Science must drive car policy

20/11/2020

Climate Change Minister James Shaw wants to ban imports of fossil-fuelled cars by 2030:

. . . The UK is planning to ban all new combustion engine vehicles by 2035 – though British Prime Minister Boris Johnson is expected to bring this forward to 2030.

Shaw, the Green Party co-leader, is concerned about the fate of the UK’s cars after the UK ban, considering most of the world drives on the right. “If we let those into New Zealand, we are stuffed. We will have no chance of being able to reduce our transport emissions, which are the fastest-growing sector,” he said. . .

He is right there is a potential for dumping should the UK ban actually happen.

But a ban here is unlikely to do anything to reduce emissions. Instead it will encourage people to stock pile diesel and petrol fuelled cars before the ban comes in and to keep old cars longer once the ban is in place.

But worse, mass conversion to electric vehicles could increase global emissions.

Bjorn Lamborghini says:

Electric cars require large batteries, which are often produced in China using coal power. The manufacture of one electric car battery releases also a quarter of the greenhouse gases emitted by a petrol car over its entire life time.

The United Nations has raised environmental and ethical concerns about the mining of cobalt and lithium required for these batteries too:

. . .For example, two-thirds of all cobalt production happens in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). According the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF), about 20 per cent of cobalt supplied from the DRC comes from artisanal mines, where human rights abuses have been reported, and up to 40,000 children work in extremely dangerous conditions in the mines for meagre income.

And in Chile, lithium mining uses nearly 65% of the water in the country’s Salar de Atamaca region, one of the driest desert areas in the world, to pump out brines from drilled wells. This has forced local quinoa farmers and llama herders to migrate and abandon ancestral settlements. It has also contributed to environment degradation, landscape damage and soil contamination, groundwater depletion and pollution. . .

Back to Lomborg:

Second, electric cars are charged with electricity that is in most countries powered by fossil fuels.Together this means a long-range electric car will emit more CO2 for its first 60,000km than its petroleum equivalent. . . 

Most of New Zealand’s power comes from renewable energy now, but could existing generation cope with a steep increase in demand from charging cars if the nation’s fleet had a lot more electric vehicles?

We need a reality check. First politicians should stop writing huge cheques just because they believe electric cars are a major climate solution. Second, there is a simpler answer. The hybrid car saves the same amount of CO2 as an electric car over its lifetime. Third climate change doesn’t care where CO2 comes from. Personal cars represent about 7% of global emission and electric cars will only help a little.

RIght now electric car subsidies are something wealthy countries can afford to offer virtue-signaling elites. But if we want to fix the climate, we need to focus on the big emitters and drive innovation in fusion, fission, geothermal, wind and solar energy. Advances that make any of these cheaper than fossil fuels would mean it’s not just rich Londoners changing their habits, but everyone, including China and India, switching large parts of their energy consumption towards zero emissions.

The problem with Shaw’s policy is that it’s driven by politics when it needs to be driven by science.


Labour will make poor poorer

11/09/2020

What is Labour thinking with its plan to have 100% renewable energy generation by 2030?

Labour’s energy policy will hammer Kiwis’ back pockets by increasing the cost of electricity by as much as 40 per cent, Leader of the Opposition Judith Collins says.

The Government’s own advice from the Independent Climate Commission said the 100 per cent renewable electricity will increase power prices for New Zealand businesses and families.

“The day after Grant Robertson pledged there would be no new taxes, we’re seeing even more costs piled onto New Zealanders.

“This is a policy that will cost thousands of jobs and put even more people on to the unemployment benefit.

“While we want to see more renewable electricity, all this policy will do is increase electricity prices and reduce reliability.

“While Labour wants higher taxes and hiked power prices, National wants to get the economy moving and create jobs for New Zealanders.”

Like the ban on oil and gas exploration, this policy isn’t evidence-based:

A goal of 100% renewable electricity needs to evidence-based and thoroughly tested, according to the Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ).

“The Government’s own Interim Climate Change Committee (ICCC) warned against a 100% target for 2035 given that it would be very expensive and have only minimal impacts on emissions,” says PEPANZ Chief Executive John Carnegie.

Nearly as bad as the oil and gas ban that will make emissions worse.

“We’d want to see careful consideration of the costs and benefits of bringing a 100% target even further forward, as well as for all other policies.

“A Government-backed hydro scheme is likely to be a major deterrent to any private sector energy investment given it could render them unprofitable. Its need could become self-fulfilling.

What are the chances of a hydro scheme, government-backed or not, getting through the resource consent process in time for it to be operating by 2030?

“The pace and nature of our transition will ultimately be determined by global economics. New Zealand has tried to hide from market forces before without success and at massive long-term economic and social cost. We cannot subsidise our way to prosperity, especially in the current highly uncertain global environment. . . 

Why would Labour, the party that imposed significant costs on landlords with the aim of making houses warmer, plan to implement a policy that will make it more difficult for poor people to heat their houses by significantly increasing power prices?

Why would the party whose leader said reducing child poverty was one of her most important priorities even consider a policy that will make poverty worse?

Why wouldn’t the party that exhorts us to follow the science on Covid-19, follow the science on energy, the environment and economics?


$30m investigating white elephant

29/07/2020

The government is spending $30 million investigating a white elephant:

The government is spending $30 million on an investigation into renewable energy projects including a hydro scheme at Lake Onslow in Central Otago which would solve the problem of dry years and the irregular supply of renewable energy sources. . . 

Engineer Dr Dougal McQueen said multiple smaller schemes would work better.

“If we don’t have the need for a dry-year storage, and we’ve invested in it, then of course it’s going to become the white elephant in the room and the Onslow scheme isn’t where the need is, which is in the North Island.”

Generating electricity closer to where it will be used would be a much greener option because it would reduce the amount that is wasted in transmission over large distances.

Sustainable Energy Forum spokesman Steve Goldthorpe said it’s great more renewable energy is being investigated but the scope of the Lake Onslow scheme doesn’t make sense.

“Storing water just for use on occasion, two or three times a year at most, seems to be an awful lot of expense for little return, so using it for that sort of battery capacity seems a little unusual.”

“Using Huntly Power Station as a back-up and for emergencies could make more sense rather than it competing in the market, but the government needs to work out the cost per tonne of CO2 emission reduction,” he said. . . 

It also needs to look at the way the transmission costs are averaged over the country which distorts the price.

If consumers paid the true cost of transmission, it would be much cheaper in the south and more expensive in the north. That could be a significant factor in decisions on locating industry.

National’s energy and resources spokesman Jonathan Young said the Productivity Commission looked into the Lake Onslow idea in 2018 but found it didn’t make sense economically and found the project would struggle to get through the resource consent process.

He agreed there were better options.

“There’s a lot more scope for geo-thermal to be developed and if we had that in the central plateau region we would be closer to the demand which will make it more affordable for the consumers who won’t have to pay huge transmission costs from the bottom of the South Island.”

The government’s claim the hydro project would reduce electricity costs don’t stack up, Young said.

“If we are going to spend $4 billion on our electricity system, then someone is going to pay for it. If it’s not going to come from higher electricity prices then it will come from the taxpayer.” . .

Taxpayers are consumers, either way we can’t afford $30m of borrowed money to investigate a white elephant.


Power for the south

13/07/2020

Love many fat royal people today.

That’s the mnemonic by which I can still recall sixth form geography’s lesson on the six factors which affect the location of industry – labour, market, finance, raw materials, power and transport.

When it comes to power, the market in New Zealand is distorted by averaging of transmission costs across the country. That is one of the major reasons Rio Tinto has decided to close the Tiwai aluminium smelter next year and Richard Harman points out it is Auckland votes that did the damage:

. . .Opposition from the city, and particularly its business community, to proposals, put up in 2016 to change the way consumers paid for the transmission component of power pricing killed off what could have been a $20 million cost-saving for the smelter.

That might have been enough to save it. Rio Tinto’s loss on the smelter last year was $46 million. . . 

NZAS has argued that it is forced to pay for investment in the country’s power supply network that has no relevance to it, such as upgrades in the North Island when it is based at Bluff.

In 2017 a company press statement said NZAS paid  around nine per cent of Transpower’s transmission charges to consumers, “including paying towards the $1.3 billion spent on upgrading the grid in the upper North Island since 2004 without receiving any additional benefit to its business.”

“When it comes to transmission charges, we believe you should pay for what you use,” said then-CEO   Gretta Stephens.

“This isn’t what is happening now, so we are committed to working with the Electricity Authority and Transpower to achieve a more sustainable method of pricing transmission services.”

Stephens was therefore ready to endorse an Electricity Authority proposal in May 2017 to radically overhaul the transmission pricing regime and essentially make it a user-pays system. The further a consumer was from their power generator; the more they would be likely to pay.

The smelter uses only about 40km of Transpower lines because the main transmission lines from Meridian’s Manapouri power station to the northern outskirts of Invercargill are owned by Meridian.

The total length of all transmission lines owned by Transpower is 12,000km.

So in proposing that this imbalance be addressed, NZAS, told the Electricity Authority in 2017 the smelter had been located in its current position to allow for port access and to minimise the need for transmission.

“Auckland, by comparison, grew organically because of the natural advantages the location has for residential living,” the company said. “These advantages did not include nearby economic energy resources.

“As a result, considerable expense has been, and continues to be, applied to transporting electricity to Auckland.

“Because of these characteristics, the economic cost of providing transmission services for NZAS is considerably lower than the economic cost of transmission to Auckland”.

Southern individuals and businesses have been and are continuing to subsidise those in the north.

The Electricity Authority then produced a new transmission pricing proposal which would have seen NZAS’s transmission costs drop by 34 per cent to $40 million a year. But to help pay for that, the Authority proposed increasing the transmission costs to Vector, the former Auckland Electric Power Board, by 44 per cent or $50 a household a year.

There was an immediate uproar. . . 

The uproar came from a much bigger voting block than the one in the south and the north won.

Steven Joyce is one northerner who understands this:

Nearly 5 per cent of the Southland workforce will likely lose their jobs — a massive body blow. For Aucklanders having difficulty comprehending what that means, a shock of a similar magnitude in that city would be 40,000 people losing their jobs at once.

The Finance Minister is conveniently trying to hide behind the skirts of Bill English, reminding everyone that Bill said “no more” to Rio Tinto after 2013, and as current minister he’s just sticking with the line. It’s weird how trapped he feels by an 8-year-old decision.

If it helps at all, the Bill English I know wouldn’t have handed out $10 million to a bungy jumping company in Queenstown. If desperate times warrant that much being handed to a single private tourism company, or a ludicrous $280m to support New Zealand Post, Southlanders will legitimately ask why not $30 or $50 million for 2600 jobs in their region?

A very good question and if the smelter was in Northland does anyone doubt that it would get the money?

The smelter has as good a case as the tourism or film sectors, and a considerably better case than what has become a glorified courier company. The international market for aluminium has crashed as a result of Covid-19 decimating the car- and plane-making industries.

More egregiously, the electricity for this and other Southland businesses comes from just up the road at Manapouri, yet Southland is made to pay to have power circulated around the rest of the country. The request for help is more a case for stopping an unfair levy than for a fresh subsidy. Southland is not the only region, and aluminium not the only regional industry that is up against it. . . 

Some people see a silver lining in the smelter closure in the potential for cheaper power. But the electricity the smelter uses is generated in Southland, upgrading transmission lines to get it to the northern North Island would cost many millions of dollars.

If those costs were averaged over the country it would be rubbing very expensive salt into the wounds the smelter closure will inflict on Southland, its labour force and economy.

But it’s not only Southland that is facing big jobs losses.

The Marsden Point refinery bankrolls a similar proportion of high-paying jobs in Northland, and the refining company is making near-identical noises about closure.

Meanwhile, Taranaki is continuing to come to grips with the Government’s pre-Covid oil and gas exploration ban placing an artificial sunset on its biggest industry, and associated companies like Methanex and the ammonia urea plant.

Outside of heavy industry, the Covid-19 border controls have put on ice a series of other sectors that normally contribute to New Zealand’s wealth and jobs.

The $5 billion we earn annually from international education is dwindling to nearly nothing — and that leaves schools, universities and other providers short $1b a year for tuition fees alone.

Tourism limps along on one domestic cylinder, which sparks up in the school holidays but is insufficient to sustain many of the companies reliant on it.

The tech companies that succeed in the world despite our isolated location are wondering how long they can operate from their New Zealand base while being physically cut off from their customers.

And the foresters are suffering from whiplash, feeling alternately loved and loathed, sometimes almost in the same press release, as the Government has somehow got itself to the point where it will decide when forests are planted and where they can be sold. No wonder politicians were belatedly cuddling up to the farmers this week. Food is in danger of becoming our only export sector, so let’s call a truce in the regulatory hostilities and pretend all that talk about the need to diversify away from agriculture was just a bad dream.

The more other export industries falter, the more important agriculture becomes.

Which brings us to the bigger problem that the smelter closure underlines. Exactly how do we plan to make money to pay off this huge debt the Government is running up on our behalf?

How will we fill the massive hole in our exports left by tourism, education, aluminium and oil and gas? And exactly how do we plan to magic up 2600 replacement high-paying jobs in Southland?

Our economic response to Covid-19 is looking ridiculously haphazard. If the Government likes you, you get a bucket of money. If they don’t, then tough luck.

We first need a level playing field, and then we need to focus on increasing the competitiveness of all our businesses. We also need, to paraphrase a certain Australian Prime Minister, to get out from under the duvet and start re-engaging with the safer parts of the world again.

Right now we are being way too cavalier with our whole economic fabric. We could wake up and find whole regions permanently crippled — the ultimate irony for a Government that claims to “champion the regions”.

And, given that our biggest power consumers will have gone, and taken with them their outsized contributions to the costs of the electricity grid, we may not even have cheap power to make us feel better.

Taking big electricity users out of the market won’t make power cheaper. If the big users who contribute most to the energy companies’ coffers go, the cost will be spread across fewer, smaller users including households.

Given the fall in the price of aluminum, even a lower power price probably wouldn’t save the smelter.

But the smelter’s closure should provide the impetus to stop the southern subsidising of the north’s power.

Finding new businesses to soak up the people left unemployed when the smelter closed won’t be easy.

But it could be less difficult if everyone paid the actual cost of getting power which would make Southland much more attractive than Auckland to any enterprises where electricity costs were significant.

Southland has the labour, a variety or raw materials, good transport options and finance is reasonably mobile. It might be further from many markets but much cheaper power could well compensate for that.

So much power is generated in the south, far less will be needed down here without the smelter. This is an opportunity to ensure it stays here and southerners get lower prices to benefit households and the businesses that could soak up at least some of the workers left jobless when the smelter closes.

But what’s the chances of cheaper electric power for the south when political power is in the north?


Blue cover for red Budget

14/05/2020

The cover of the Budget features a photo of Lake Pukaki.

The irony is that the lake is part of the Upper Waitaki Hydro Scheme, the like of which would be very unlikely to happen again and definitely wouldn’t under this government.

Also ironic is that the primary color is blue when the Budget is full of red ink and red prescriptions which are sadly lacking in a vision for the growth which is so desperately needed.

 


Mixed messages

06/12/2019

The government is sending mixed messages on fuel prices.

It’s imposed a carbon tax as part of its climate change strategy while it’s also criticising fuel companies for charging too much.

In doing the latter they are conveniently ignoring the fact that nearly half of the cost of fuel at the pumps is tax.


Westpower hydro decision shows need for better process

30/08/2019

The government’s decision to stop the Westpower Hydro scheme shows the urgent need for a better consenting process:

“The cancellation of the Westpower hydro scheme concession under the Conservation Act after years of community engagement has significant implications for the review of the resource management system that is about to commence and underlines the need for an improved system for planning consents,” says Paul Blair, the new CEO for Infrastructure New Zealand.

“Westpower, the locally owned electricity distributer and generator for Westland, had hoped to build a 20 MW hydro scheme on the Waitaha river on the South Island’s West Coast.

“The scheme would have improved resilience of electricity supply, was aligned with national carbon reduction priorities and would have injected millions of dollars into a part of the country whose traditional industries are under significant pressure.

An old joke asks: what do conservationists do if they see and endangered bird eating a threatened plant?

In this case conservation decided the natural beauty of the river trumped the need for renewable energy which gives credence to those opposed to declarations of climate emergencies.

“But it also would have reduced water flows along a pristine river, impacting recreational activities, and impacted the natural character of the area.

“This was always going to be a difficult decision, but the fact that a local company spent millions of dollars before a line call from a Cabinet Minister cancelled the proposal shows how tenuous and uncertain the consenting process is in New Zealand.

Is it any wonder we have such low productivity when so much time and money is wasted like this?

“Though this was a Conservation Act process, this is an excellent case study for the RMA review panel chaired by retired court of appeal judge Tony Randerson.

“How do we develop a system to optimally trade off the wider social, economic, cultural and environmental benefits of a proposal versus negative environmental effects?

“How do we balance local aspirations to grow and prosper against national objectives to retain areas of national significance?

“How do we provide guidance or accelerate decision making so that economic and social uncertainty, waste and frustration are mitigated, along with environmental impacts?

“In a better system, the need to expand renewable energy supply would have been part of a coordinated regional plan for Westland, led by the region, supported by central government, iwi and local communities, and linked to a wider programme designed to enhance regional wellbeing.

“National concerns about the significance of the Waitaha river would have been tackled through a collaborative planning process and either the effects mitigated or alternatives developed.

“That would have saved everyone a lot of time and cost and instead of wondering ‘what next?’ Westland would now be implementing an agreed strategy to lift incomes and improve the environment,” Blair says. 

Conservation concerns have stopped mining and forestry on the West Coast, now they’ve stopped the hydro project which could have provided jobs, renewable energy and energy security.

Whether or not the decision is the right one, the long and expensive process that preceded it is wrong and must be addressed through RMA reform.

 


Smartphone saves 444 watts

20/07/2019

Our home has a lot of things that weren’t invented when I was a child and many of them use power.

But while we have a lot more electrical gadgets, the one that fits in our pocket or purse, has replaced lots of others.

 


Energy use unsustainable with renewables

29/09/2018

Current trends of energy use won’t be sustainable when New Zealand relies only on renewable energy:

. . . Energy Research Centre co-director Michael Jack said the infrastructure and market structures needed to change.

“Wind is variable. It’s only generating when the wind blows.

“Solar is generating during the middle of the day, when there’s less demand for it.

Hydro generation is more reliable, except when droughts decrease river flows, but the chances of getting new hydro schemes through the consent process are remote.

“What you need to do is either shift your demand to those time when the renewables are being produced or somehow store those renewables for use at later times,” he said. . . 

Improved technology could provide better storage, but is unlikely to come up with something affordable in the near future.

He said if changes were not made, the switch to completely renewable energy would be costly.

Of course it will be costly and that will hit poorer people hardest.

This is another reminder of how ill-advised the government was to rush into the ban on oil and gas exploration.

Apropos of which, this week we learned that not only did the government rush into the ban, it’s also going to be rushing the select committee process:

PEPANZ says it is undemocratic and deeply unfair for the select committee considering changes to oil and gas legislation to have its consultation period slashed to just four weeks.

“Given the strong public interest and enormous ramifications of this decision, it’s crucial this process isn’t rushed,” says PEPANZ CEO Cameron Madgwick.

“Our industry doesn’t want a Block Offer this year if it means an undemocratic process. This means there should be no reason now for urgency.

“There has already been a shocking lack of consultation since the surprise announcement was made in April. To now slash the consultation time doesn’t seem fair, open or transparent to the communities, workers, and iwi directly affected.

“Given some of the outrageous comments from relevant MPs in the debate tonight, we have little confidence in a fair hearing from the Environment Select Committee. This is especially so in such a short timeframe which gives so little time for MPs to consider evidence and write a properly informed report.

“The legislative changes in the bill involves serious economic and environmental issues and go even further than expected. There needs to be proper scrutiny of the impacts through a normal four to six month select committee process.

“The entire process has been a disgrace with no warning, no consultation and the Government trashing their own expert advice on the devastating impacts of this policy.”

Why the rush?

Because the decision is made and the government has no wish to hear the facts submitters will put up to prove the economic, environmental and social damage the ban will do.

 

 

 


Emissions reduction project first victim

26/09/2018

The government’s misguided ban on off-shore oil and gas exploration has claimed its first victim:

The government’s proposed ban on new offshore exploration looks likely to halt plans by Methanex for a $100 million-plus emissions reduction project at its Motunui plant.

The company uses natural gas to make methanol and had been considering a project to recover and re-use CO2 from its production processes in order to reduce emissions per tonne of product.

But that project is now unlikely to proceed due to uncertainty about the longevity of affordable gas supplies in New Zealand, says John Kidd, director of sector research at Woodward Partners.

“This is a project that should have been an absolute slam-dunk,” he said. “It’s good for emissions, it’s good for the economy and it’s good for gas continuity.”

Unlike the ban which is bad for emissions, bad for the economy and bad for gas continuity.

Vancouver-based Methanex is the world’s biggest methanol maker and the biggest gas user in New Zealand.

Methanex New Zealand declined to comment on the emissions reduction project. In July it said it had secured sufficient gas to meet half its New Zealand requirements through to 2029, but noted its disappointment with the exploration ban which it said would impact it long-term.

Kidd said carbon dioxide recovery would be a good project, but it required a long pay-back period. Methanex refurbishes its production trains every five years and the uncertainty the government policy change has created means it would struggle to justify investments needing more than five to 10 years to pay off.

Kidd says it is an example of the environmental costs of the proposed ban, which he believes is more likely to increase emissions than reduce them.

The potential for carbon leakage as New Zealand-made products are replaced with products made overseas is “absolutely real”, he said. The fact the coalition is proceeding with the ban shows the government is more focused on shutting down the country’s oil and gas sector earlier than would have been the case, rather than reducing emissions.

“All of the scenarios are negative – some of them dramatically so,” Kidd told BusinessDesk.

“And the policy objective of reducing emissions is actually worse.” . .

If the policy was going to have a positive environmental impact it might, just might, be justified but it will make emissions worse.

Oil and gas account for just over half the country’s primary energy supplies. Kidd noted that gas – produced as methanol – brings in more than $1 billion in exports. When converted to urea it displaces about $200 million of imported product, while locally produced LPG displaces about $200 million of imported fuel.

The ban loses billions in foregone income, will lead to job losses, will increase emissions and reduce fuel security.

It combines rank stupidity with political posturing at a high environmental, financial and social cost.


Fueling inflation

22/05/2018

The headline said As fuel prices hit record high, govt mulls tax cut.

That was in India.

Prices are high in New Zealand too but the tax will be going up.

The AA’s weekly fuel price report last week noted:

Another increase in fuel prices, the second in a week, this time led by Z, with all fuels up 4 cents per litre. This brings the ‘national’ price of 91 octane to $2.30/litre, the highest price ever recorded – in nominal terms that is; as we note below, we’ve paid much more in real terms when you adjust for inflation. Plus the tax on petrol has now broken through the $1/litre barrier. And all this before Auckland Council is due to introduce a 10cpl regional fuel tax in July, and the Government a 3-4cpl increase in petrol excise later this year.

Why have prices risen 23cpl in the last 2 months? International refined commodity prices have risen over 16% since the last price cut in February due mostly to geopolitics, while the NZ dollar has fallen nearly 5c against the US$.

Petrol tax is already more than $1 a litre. It will go up three to four cents for all of us later in the year and Aucklanders will face another 10 cent/litre tax from their council.

It’s hard enough accepting more than $1 in fuel tax when it was going on roads. It will be even harder to swallow when it’s going to be spent on public transport in Auckland.

The government has been telling us about how it’s helping the poor.

With fuel prices rising and tax on top of that, they will be giving with one hand and taking with the other.

Everything we buy is transported. If the fuel price rises so will everything else and that will fuel inflation and it’s always the poor who are hardest hit by that.


Anti-oil greenwash adds costs for no gain

13/04/2018

A friend who has a horticulture business estimates the government’s ban on further offshore oil and gas exploration will add around half a million dollars a year to his costs of production.

That comes on top of a similar amount more he’ll be paying for labour with the increases to the minimum wage.

He might be able to absorb some of the increased costs but will have to pass on at least some of the increase.

Food in New Zealand is already expensive. Government policies will make it even more expensive and will also lead to job losses.

Adding extra costs for green wash is economic vandalism for no environmental gain.

The Government’s decision to ban gas and petroleum exploration is economic vandalism that makes no environmental sense, National MPs Jonathan Young and Todd Muller says.

“This decision will ensure the demise of an industry that provides over 8000 high paying jobs and $2.5 billion for the economy,” Energy and Resources Spokesperson Jonathan Young says.

“Without exploration there will be no investment in oil and gas production or the downstream industries. That means significantly fewer jobs.

“This decision is devoid of any rationale. It certainly has nothing to do with climate change. These changes will simply shift production elsewhere in the world, not reduce emissions.

“Gas is used throughout New Zealand to ensure security of electricity supply to every home in New Zealand. Our current reserves will last less than ten years – when they run out we will simply have to burn coal instead, which means twice the emissions.

“The Government says that existing wells will continue but that’s code for winding the sector down.

Climate Change Spokesperson Todd Muller says the decision makes no sense – environmentally or economically – because less gas production means more coal being burnt and higher carbon emissions.

“Many overseas countries depend on coal for energy production. Those CO2 emissions would halve if they could switch to natural gas while they transition to renewable energy.

“By stopping New Zealand’s gas exploration we are turning our backs on an opportunity to help reduce global emissions while providing a major economic return to improve our standard of living and the environment.

“We need to reduce global CO2 emissions. But there is no need to put an entire industry and thousands of New Zealanders’ jobs at risk.”

Mr Young says the Government’s decision today is another blow to regional New Zealand, and Taranaki in particular.

“It comes hot on the heels of big decisions that reduce roading expenditure, cancel irrigation funding, and discourage international investment in the regions.

“This is simply Jacinda Ardern destroying an industry in the cause of a political slogan pushed by Greenpeace.”

You can sign a petition against this economic vandalism for no economic gain here.

When oil and gas are mentioned, we think of fuel for vehicles.

But oil isn’t just used for fuel.

Filling up at the gas station is certainly one of the ways to use oil that is most familiar to us. But guess what: of all the oil we use, only 43 per cent goes to fueling our cars.

Given this, can we seriously consider ending our “dependence on oil”, as some would suggest? Someone who wants to stop using oil will have to say goodbye to smart phones, ballpoint pens, candlelight, clothing made of synthetic fibers, glasses, toothpaste, tires (including those on bicycles), and thousands of other products made from plastic, a petroleum derivative.

Good luck with that program.

Problem is, the anti-oil discourse so demonized this resource that we came to forget the many benefits conferred by its use. Oil and its derivatives have improved living conditions in Western industrialized societies, as the list quoted above quite clearly demonstrates, but also worldwide. In Africa, for example, earthenware jars used to transport water have been replaced by plastic jars, which are much lighter, providing some relief to women who have to carry out this task.

What’s more, some of these products shaping everyday life are designed locally. That’s the case for Eska water bottles or Kraft mayonnaise recipients, manufactured in Montreal. So much so that a high-technology sector has emerged around Montreal refineries over the years, providing quality jobs for more than 3,600 workers. . . 

Like other greenwash, the anti-oil movement has gained traction based on half-truths and emotion.

Like other greenwash, the government’s decision to ban offshore exploration will come at a high economic and social cost with no environmental gain.

Like other green wash the ban is about doing something, not doing the right thing,


O&G exploration ban greenwash

12/04/2018

The government’s decision to stop offshore oil and gas exploration is nothing but greenwash.

National Opposition energy and resources spokesman Jonathan Young said the decision had come without any consultation with industry.

“The Government had promised to consult but have now made an abrupt decision to stop any new offshore exploration,” he said. 

New Zealand has only about 10 years supply of gas reserves left, he said.

“So in 10 years time we will be buying imported gas to fire up the barbecue,” he said.

Young said 20 per cent of nationwide electricity generation depended on gas.

“What will replace gas as the demand for more electricity rose with electric vehicles and we don’t have enough renewables.

“It will be coal – good one Government.”

This move will do nothing to reduce the use of oil and gas in New Zealand or elsewhere.

It will just mean importing oil and gas from elsewhere. That will be more expensive and worse for the environment.

New Plymouth mayor Neil Holdom called the decision a “kick in the guts” for the Taranaki economy.

The industry provided directly and indirectly up to 7000 jobs in the region.

“It was a kick in the guts for the long term future of the Taranaki economy and urgent work was needed on a plan to maintain Taranaki’s position as the provincial powerhouse of New Zealand’s economy,” he said. . .

Any gain from the projects which got money from the Provincial Growth Fund last week will be more than cancelled out by the jobs lost in the oil and gas industry and those who service and supply it.

This policy is economic sabotage for no environmental gain from a government long on rhetoric and virtue signaling and very short on reason.

 

 


Rural round-up

31/07/2017

MPI urges vigilance – Annette Scott:

While he may be the first in New Zealand to have the cattle disease Mycoplasma bovis detected on his farm, South Canterbury dairy farmer Aad van Leeuwen is confident he won’t be the last.

The Ministry for Primary Industries notified the detection of Mycoplasma bovis (M. bovis) disease on a South Canterbury dairy farm on July 25, but the identity of the property wasn’t revealed until four days later, on Friday, prompting speculation to run rife meantime.

Devastated that the disease – listed as an unwanted organism under NZ’s Biosecurity Act 1993 – had hit his dairy operation, van Leeuwen said he was co-operating 100% with MPI. . .

Japan frozen beef tariffs expected – Alan Williams:

New Zealand beef exporters are facing 50% tariffs on frozen exports to Japan over the next eight months.

Suppliers in this country have been caught in the reaction to big shipments from Australia, and especially the United States this year, so that total volumes have reached a trigger point at which the Japanese government has decided it needs to protect domestic farmers. . .

Give up farming generate power – Neil Malthus:

Farmers installing solar power can now get a better return from it than from farming itself, a solar power installer claims.

Electrical contractor Andrew Wells, of ABW Electric, Christchurch, recently set up Sunergy Solar to market solar photovoltaic systems. His company specialises in farm installations, marketed at farming field days and A&P shows; it also does residential systems.

Wells sees huge potential for solar power on farms: electricity charges for a dairy shed average $5000 – $6000 a month and solar panels now cost only about 8% of what they did 10 years ago. . . 

More wool needed for a brighter future – WNZ – Pam Tipa:

Greater sales volume is critical for Wools of NZ, says chair Mark Shadbolt.
The trademarked scouring process Glacier XT will be a more volume-focused business, he says.

“That will create lot more demand. It is creating a wool that is a lot whiter and brighter and is the sort innovation and technology we need to invest in to add value to the wool.

“We have had a lot of interest in the market for it because the brightness is the key aspect that the industry hadn’t been able to acquire until this technology became available.” . .

Southland a winner – Sonita Chandar:

Southlander Katrina Thomas knew “absolutely nothing about cows” when she and husband James Dixon converted to dairy farming.

But she turned that lack of knowledge around by joining the Dairy Women’s Network (DWN) and volunteering her time to the community.

It is this generosity that saw her win the 2017 Dairy Women’s Network Dairy Community Leadership award. . .

NZ’s prosperity still tethered to farm gate – Liam Dann:

There’s nothing like a biosecurity scare to remind us that New Zealand’s economic prosperity is still – for better or for worse – tethered to the farm gate.

The instant that news of the Mycoplasma bovis outbreak in South Canterbury hit the headlines last Tuesday the dollar plunged.

Luckily it only dropped 20 basis points (0.2 per cent) before it became apparent that this was a more benign disease than foot and mouth.

But it was enough to put a deep V shape in the daily dollar chart and illustrate how quickly a more serious outbreak could take this country to the brink of recession. . .

Fonterra Australia increase farmgate milk price for the 2017/18 season:

Fonterra Australia has today advised its farmers of an increase of 20 cents per kilogram of milk solids (kgMS) to its farmgate milk price for the 2017/18 season, bringing its average farmgate milk price to $5.50kgMS. The increase will apply from 1 July 2017 and will be paid on 15 August 2017.

Fonterra’s additional payment of 40 cents/kgMS is payable on top of the revised farmgate milk price, and brings the total average cash paid to $5.90kgMS.

Fonterra Australia Managing Director René Dedoncker said that improved market conditions and the strength ohf the Australian business supported this step up. . . .


Three more years

03/08/2015

Tiwai Point smelter will stay open for at least another three years:

The Tiwai Point aluminium smelter will stay open until at least 2018, with a new agreement reached between owner New Zealand Aluminium Smelters (NZAS) and electricity suppliers Meridian and Contact.

The revised contract will see 572MW of energy supplied to the smelter until 2030, with NZAS able to reduce the load or terminate the deal altogether from 2018, depending on market conditions.

“We have crossed a hurdle today and now have more certainty about our immediate future,” says NZAS chief executive Gretta Stephens.

“The agreement provides short-term security for the smelter and allows time for market fundamentals to improve.” . . .

Aluminium is a commodity and like many others, including dairy produce, it is in the midst of a downturn.

The announcement the smelter will stay open will be a relief to the hundreds of people working there, the businesses which service and supply it and the wider Southland economy.

It is probably good news for Meridian and Contact shareholders too. Even though the smelter gets power at a discounted price, losing such a big customer would have hurt the companies, though it might have meant lower power prices for the rest of us.


Rural round-up

06/06/2015

Biofuels, grain and the American Midwest – Keith Woodford:

The American Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has recently announced plans to reduce the 2015 and 2016 legal requirements for biofuels within American fuels. At the same time, the American Midwest looks like it could be heading for a bumper harvest year, possibly beating last year’s records.

The reason the Midwest is so important is that it is the American grain bowl. Increasingly, the Midwest is also becoming the centre of the American dairy industry. The twelve key contiguous states are Ohio, Michigan, Indiana, Wisconsin, Illinois, Minnesota, Iowa, Missouri, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas. . .

Nominations open for 2015 agribusiness leadership awards:

Nominations have opened for this year’s prestigious Rabobank Leadership Awards – recognising the contribution of outstanding leaders in New Zealand and Australia’s food and agribusiness industries.

The annual awards, which are now in their tenth year, acknowledge the important role played by senior leaders in New Zealand and Australia’s agribusiness and agri-related industries with the Rabobank Leadership Award, which was last year won by the Australian Farm Institute’s Mick Keogh.

A second award category now in its third year, the Rabobank Emerging Leader Award, recognises up-and-coming young leaders in the sector. In 2014, this award went to Bryce Camm from the Camm Agricultural Group. . .

Farmers keen to do their bit for meat export market boost:

Federated Farmers says the New Zealand meat export industry needs to make up lost ground with a boost to marketing New Zealand beef and sheepmeat overseas.

Meat and fibre spokesperson Rick Powdrell says the figures show primary industries in other countries are outmuscling New Zealand meat in our export markets.

“Beef + Lamb New Zealand has identified we aren’t putting enough effort into promoting our meat exports at the moment and it has been working with the meat industry to get a joint farmer/industry promotion of NZ$7 – $8m a year commitment together. I commend that.” . . .

 

Shape of the meat industry – Rick Powdrell:

The Meat Industry Excellence (MIE) report, Pathway to Long – Term Sustainability, has come and gone. Well that’s what it appears, as little of a positive nature has eventuated from its contents.

Why has that been the case?

For one, it would appear that few farmers have actually read it. So does that tell us farmers didn’t believe in MIE’s concept for the report, or that they don’t wish to engage in any industry discussions relating to structural change?

I would say both, as some farmers from all around New Zealand have expressed their feelings that industry structure should not be the main focus. . .

Government supports New Zealand forestry exporters to combat illegal logging:

The Government has today launched a new tool for exporters of New Zealand-grown forestry products to help combat illegal logging of tropical forests, Associate Primary Industries Minister Jo Goodhew says.

“From 15 June this year information statements will be available for our exporters to use when they send products to countries who have imposed requirements to combat illegal logging,” says Mrs Goodhew.

New Zealand’s legislation, and specifically the Resource Management Act 1991, mean that New Zealand’s planted forests are produced sustainably.

“New Zealand has a comprehensive regulatory system covering the legality and sustainability of the harvesting of our planted forests. We want to help our exporters tell this story,” says Mrs Goodhew. . .

Kauri dieback donation welcomed:

A generous donation towards protecting our native kauri tree from the ravages of kauri dieback disease has been welcomed by Conservation Minister Maggie Barry.

Sir Stephen Tindall and Julian Robertson will contribute $480,000 over the next three years through their Tindall and Aotearoa Foundations, targeted at protecting kauri.

$100,000 a year will go towards landowner’s efforts to stop livestock spreading the spores which cause the disease to kauri on their land. It will also fund public education and practical efforts such as hygiene stations at track entrances. . .

Calves and carers to get the best nutrition this season:

Calving time means lots of hungry mouths to feed on the farm so SealesWinslow has teamed up with the Dairy Women’s Network and celebrity chef Michael Van de Elzen to ensure both calves and carers get the best nutrition.

Calf rearing workshops, which began on 21 May and run through June and July will help rearers prepare for a successful season. Meanwhile Chef Van de Elzen will add seasoning to the sessions, providing recipe packs for fast, healthy meals to sustain farming families.

“I think my life is tough as a chef but farmers certainly work huge hours as well but often in very trying conditions. I’m excited to be supporting them with some tasty tucker,” said Mike. . .

 


Rural round-up

13/01/2015

Z plant turns meat waste into diesel – Adrien Taylor:

Z Energy has started construction on a south Auckland plant to convert meat waste into biofuel.

The plant will produce 20 million litres of the fuel every year, but Z says that’s just the beginning of a green transition, if consumers want it.

In a University of Auckland lab, Z is developing what it hopes will be a growing part of the fuel mix it offers customers. The New Zealand company is converting waste fat from the meat industry, a green tallow, into a high-grade mineral diesel substitute – clear in colour.

Z says the biodiesel has a carbon footprint less than 10 percent the size of mineral diesel. . .

 NZ fights Illegal fishing in the Southern Ocean:

Foreign Minister Murray McCully today put illegal fishing vessels operating in the Southern Ocean on notice and vowed to take action against their owners.

“As part of a multi-agency operation, the HMNZS WELLINGTON has intercepted two vessels claiming to be flagged to Equatorial Guinea, fishing illegally in the Southern Ocean,” Mr McCully says.

“Fishing in this area is regulated by the Convention on the Conservation of Antarctic Marine Living Resources and New Zealand conducts regular patrols in the Southern Ocean targeting illegal fishing operations.  . .

Hard to fight rural fires without water tanker – Bill Campbell:

Palmerston volunteer firefighters called to send a water tanker to a scrub fire at the weekend had one problem: they no longer have a tanker.

The tanker was taken out of service last month and might not be replaced before July 1, despite East Otago having one of the driest summers on record. . .

Police, farmer at odds over sheep rustling – Sue O’Dowd:

Police and a Stratford sheep farmer are at odds over the disappearance of stock from a backcountry farm. 

Ewes and lambs missing from Backvale Farms at Tututawa, 27km east of Stratford, have been returned by neighbours who found them among their own flocks, Detective Constable Glen Bosson, of Stratford, said. 

But while police believe that may have solved the missing sheep mystery, Backvale Farms spokesman Brendon Back said a further 247 ewes and their lambs were still missing. 

Between 350 and 400 in-lamb romney ewes disappeared from the farm last year between July 28, when there were 1310, and October 20, when there were only 936. . .

Using technology to grow company’s ‘golden goose’ – Gerald Piddock:

New Zealand knows how to produce large amounts of animal protein cheaply.

We excel at it and Waikato company Dairy SolutioNZ and its chief executive Derek Fairweather are leading the country in exporting this knowledge across the globe.

It was, he said, the biggest opportunity for New Zealand in terms of the knowledge economy.

“What knowledge that we have that is really valuable? That knowledge is how to turn grass into protein. We do that better than anyone in the world.”

Exporting New Zealand’s farming knowledge was a growing industry and while people quickly understood the idea, putting it into practise was difficult because farming was a conservative long-term business. . .

Years of dedication rewarded – Annette Scott:

When Jan Wills and her husband Barrie were married they followed the Wills family tradition of showing cattle at the local A&P shows.

The young couple soon realised an opportunity to breed their own cattle and being beef farmers surrounded by dairy farmers they themselves were a breed out on their own, Wills said. 

“We chose the Hereford because the quiet temperament of the breed suited our intensive farming style. With dairy all around us we were beef farmers in a pocket surrounded by dairy and growing. . . .


More wind generation less power

11/04/2014

If renewable energy good is more better?

What if more renewable generation results in less power?

Household fridges and freezers will need to be automatically switched off at times when Britain’s electricity demand is high, in order to keep the lights on as Britain becomes more reliant on wind energy, experts say.

The current electricity grid will struggle to cope with the number of wind farms expected to be built by the early 2020s because the power they produce is so intermittent, according to a report from the Royal Academy of Engineering.

A radical overhaul of the way the electricity system is managed – including a “smart grid” that can control household appliances to reduce demand when power supply is inadequate – will be needed, it finds.

Britain will also need to build more power import and export cables to the continent to help manage variable wind power output, and develop storage technologies to keep surplus power for times when there is a shortfall.

The measures will be necessary to avert blackouts under a vast expansion of wind power – unless Britain instead builds an expensive new fleet of reliable power stations to be fired up as backup when the wind doesn’t blow, it found. . .

Most of New Zealand’s renewable energy comes from hydro generation.

That is at risk from low precipitation but it is generally easier to monitor it and manage its consequences than it is to predict and manage shortages of wind.

For all that people say they support renewable generation, I wonder how many would continue to do so if it meant a less reliable supply and higher prices?

 


UN warns biofuels do more harm than good

04/04/2014

The United Nations has admitted that growing crops to make “green” biofuel harms the environment and drives up food prices.

A leaked draft of a UN report condemns the widespread use of biofuels made from crops as a replacement for petrol and diesel. It says that biofuels, rather than combating the effects of global warming, could make them worse.

The draft report represents a dramatic about-turn for the UN’s Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC).

Its previous assessment on climate change, in 2007, was widely condemned by environmentalists for giving the green light to large-scale biofuel production. The latest report instead puts pressure on world leaders to scrap policies promoting the use of biofuel for transport.

The summary for policymakers states: “Increasing bioenergy crop cultivation poses risks to ecosystems and biodiversity.”

Biofuels were once billed as the green alternative to fossil fuels, but environmental campaigners have voiced concern about them for some time.

They note that growing biofuel crops on a large scale requires either the conversion of agricultural land used for food crops or the destruction of forests to free up land, possibly offsetting any reduction in carbon emissions from the use of biofuels.

Other concerns include increased stress on water supplies and rising corn prices as a result of increased demand for the crop, which is fermented to produce biofuel. . .

Growing plants especially to make biofuels is an example of a supposedly environmentally   friendly practice which isn’t, and it makes food more expensive too.

Z Energy’s plans to make biofuel from beef tallow might stack up better.

Z Energy has announced plans for a $21 million biodiesel plant that will produce fuel from inedible tallow feedstock.

The listed company said the investment would be made over the 2015 financial year and would produce 20 million litres of sustainable biodiesel a year.

It would be manufactured from inedible tallow feedstock, essentially beef fat, and satisfy New Zealand and European fuel specifications.

The plant would be built in Auckland. . .

Tallow is used for making candles and soap not food.

 

 

 


Let there be light

29/03/2014

Tonight some people will be celebrating Earth Hour by turning off their lights.

Some won’t because they don’t have lights to start with.

Others could but won’t.

Among the latter group is Ross McKitrick, Professor of Economics at the University of Guelph.

In 2009 I was asked by a journalist for my thoughts on the importance of Earth Hour.

Here is my response.

I abhor Earth Hour. Abundant, cheap electricity has been the greatest source of human liberation in the 20th century. Every material social advance in the 20th century depended on the proliferation of inexpensive and reliable electricity.

Giving women the freedom to work outside the home depended on the availability of electrical appliances that free up time from domestic chores.

Getting children out of menial labour and into schools depended on the same thing, as well as the ability to provide safe indoor lighting for reading.

Development and provision of modern health care without electricity is absolutely
impossible. The expansion of our food supply, and the promotion of hygiene and nutrition, depended on being able to irrigate fields, cook and refrigerate foods, and have a steady indoor supply of hot water. Many of the world’s poor suffer brutal environmental conditions in their own homes because of the necessity of cooking over indoor fires that burn twigs and dung. This causes local deforestation and the proliferation of smoke- and parasite-related lung diseases.

Anyone who wants to see local conditions improve in the third world should realize the importance of access to cheap electricity from fossil-fuel based power generating
stations. After all, that’s how the west developed.

The whole mentality around Earth Hour demonizes electricity. I cannot do that, instead I
celebrate it and all that it has provided for humanity. Earth Hour celebrates ignorance,
poverty and backwardness. By repudiating the greatest engine of liberation it becomes an hour devoted to anti-humanism. It encourages the sanctimonious gesture of turning off trivial appliances for a trivial amount of time, in deference to some ill-defined abstraction called “the Earth,” all the while hypocritically retaining the real benefits of continuous, reliable electricity.

People who see virtue in doing without electricity should shut off their fridge, stove, microwave, computer, water heater, lights, TV and all other appliances for a month, not an hour. And pop down to the cardiac unit at the hospital and shut the power off
there too.

I don’t want to go back to nature. Travel to a zone hit by earthquakes, floods and hurricanes to see what it’s like to go back to nature. For humans, living in “nature” meant a short life span marked by violence, disease and ignorance. People who work for the end of poverty and relief from disease are fighting against nature . I hope they leave their lights on.

Here in Ontario, through the use of pollution control technology and advanced engineering, our air quality has dramatically improved since the 1960s, despite the expansion of industry and the power supply.

If, after all this, we are going to take the view that the remaining air emissions outweigh all the benefits of electricity, and that we ought to be shamed into sitting in darkness for an hour, like naughty children who have been caught doing something bad, then we are setting up unspoiled nature as an absolute, transcendent ideal that obliterates all other ethical and humane obligations.

No thanks. I like visiting nature but I don’t want to live there, and I refuse to accept the idea that civilization with all its tradeoffs is something to be ashamed of.

Let there be light and heat and all the other benefits electricity brings us and let those who wish to make change a reality find a more positive and useful way to do it.

Celebrating Human Achievement Hour could be a good way to start.

Hat tip: Carpe Diem

 

 


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