end up with a high cost / shortage scenario.

    All you need to do is look at how much transportation is a part of our economy. Look at all the businesses that are built up on servicing private cars – WOFs, mechanics, wrecker yards, service stations, tire shops, etc. Now put 50% of those people out of a job. Look at all the businesses where transportation makes up a sizeable portion of the final product cost – the construction industry especially, but general wholesale supplies and distribution. Let’s put say 20% of people in those industries out of work. Then look at all of the actual transportation companies – intra-city busses, trucking companies, couriers. Put 40% of them out of business. Tourism is largely about transportation – bringing foreigners and showing them around the country, or people within the country moving around to see things. So let’s cut tourism jobs by say 60%.

    Suddenly you’ve got a large amount of unemployment for people whose skills aren’t needed any more, and everyone who retains a job is paying inflated prices for their basic necessities.

    Perfect storm for economic contraction and recession / depression.

    • Pat 10.1

      exactly…and that is why an examination and co-ordinated response is required…..publicly funded transition where the economy (and employment) is refocused on what is required to make it work….it is why it cannot be left to “the market”…it is too disruptive and market economics makes no provision for the human cost of transition.

    • McFlock 10.2

      To me, that looks like you’re treating it as a subtraction problem, not a substitution problem.

      An easy fix for fuel would be to put punitive taxes on petrol that’s non-renewable. So the pump that’s 91octane zero biofuel costs significantly more than 75fossil: 16biofuel. There’s a 16% reduction right there, for not much more cost. And it starts making biofuel demand significant, so it makes larger scale production more economical. And if the biofuel costs more, it makes electric cars a more attractive replacement. Although arable crop substitution for biofuel is it’s own clusterfuck.

      Would a coal powered generator be able to substitute some of its fuel for charcoal? Can we get the charcoal by making methane from wood and using the methane to make synthetic fuel or lpg? Can we synthesise diesel from pine tar in decent quantities?

      At the moment, fossil’s still relatively cheap so there’s no systemic incentive to change.

      There are still issues with energy density and charging time of batteries, but they’re improving constantly. When they become more competitive and take out hybrids, petrol service stations will go the way of livery stables.

      Probably in a similar timeframe to the horse:horsepower substitution, is my guess.

      • Lanthanide 10.2.1

        That is true, the biggest underpinning weakness for my imagined weakness is it’s sort of an “overnight 50% less fuel environment”, but even the gloomiest of peakists (who were trying to be rational) would say that a 2-3 year turning off the tap is likely the worst case scenario.

        Of course the peakist scenario also extends further – fossil fuel production will continue to drop, and there might be an undulating plateau for some period, but inevitably it will continue to drop. That’s not the same as a scenario where we’ve voluntarily chosen to cut back.

        But there’s also a problem with your substitution scenario as well – there is a huge amount of existing fleet that won’t be able to run on high biofuel blends, and the same goes for electric cars as well. I believe the average age of the fleet in NZ is 13 years, and obviously not everyone is going to be able to afford to buy an electric car, so they can only substitute for some of the existing petrol cars, but it’s difficult to see them even making up 50% of new-car sales in 2020, let alone 50% of the entire fleet being replaced by 2030 (without either some massive subsidies, or massive battery breakthroughs, in addition to manufacturing them in NZ for ourselves – since on the global market we’ll simply be outbid).

        And, even if you are looking at alternative biofuels that might be more compatible with the existing fleet, can we really get all of these new manufacturing plants built and operable, and operable at scale by 2030? I doubt it – between the market cost and the NIMBYism it just seems unlikely. Then again if the general electorate are facing 30% shortage of petrol in 2 years time, they might vote for politicians that’ll bulldoze all the opposition to do what is necessary.

        This all of course has shades of Think Big.

        • McFlock

          Think Big wasn’t actually all that bad a plan.

          But really, I’m not so sure that it needs central planning as such. All we need to do is make petrol, then diesel and coal, prohibitively expensive before any oil shocks occur. Most of the groundwork in substitutions has already been done, from creating straight-substitute for petrol into the tank (using e.coli bacteria) to cracking vegetable oils and also working on electric storage/discharge technology. If we make it prohibitively expensive to just use pure fossil oil, someone in China or the US will build a plant if we can’t do it ourselves.

      • Colonial Viper 10.2.2

        How much does burning biolfuel in cars or charcoal in furnaces reduce CO2 emissions into the atmosphere, as compared to burning petrol or coal?

        • McFlock

          short-cycle rather than long-cycle carbon.

          Essentially neutral, and would have been released over the next 20 years or whatever anyway when e.g. the tree falls down and rots.

          • Colonial Viper

            Do you think that would be able to replace more than 10% of our current fossil fuel use sustainably?

            Bearing in mind that Europe and the UK largely deforested themselves by the 17th century due to demand for wood and charcoal for energy.

            • McFlock

              No idea at all. Hence the question marks when I brought it up.
              Apparently algae are also quite promising, and we can use wastewater treatment plants to produce it.

              A really quick squiz of wikipedia says that biofuels make up 3% of current road transport fuel in the UK, and they have legislated it to 10% by 2020.

              NZ is lagging significantly behind, because National (and ken fucking shirley probably stuck his beak in, too).

              As to the arbitrary targets, I figure 100% fossil fuel replacement is out, but 50% is a reasonable ballpark if we put our minds to it. 10% would probably happen without any government intervention whatsoever, between electrics and normal human beings being normal human beings.

              • Colonial Viper

                I am under the impression that a lot of fossil fuels gets expended in the creation of the bio ethanol which gets mixed into the petrol stream. Therefore it is hard to classify the resulting biofuel as renewable or sustainable.

                (I might be thinking of the US situation here, with corn ethanol).

                Would be interested in finding out more but I am not entirely optimistic.

                • McFlock

                  Ethanol fuels people, not cars. Bloody stupid waste of vodka, in my opinion.

                  From what I recall, the US bioethanol programme is essentially a backhanded subsidy to cornfarming corporations. But see Andre’s comment below.

                  Biofuel isn’t just making alcohol.

                  But my main point was simply that we have lots of groundwork on substitutes done already. Many will be technological dead ends, or simply taking food to keep cars going while people die. But a few will win out, almost as a matter of course.

                  The real problem is how to remove the long-cycle carbon we discharged over the last 200 years.

                • Andre

                  Yes, a lot of American bio-ethanol used roughly the same amount of fossil energy as the resulting bio-ethanol yielded. Just fkn dumb, cost the US taxpayers a bundle. But made a lot of profit for some big companies in the mid-west. Brazilian bio-ethanol from sugarcane is a bit better in terms of energy return on investment, but still looks dumb to me.

                  Algae, cellulose from trees/switchgrass/agricultural waste look like better feedstocks.

                  • Chuck

                    “Algae, cellulose from trees/switchgrass/agricultural waste look like better feedstocks.”

                    Yep total agreement. Biomass with a high percentage of lignin produce better bio-oil yields.

                    On a lab scale good transport grade bio-diesel can be produced, to go commercial they need to work on extending the life of the catalysts to make it viable.

                    Forestry wood waste has been identified as a potential feed stock for NZ bio-fuel industry, which could supply a good % of transport grade fuel for NZ.

                    • plant (efficient energy converter – sunlight to sugar)
                      animal (efficient energy converter plant to muscular movement)
                      combustion engine (strikingly inefficient energy converter of all fuels to mechanical movement)

                      Do we have the desire to continue to prop up strikingly inefficient technologies?

                      Leave the lignin in the tree or in the soil.

                  • b waghorn

                    That’s very naughty , to point out that in fact we’re all part of the problem.

                    • Pat

                      or to demonstrate where the consumption is generated and the proportion devoted to critical activity

                    • Colonial Viper

                      transport including domestic transport solutions, are going to be critical.

                    • b waghorn

                      Who’s to say what’s critical. I personally do 25 000kms a year of which a third at most is directly involved in surviving. But the mental well being of visiting family , broadening wag juniors horizons, and escaping to the dog trials could imo be classed as critical.

                    • Pat

                      who’s to say whats critical?….currently nobody….who knows in the future

                    • Colonial Viper

                      if you value being able to visit your relatives in other cities more than twice a decade, you’re going to want transport.

                  • McFlock

                    thanks for that – very informative

      • b waghorn 10.2.3


        The problem with bio fuels is that it takes food from the mouths of the poor

        • Andre

          Yeah if you do biofuels a really dumb way like ethanol from corn, or biodiesel from soybeans.

          But get a bit smarter and genetically engineer algae to directly excrete biobutanol or biodiesel, or engineer e. coli to digest cellulose or lignin into ethanol, then it’s no longer competing with food supply.

          And now I’d better take cover, I mentioned that verboten satan-spawn technology in a favourable way…

        • McFlock

          yeah I think I mentioned that with the word “clusterfuck”.

          Although that’s only one particular section of biofuels, and the shittiest one at that (high-sugar crops to ethanol).

          Things like algae and trees would use different resources to arable food crops.

  11. The Giants of Industry and their gimlet-eyed Handmaidens would smile needle-toothed smiles at this post. Everything’s going according to plan.

    • Pat 11.1

      you think?…..I would imagine that the giants of industry are the ones that have funded the campaign against this for decades past…..show me an market forces driven CEO that advocates central planning?

    • Colonial Viper 11.2

      Hi Robert, snide comments aside, do you think it is possible for NZ to reduce its fossil fuel use by 50% (or 100%) by 2030.

      And what are some things which would need to happen quickly to get us there, in your view?

      • BM 11.2.1

        You need to find something to replace the fossil fuel, no replacement, no reduction.

        The facts are no one is going to stop using their car, so we have to come up with a viable alternative to the petrol engine.

        • Robert Guyton

          “I am the Dread Pirate Roberts. There will be no survivors. No survivors!”

          • BM

            How much electricity does NZ need to produce to be able to run 100% electric cars.?

            I know a lot of the charging can be done over night where demand is very low, but does NZ have the electrical capacity to charge 500,000 to a million vechicles per night? I don’t know ,if not what’s required to get to that position.?

            • McFlock

              About 2/3 current generation capacity, going by pat’s chart above.

              But a lot of that would be currently wasted at lights or by braking. And we already have the transmission infrastructure in place, it’s not like building service stations in every town so people could refuel their cars rather than feed their horses.

              • Andre

                Keep in mind that fossil fuel energy is measured as the chemical energy going in, of which maybe 20% actually makes it to the wheels. Whereas electrical energy is measured as it leaves the power station, of which maybe 75% would actually get to the wheels of an electric vehicle.

              • BM

                So we need another 30%,

                Thinking about it, this is probably the biggest problem with electric vehicles you have to have the capacity to able to supply the electricity for all the vehicle charging,but for the rest of the time all that capacity is sitting idle.

                For the amount of capital out lay the economics are rather poor, big usage for a few hours then nothing

                Battery swap in swap out for me seems the only way forward to make electric cars viable.

                • Andre

                  Electric vehicles could give us the ability to do a lot of demand smoothing on the grid. If there’s a whole lot of really big batteries plugged in, they could discharge into the grid to take the top off the evening peak, then charge during the night-time lows.

                  • BM

                    Yeah, but you need all that capacity just in case a million vechicles want to all charge their vehicles at once.

                    How about this for an idea.

                    You have a charging port that is computer/load controlled so every car getting charged gets put in a queue so is only charged when capacity becomes available.

                    You could then also run the option of guaranteed 1 hour charge which comes at a premium, Just in case some has to get some where in a hurry..

                    • Andre

                      I kinda prefer the idea of dynamic pricing for electricity, like Flick Electric offers (but they’re just one way right now). It would follow the spot market for electricity, which currently changes at half-hour intervals, if I recall correctly. So then you could program your big battery to discharge back into the grid (or even just supply your home) when the price was high enough and charge when the price is low.

                    • BM

                      That’s the thing, maybe we don’t have to increase our electrical supply, if we can use what we’ve got currently got smarter than the concept of a fully electrical fleet is feasible without any massive out lay.

                • Draco T Bastard

                  For the amount of capital out lay the economics are rather poor, big usage for a few hours then nothing

                  Have you checked out the capital outlay to produce, run and maintain all the cars and how much they’re actually used?

                  It highlights a crucial inefficiency of mass private car ownership. It points towards huge parking space savings (an enormous land bank) that shifts away from mass car ownership might open up, if only we could massively improve the alternatives including making car-sharing and other ‘metered access to shared cars’ (MASC) more of a mass market phenomenon.

                  If you were worried about waste you’d be campaigning to get rid of cars.

                • b waghorn

                  “Battery swap in swap out”
                  Fucking genius , pull into the garage spent battery removed for charging fresh one put in ,get your MMS and a cappuccino pay and away.

              • Macro

                no wasteage of power at lights – the motor does not run – braking charges the car as it does when you remove your foot from the accelerator or going down a hill.
                The fast charge for a Tesla is about 40 mins at the moment and it has a range of around 400 km. The Nissan leaf also fully electric has a range of around 250 km – depending on how fast you drive and terrain it will go further. They are entirely practical for town commuting.
                Of course the most sensible solution is increasing public transport thereby reducing the need for cars. Hybrid buses initially and electrification of rail and electric buses /trams (light rail). NZ could easily power this thru increasing wind solar and geothermal.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Only a small percentage of NZers can afford a $50K or $60K electric car so I think that it will have to be a focus on public transport solutions.

                  Also people not having to travel for employment purposes – make the 27 hour, 3 day working week standard.

                  • Macro

                    Many people can afford $7k which is what I paid for a hybrid with less than 40k on the clock.
                    eg http://www.trademe.co.nz/motors/used-cars/toyota/auction-1073118927.htm
                    I can use it as an EV to go down the hill (charges as I go) to get to the local supermarket. Ok the engine kicks in on the way back up – but I have cut my emissions by at least a half.
                    A second hand leaf is around $18 – 20k and some packages include the installation of a 5KW PV array. A friend had such a package last year.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      What’s the battery life expectancy of your second hand hybrid?

                      How much is a replacement battery from the dealer?

                      And does your hybrid contain Chinese steel, smelted and refined using Chinese coal?

                    • Macro

                      Batteries are fine – it is a myth that they need to be replaced every second. They also come with separate cells, so if a cell does become weak you don’t need to replace the whole battery just the weak cell.
                      The car contains as much chinese steel as any other japanese made car.

                    • Colonial Viper

                      Sure, if you have just one failed cell in the battery you can try and trouble shoot which one is the problem and replace just that one. But a quick search on the ‘net says that if you need an entire new Prius battery the unit plus labour in the USA is up to US$4000.

        • Draco T Bastard

          Walking, bicycling, buses, and trains all work fine.

          Therefore we can categorically state that we have a replacement. We just have a bunch of ignorant and arrogant self-entitled arseholes who refuse to accept those replacements.

          • Colonial Viper

            not exactly the way to bring people on side, Draco

            • Draco T Bastard

              Speak truth or continue to cater to their delusions?

              • Colonial Viper

                Yeah, you tell all those Kiwis what self centred arseholes they are right to their face for wanting to keep their 2.4M private cars, strike a blow for truth and justice mate.

    • weka 11.3

      Pretty much my feeling too. I am still curious what the purpose of the post and thought experiment is, and whether the way it is being done serves that purpose. We will see.

      • Colonial Viper 11.3.1

        You are welcome to fully participate weka, in determining what a NZ using 50% (or 100%) less fossil fuels by 2030 would look like, and what the pathway there is.

        Otherwise, you are of course welcome to simply spectate and commentate on the proceedings.

  12. They’ll be delighted that such fellows as we are engaged in this talk, using their language. Full ahead, all engines!

    • Pat 12.1

      your proposal?

      • Robert Guyton 12.1.1

        Pat – I propose making real a way of life that’s so appealing, people will fall over themselves emulating it. You say, austerity, I say, lilies of the field.

        • Pat

          I don’t recall typing the word austerity (until now)….so you have a destination…whats the route?

          • Robert Guyton

            A delightful and heartwarming one. It begins at home, (that well known repository of the heart). Your health, your habits, your story. Then that of your family, friends, community, tribe. (Good decisions are not made when your stomach’s upset. Eat well, rest well, be in good places and spaces – we are intending to make good decisions, yes?). Swell your numbers by broadcasting, literally and figuratively, the bounty. Go mychorrizal, through the soil. Establish mutually beneficial trading posts with other organisms/organisations that are made from foreign materials. Live with the efficiency of a gnat (intentional choice :-).
            I could go on, and clearly do.

            • Rosemary McDonald

              “Go mychorrizal, through the soil. Establish mutually beneficial trading posts with other organisms/organisations that are made from foreign materials. Live with the efficiency of a gnat (intentional choice :-).
              I could go on, and clearly do.”

              RG..all respect to you Sir, and may your cow parsley always run rampant around your fields. 😉 😉

            • Pat

              fair enough…have no problem with that at a personal level but note that despite promotion of that by various folk for quite some time it hasn’t really caught on so would suggest it is reasonable not to expect a mass enlightenment anytime soon (certainly not in a timely manner)

            • Colonial Viper

              A delightful and heartwarming one. It begins at home, (that well known repository of the heart). Your health, your habits, your story. Then that of your family, friends, community, tribe.

              I like your concept. But it’s a concept, not an implementation.

              Now how will city kids get to school in the mornings? How will rural kids get to school in the mornings? And how will they get back? Or is home schooling to become more prevalent as an option for parents?

              Where I live in Dunedin there are quite a few pensioner flats within a short walk of where I live.

              These units don’t appear to have much usable land around them for growing food on. What will those elderly folk do for sustenance once the supermarket shelves start to empty out of industrial produce?

              Will the meals on wheels car still be able to call by every day?

              In an era where fossil fuel supply is greatly tightened, how will we tell the thousands of professional drivers in NZ (taxi drivers, truckies, couriers, etc) that they are likely to lose their jobs before 2030?

              Further I can walk to my place of work on a daily basis if need be. How about you? How about most people reading The Standard in Auckland or Wellington – can they walk or bicycle to their place of work on a daily basis?

              This is what I mean by getting down to the concrete details of what it means to drive down fossil fuel use by 2030.

              • “Concrete details”
                Indeed. That’s exactly what we must focus on in order to beat this beast.
                Talk of lilies in the field, fungal hyphae and warm hearths is, well, it’s not very concrete, is it?
                So, concepts are fine, as far as they go, but let’s get down to brass tacks, which, like concrete, are the tools we must use to beat this beastly thing.
                It was John Key, wasn’t it, who last and famously used the “Beast” word, only he added the rider, “Devil”. He and his Advisors understand what words can do.
                I’ll retire, gracelessly 🙂

                • Colonial Viper

                  And I haven’t begun to harangue you about how we can PR package a societal solution based around lillies, fungal hyphae and warm hearths appeal to the voting electorate…

                  • The voting electorate?
                    Are they, like, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, sons and daughters, that sort of person?
                    I’ll take responsibility for mine, Colonial Viper, would you look after yours? That way, we’ll have quite a few done in a very short time. They don’t have to sign anything, it’s just story telling.

  13. Colonial Viper – I’m sorry you read my comments as snide, I was trying to use rich and juicy words instead of those favoured by technologists. Sometimes, breaking the mould (techno-allusion) requires a plume rather than a hammer.
    2030? Circumstances will decide. The x% we ‘represent’ can do a great deal by exploring flexibility, resilience, community and so on, but mostly need to spin a new story, weave a new myth. The tune we rats are all dancing to now is leading us into the Weser. Again, I apologise for my language.

    • Colonial Viper 13.1

      No offence was taken, but with a timeframe of only 14 years, the weaving of mythology and spirituality can maybe wait a little; for now, a bloody pace of work must be undertaken before Winter comes.

      Having said that our society has been unconsciously cursed. And modern rational minds cannot get out of such a bind.

      • Robert Guyton 13.1.1

        They can though, and that’s my concrete point. Leaving that job till later? Curious idea. Cart, horse – cart-horse! There’s another!

  14. Sabine 14

    i am not a learned person so what ever i say comes from a lay person.

    1st. make the use of the private vehicle more expensive then the use of public transport.
    2nd. make the use of public transport so cheap that only the expected few would insist in driving their one person private transport.
    3. give bicylce lanes, pedestrian walkways and public transport lanes first priority
    3rd. all heavy duty transport on rail
    4. insist in all buildings, commercial, residential etc be build to a eco friendly standard, i.e. double glazing, heat collection, grey water usage etc etc etc
    5. stop growing cows like their flowers
    6. no more export concession for our ground water
    7. no more irrigation where it makes no sense
    8. education for the young ones re – recycling, cutting down on water usage etc etc etc. Germany a few decades ago decided that it was a wasted time trying to educate the adults in regards to recycling, but that it would be better to start with the little ones, and then the little ones could educate their adults.
    9. create more farmer markets, the more we buy locally produced the better it is for us
    10. create community ovens, kitchens etc etc.

    I am no high fallutin geezer who wants to speculate whats gonna happen in 30 – 60 years time. We have the writing on the wall, and if we want to know what society looks like without access to water, clean sanitation and places to cleanly produce food we just have to look at CHCH directly after the earth quake. I remember hearing that sanitation and drinking water access was an issue.

    For a few things we need government to ‘help’ the larger populace along, and by that i mean generally speaking the ‘well to do ‘ part of the community, that obviously still thinks that if they have accumulated enough money they can buy themselves a way out of a world with no clean drinking water and access to proper sanitation.

    The fact that we may not be able to drive our own cars? Heck go back to the 30 – 70 and realise that most people did NOT own their own cars, but either a. walked, rode a horse, used a bus, or took a train. There might still be people around that would remember that time.

    • Sabine – ‘those who have accumulated enough money’ will be able to buy their way out. Set aside thoughts about those who always win and give your energy to your people (the ones who deserve and need your attention) 🙂

      • Sabine 14.1.1

        actually i don’t think so. They might be initially but even they will be to poor in the end. But sadly we will need the government to come to the game and play.

        In saying that i agree with your that we have to start with ourselfs and our imediate community around us.
        However, and here we can join this thread with any of the ‘lack of housing ‘ threats if we want to, our communities are not stable anymore like they used to be.

        When two thirds of a city become transient by lack of affordable housing, you can not create community centered / based solutions.
        If one third of our population is so transient that they live in cars/vans/caravans etc than again you can hardly fault them for ‘burning’ fossil fuel.
        And then of course the 1 third of a population that really don’t give a shit, cause they own their property, and they have a bit of cash / assets and that really really believe we are just scare mongers?

        So we do need to force our government into action. We need to create stable communities again where people can grow community gardens, create their own recycling markets, can trade among themselves, share cars instead of owning each one, create homerun bus services etc etc etc.
        We need schools to teach skills instead of learning children how to regurgite’ knowledge’ in a multiple answer quest err test.
        We need to show the young ones the ropes, and for that we need to invite our elders to live with us again.

        But first we need to heal our dying communities, be they rural or urban. WE can not beat this beast if 2/3 of our population is living transient, or in fear of loosing their rental every three – 12 month.

        • Robert Guyton

          If your aim is to “beat the beast”, you should prepare for disappointment. Otoh, if you hope to grow the good, you should dust off your dancing shoes in preparation for celebrating.

          • Sabine

            mate if there is no dancing at the revolution i want no part of it.

            my dancing shoes are perfectly heeled.

            but fact is, we can not change the status quo, if the status quo keeps us on the road as homeless / transient people.
            no matter what. IF only the ones that are fixed in their communities can change stuff, we are truly fucked. Cause the ones currently fixed in their communities for the largest part do nothing but rejoice in the fact that their home values have gone up, even if they can’t buy shit for the money they get once they sell their home.

        • Colonial Viper

          Outstanding points.

          The ability for people to find stable resilient communities that they can move to, live in, have a stake in, and have the personal wherewithal to contribute to is absolutely crucial.

          To me this means a lot more local democracy, an ability to at least partially disengage from the heinous debt based financial system, shared community facilites and resources, and security of housing/tenancy, among other things.

          It’s a very different lifestyle to what most live in today.

          • Robert Guyton

            People can’t find a stable, resilient community? Are you busy making them one?
            I loved this, Sabine:
            “but fact is, we can not change the status quo, if the status quo keeps us on the road as homeless / transient people.”
            I thought immediately of Gypsies. How long, I thought to myself, have Gypsy communities been in existence? How will they cope, I pondered, with the coming environment, political, economic and climatic upheaval?
            Then I laughed the laugh of Vizzini the Sicilian, the one he delivered so deliciously following his glugging down of Westley’s iocane-laced wine.

            • Colonial Viper

              Yes, certain groups with strong internal cultural, tribal and religious ties will do just fine, I suspect.

              But that ain’t gonna be most of the contemporary Anglo culture.

              Princess Bride is a great little movie (and book).

              • We’ll just have to create a “certain group” then, and that’s much easier than you might think, especially when conditions work in favour of the emergence of such a beast. I’m thinking of the Blitz and the camaraderie that sprouted and grew under those conditions. You could almost rest assured that one will raise its beautiful head. What if you were there and hadn’t prepared, and weren’t able to fulfill your role?

            • Sabine

              Have you had a look how gypsy communities live?
              Have you had a look at how much discrimination and hard ship the european gypsy communities go through?
              Have you had a look at how many gypsys have died at the hand of ‘non gypsys.
              Seriously, you dont want to be a gypsy. Not in europe, not here. They steal children and offer them to satan. Don’t you know that?
              Again, to be a gyspy, you need either good feet or horses/camels/donkeys or bulls to pull your caravan.

              However, if you look at some of the very old communities in Europe, St. Paul de Vence, Cologne, Augsburg, and other 1000+ year old human hubs, you will see they have a few things in common.
              A. fountains. – for humans and for animals.
              b. town walls with gates. – for humans and often for animals
              c. shared walls – closely build together houses with small gardens in the back. Houses build next to each other makes heating more efficient, building is easier as one wall is already up, and the space is used more efficiently.
              d. some even still have the old community bakery or remnants of the old Water Wheel/Mill/Community Bakery. No one in the old days had their own oven, or would mill their own flour. These things were shared. Grain Storage was often shared, and the cats living in the grain storage were community cats……good mousers they were.
              e. Community Gardens, some still available in France/Germany, little plots next to railway lines and special areas where individuals can rent a small plot to grow their food, and trade with others growing in the same commune.

              these things can be established within smaller communities even without much help from the government, but they can not be established in communities were over 60 % are transients. For this you need a populace that feels it is part of the larger community and has a say in its community.

              So when we talk about reduction of 100% or 50% of use of fossil fuels we first need to agree on what is currently the biggest user of fossil fuels and why.

              Transient communities, communities dislocated from work, education centres and health care centres all need access to private transport considering that our current government is hell bent against public transport, and the other political alternatives are to pussy footed to actually admit honestly that we can’t even fucking afford the electric car as even that needs to be fueled somehow.

              • I wasn’t suggesting you start carving clothes pegs, Sabine. Mind you…
                You mention” having good feet”. That’s something we should all aspire to, imho. Hands also, and arms, legs torso and heads – the whole kit and caboodle in fact. There’s a concrete suggestion, be well, kia ora. Eat well, sleep well, make clothes pegs (hat-tip, you) make friends. The practical steps toward success into the (near) future are not difficult to list. Drink water as well as other draughts (horses are forming a thread, why, I don’t know). I especially like your idea of having fountains. They’re inspirational fonts and make a great rallying point. You’ve got me thinking…

              • Rosemary McDonald

                Positive steps towards sustainable and self sufficient communities in the Far North…

                “The Far North District Council and Te Tai Tokerau Primary Health Organisation (PHO) have once again joined forces to boost food security and economic development in the Far North.”


              • Colonial Viper

                So when we talk about reduction of 100% or 50% of use of fossil fuels we first need to agree on what is currently the biggest user of fossil fuels and why.

                Again, spot on. And it has to be NZ specific info if it is going to be of any use to us.

    • Bill 14.2

      Legislate that all new motor vehicles must conform to the highest possible current emission standards (ie, less than 100g per km) . It takes about 12 years for NZs car fleet to churn. Right there, with no new technology, and at no or little extra cost to the consumer is, something like a 20% reduction in emissions from a sector that accounts for (I think) 40% of energy related emissions.

      Change peoples habits and expectations around car occupancy rates and more savings accrue.

      Legislate that all new domestic appliances must meet the highest energy efficiency ratings. The current highest rated fridge in Europe consumes 80% less electricity than the second highest rated fridge in Europe. Much the same is probably true for most domestic appliances…a vacuum cleaner that is 3000W is probably not very well designed. Yet many buy such stuff based on it’s energy consumption as though that means it must have more ‘suck’.

      Legislate for all coastal shipping to run on bio-fuel.

      Legislate that no international aircraft can enter NZ if they run on fossil…or/and severely curtail the number of permissible international passenger flights.

      Go hell for leather on electric public transport, our electricity generation and distribution networks and whatever areas of our infrastructure need overhauled, developed or redesigned. eg – ensure that all new houses are energy neutral – such designs exist and have been built in (I think) Norway. Meanwhile, retrofit all housing stock – insulation, double glazing etc.

      Change habits. Either incentivise desirable habits, penalise bad ones, or do a mix of both. (We did it with smoking, we can do it with energy use – eg, car occupancy.)

      Get rid of the 90% of dairy cows that are excess to needs. Plant trees/restore marginal lands. Change ag practices.

      And when in the midst of all the above it becomes clear that the market economy will collapse under the pressures being placed upon it….let it go and throw a party 🙂

      • adam 14.2.1

        Silly question Bill, you agree getting to 50% is quite simple.

        Instead there is a set of beliefs; we can’t, or it’s to hard, or it’s not political acceptable, or we should not do it alone,and on and on with the but, but. The framing of the debate, means the debate is lost before it has even begun.

        So here the solution, it really quite simple. Stop accepting crap. That takes spine, and a whole lot of back bone. It means getting it wrong, it means stopping working, it means no longer playing the game.

        It means, don’t blame others, and fight what is wrong.

        But that not the kiwi way is it, because we are now all soft, flabby, laid back. Were all nice, compliant, and scared as the day is long.

        But 50% won’t ever be reached, when those who let fear rule them – those who know this is a fight for life, love and humanity just won’t get in the fight.

        Then all the naysayers, and those dedicated to politics as a game, betrothed by the corruption, bedazzled by the trinkets, clotted by their greed.

        You, ah you – the lonely, poor of spirit and of love. You, who let nothing get in the way of your next pleasure. You, ah you – who take so much, and expect oh so much more. You are the problem, but as that selfish, self-absorbed, self-realised individual, you see nothing wrong.

        Love, hugs and bikkies for those who need it.

        • Bill

          Getting energy related emissions down by 50% is the proverbial piece of piss. The problem with a 50% reduction in energy related emissions goal by 2030 is that it entails accepting a level of warming that we may or may not be able to adapt to.

          Eradicating fossil related emissions in NZ by 2030 is possible. But we have to choose to do it. Unfortunately, we’re not.

          edit: If choosing to do what must be done entails not having to pay a mortgage any more – not being trapped in a soul destroying and mind numbing job any more – essentially having that retired period of life brought forward to the here and now…what the hell’s not to like about that?

          • Colonial Viper

            Getting energy related emissions down by 50% is the proverbial piece of piss.

            I really think you are underestimating some very sticky aspects of the problem.

            Like what to do when unemployment goes up to 750,000 in 2030 due to this cutting back by half.

            I also presume you do not intend us to “offshore” our emissions.

            • Bill

              No ‘off-shoring’ of emissions.

              There are various avenues for achieving a 50% reduction…I’ve outlined some obvious ones. Why assume that unemployment sky-rockets? Personally, I’ve no problem with that, but why make that assumption?

              How much employment is involved in retro-fitting all existing houses to ‘accommodate’ the likely climatic impacts coming our way and in such a way that they are as close to energy neutral as retro-fitting can achieve?

              How much employment is generated in getting down to business on all the other aspects of infrastructure we need to be looking at…reticulated water supplies, waste disposal, energy systems, roads, rail etc?

              Hell, the superfluous managerial types will even probably be able to generate a space in all of that for themselves….at least for a while.

              Aside from that, there’s Pareto’s useful rule of thumb that observes that (about) 80% of the output from any dynamic system is down to 20% of the input to the system. That suggests that about 5 or 10% of people producing energy related CO2 are responsible for about 50% of our energy related emissions.

              So we could just hit the rich seeing as how (speaking in general broad brush stroke terms) profligate energy use tracks income…ie, the lifestyle of the rich tends to consume more energy. Flying here and there on business or holiday at the drop of a hat, taking the boat or launch out again, scooting off for the week-end again…and a thousand and one other things I can’t readily roll off the top of my head because it’s just too far removed from my world; my reality.

          • Robert Guyton

            Good comments, Bill. You’re close to the mark, imho.

  15. Bill 15

    At best it’s grossly misleading, and at worst fundamentally dishonest to write :-

    Bill has already posted his opinion that NZ must get 100% off fossil fuel energy by 2030.

    If you think the science, or the arithmetic around the scientific conclusion is contestable, then say so. Whatever, it’s certainly not my opinion that we must get off fossil by 30 as though I sat down and created a wee story…I agree with the scientific conclusion or, if you prefer, I believe the science. If you want to say “Bill claims that the science is..” then fine. But what you’ve written isn’t fine at all. I’m hoping what you wrote was due to an oversight on your part and not a deliberate choice of wording.

    • Gristle 15.1

      For the sake of this exercise its largely irrelevant whether the figure is 50% or 100%. The issue is that there would have to substantial change. The exercise CV is pushing is about what can be done at a national and local level to make that change liveable.

    • Colonial Viper 15.2

      Hi Bill, I have altered the sentence to say that you have relayed a scientifically based opinion that we must 100% get off fossil fuels.

      As I also note however, science doesn’t tell society to do anything. That’s not the role nor the competency of science. People – including scientists – have to make those value judgements.

      • Bill 15.2.1

        Who said science tells society what to do? The air of defiance is over…what exactly?

        Y’know, the phrase “science tells us” is equivalent to “science informs us”. I’ve no idea where you get the notion that science is wielding a big stick or employing other tools of compulsion or coercion. But if you feel it necessary to point to something as ‘not the case’ when no-one has ever claimed it to be the case, then hey.

        • Colonial Viper

          Well, I would ask that you make up your mind.

          Firstly you said it wasn’t about your opinion. That’s OK, so I changed it to say that you relayed an opinion based on scientific conclusions. Now you say that while the science “tells us” or “informs us” that we have to get off fossil fuels, science doesn’t actually tell society what to do.

          Which I agree with.

          In terms of why the “air of defiance”: my opinion of science is exactly what I said – science tells us about facts, figures, probabilities and possibilities, no more, no less. Then society has to make a series of value judgements. We don’t get to abdicate that to “the science” or even to “scientists” or a common alternative strategy, hiding human decisions behind ‘the name of science’ (or economics).

          • Bill

            No. I said it wasn’t my opinion. (Qualitatively different to what you claim I said in your comment above)

            And before your ‘note’ of today, I’d never heard anyone suggest that science ever told any society what to do.

            Help me out a wee bit here. Do you think I’m confused about something? What is it you think I have to ‘make up my mind on’?

            • Colonial Viper

              Well, the intention was never to suggest that getting off fossil fuels completely was ‘merely’ your opinion which was how you seemed to read it; I had understood that you *also* held the opinion, that it was consistent with your own beliefs, and had therefore written a post in that vein.

  16. b waghorn 16

    Cheers standard peoples , this is the best post I’ve seen in a long time.

  17. Then there is this?
    The OlduvaI theory states that the life expectancy of industrial civilization is approximately 100 years: c. 1930 to 2030.
    by Richard C. Duncan, PhD – 02/10/07

  18. Over the past 150 years, atmospheric CO2 levels have risen at a rate never seen on the planet before, in the past this meteoric climb from 280 ish to 408 ish took at least *10,000 years.
    Supposedly human CO2 emissions have leveled off ??? yet the planet went up 3 ppm last year? The last time* it averaged .013 ppm increase per year and that = the extinction of around 90% of life.
    Also last time there wasn’t 2,000 GT of CH4 stored just below the fast melting sub sea ice. Of which just 50 GT is = to all the CO2 we have added to the mix over the past 150 years or so.
    And again I don’t know for sure, but ‘they’ say parts of the planet went up 6 degrees in 10 years, back then* which we are seeing now all over the place, is isn’t ‘sustained’ yet, but the potential is obvious.
    Winter is coming ….. yeah right.
    SOOOOO even if humans left the planet tonight, taking all their nuclear toys with them, the planet is still going ‘Venus’.
    To save our idiot species we would not need a 100% reduction, but something like a 1,000 % reduction, ‘we’ would need to set up something on an industrial scale equal to both world wars, and the fossil fuel industries infrastructure combined, using carbon neutral energy, to extract gigatons of CO2 etc out of the atmosphere. Absolutely 100% impossible, except in the minds of idiot men.
    We might as well build another story on the top of every sky scraper ala Easter Island, if nothing else it will give the gods something to laugh about.

    • Colonial Viper 18.1

      As you know, at a certain point Mother Earth will simply take back the controls and whatever we choose to do (or not choose to do) will be the equivalent of pushing on the end of a wet string.

      • Robert Guyton 18.1.1

        “Mother Earth” never lost control. One of her “children” influenced her shape for a while, one that “child” is discovering is less and less comfortable. The original form can’t be regained, but a workable facsimile can, if a great deal of deep and rapid introspection takes place.

        • Colonial Viper

          Well that is true thanks for the correction, we’ve been kidding ourselves essentially, especially when a routine earthquake releases the energy of 10,000 nuclear warheads in one minute etc.

          • Robert Guyton

            Oh, we’ve been pulling on the levers, alright, but we’re not “other” than Mother Nature. We are of her flesh (dust to dust, a figure moulded from clay, nostrils breathed into, sneezing, tihe mauri ora!. Will you do a post, CV, on how and when we began to yank on levers we aught to have left untouched? It’s only through self-awareness that we humans will chart a new course. The story of what we did has to be told and listened to before we can craft the new story. Without a new understanding of what we did, no new behaviour can occur. Our old pattern of behaviour won’t result in anything other than what we have now, where we are headed now. Sure, clever ideas about transport and energy are interesting, but they’re more of the same old sorry tale. Thorium? Co2 scrubbers? Aue te mamae!

            • Colonial Viper

              I am very interested in Orlov’s upcoming book, “Shrinking the Technosphere.”

            • greywarshark

              More thought is needed – yes. Last night I was thinking about Jung and his idea of shadows in the human brain. Around the subconscious and its effect on our conscious brain. Today I have contacted another who I know wants to start a regular monthly meeting of discussion about life, ourselves, the meaning of it all. Reflection will be the method. Just thinking about the world and ourselves and what and why. Not talking about doing, or what someone else is doing, but looking to the whys of it. Something that we don’t often do.

              And listening to the Radionz interview by Kim on the new eWhat Colour is your Parachute which revealed that education is to be driven more by the interests of the learner of one subject, and then the requirements of employers, makes me think that huge areas of history and knowledge will be lost, and our brains will lose the knowledge that philosophic thought has ever taken place, or the understanding that it is necessary, to inform present day thinking.

              The question of why we are in this situation after so much education, the ability to conceive abstract things and make them physical. The way we can mould our minds to think up the atom bomb, and spend two days deciding to let it loose, most of the time spent on objective discussion on technical matters, height, wind speed etc.

              Where does this ability to shut ourselves off from our position on this planet come from? Is it a switch that we can trip so we interact with the remnants of an insect brain? There are so many wonderful things we are doing every day but we are drawn to behaviour with power over others, giving power of resources for personal advancement even at the cost of denying others’ basic needs, horror and gore and destruction on television, films, real life. Sick.

              The drama of it is like continually going through a ritual of pain and test of personal resilience at a distance. Perhaps we should all have to run some sort of death defying ritual when we are becoming adult to prove to ourselves that we are strong individuals, we have survived, and learn that we hold life dear and respect our own life and that of others, instead of lightly and without grace. Then going to war, preparing as police to bash in the head of others who think differently, won’t be so captivating.

              • Greywarshark

                A circle of elders, reflecting…

                Yes. That’s the way. Deep reflection before action.

                Have we humans always been as we present now?

                No, imho.

                For most of our time, we were as you sense we should be.

                What happened to alter our path?

                Colonial Viper?

                • greywarshark

                  OMG Someone who I can communicate with here. And with a sense of humour. It can’t last. But good to exchange thoughts with while it does.

                  I am a bit tired of eternal discussion about the vicissitudes/spelling? of the gummint on both sides, or the regular relapse into PC topics as if they were the cause of dis-ease and not just a symptom. I seem to have been coming here for decades and seen some fine analysis and intelligent policy and astute understanding of polls and some discussions with Labour, and all to naught. F..king waste of time if better government is the aim.

                  Now it appears that we have all tried our best to no avail but many are stuck in a hopeful groove or bashing into the furniture repeatedly like those little toys you get at Christmas, wind them up and watch them go – into a chair leg, nowhere, repeatedly.

                  I think some of us are ready for more well informed tactical information and agenda for positive action that will lead us to a sustainable future, not guaranteed fractious-free, but hopefully receiving the benefit of participants thoughtful input towards a responsible democracy, with responsible, not relaxed, voters. And there are well-informed people here concerned about global warming, the lack of remedial action by us and other developed countries, and the lack of preparedness plans coming from extremely well-paid non-functionaries of government and NGOs. So lead us on guruton!

                  • The eternal discussion’s been engaging but eventually the furniture starts to look a little battered and the toys dented, and while peening’s good for a body, the ears grow tired of the constant clatter. The trick will be finding spaces to occupy.

  19. https://robertscribbler.com/
    Severe Drought and Record Heat — Conditions Consistent with Human-Caused Climate Change

    Heat building into extreme record ranges and mounting heat casualties come as India suffers what is likely its worst drought on record. Last month, international water monitors identified 330 million people suffering from water shortages across India. As a result, the government has been forced to resort to extreme measures — posting guards at dwindling reservoirs, sending water trains to provide people in hard-hit regions with a life-saving ration of water, and planning to divert water from the greatly shrunken Ganges to aid parched regions.

    Extreme heat of this kind, wet bulb temperatures approaching 35 C, heatwave mass casualties, and a never-before-seen drought are all conditions related to a human-forced warming of the globe. Though El Nino, during the 20th Century, brought with it a cyclical heat, a potential monsoonal weakening, and an increased risk of drought, the severity of the crisis now afflicting India is too great to be pinned on El Nino alone. India has now suffered three years of delayed monsoons — delays which began before the current El Nino took hold. Water levels in the Himalayas are low due to a decadal warming that has forced snow packs to retreat which has, in its turn, left India’s rivers increasingly vulnerable to drying. And global temperatures hitting in the range of 1.3 C above 1880s levels are absolutely adding intensity to the current heatwave and dryness.

    • We were given plenty of advanced warning about this. Here in New Zealand, significant freshwater springs across the country have been purchased by people who did listen and saw an opportunity…

  20. Sabine 20

    well you can cook your chapatis on the ground, there is always that.
    51 degrees.


  21. Pat 21

    “According to CLIA, the cruise ship industry is now one of the fastest growing sectors in the mass tourism market, with 24 million passengers expected to sail in 2016, compared to 15 million in 2006 and just 1.4 million in 1980.”

    “Cruise companies create a picture of being a bright, clean and environmentally friendly tourism sector. But the opposite is true. One cruise ship emits as many air pollutants as five million cars going the same distance because these ships use heavy fuel that on land would have to be disposed of as hazardous waste.”


    something else to add to your equation.

  22. Heads up CV

    Published on 15 Feb 2016
    In the Paris accord, 195 countries agreed that they would collectively keep average global temperatures from rising more than 2 degrees. But what does science have to say on how fast, and by how much, will we have to cut our emissions to get there? Professor Kevin Anderson of the Tyndall Centre is a climate scientist who looks at exactly this question. And the math he comes away with, isn’t pretty.

    Kevin Anderson shares his thoughts on what will need to happen if we are to meet the declarations in Paris, why it’s a matter of justice that we act, and why he personally has made the difficult decision to give up air travel.
    I don’t think Kevin truly gets it, but he is further ahead than most.

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