Three more years

August 3, 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

June 6, 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

January 13, 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

April 11, 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

April 4, 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

March 29, 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

 

 


Rural round-up

February 19, 2014

Working group set to improve dairy traceability:

Primary Industries Minister Nathan Guy and Food Safety Minister Nikki Kaye today announced a working group set up to improve dairy traceability.

“The independent Government Inquiry into the Whey Protein Concentrate (WPC) Contamination Incident highlighted the importance of effective systems for dairy traceability,” Mr Guy says.

“The Inquiry recommended lifting the dairy sector’s ability to trace products and ingredients through a working group focusing on regulatory and worldwide best practices.”

“Improving the traceability of dairy products will further protect the public in the event of a suspected food safety issue,” Ms Kaye says. . .

Bob Ingham delivers golden egg in final year of NZ poultry production – Suze Metherell:

(BusinessDesk) – Bob Ingham, former owner of Australia’s biggest poultry producer Inghams Enterprises, achieved a record profit from his New Zealand operations in 2013, the final year before private equity firm TPG acquired the Australasian business.

Inghams Enterprises (NZ) lifted net profit by 19 percent to $27.2 million in the 12 months ended June 30, according to the annual report filed with the Companies Office. Revenue rose 5 percent to $336 million.

The Australian parent company was family owned for 94 years when sole shareholder Bob Ingham, grandson of the original founder, sold to TPG for A$880 million in June last year. The Ingham family retained bloodstock assets and some properties including the family farm. . .

Esquires may source milk from NZ:

Cooks Global Food is looking to start sourcing its supply of milk from New Zealand for its Esquire coffee houses around the world.

Cooks, which is listed on the NZX’s alternative market, has signed a master franchisee agreement in Oman and Qatar which will mean at least 16 new Esquires Coffee Houses opening.

The new deal means it has commitments for more than 80 coffee stores in the Middle East. . .

Defending champion returns:

Defending Tasman champion, Reuben Carter, is the first Grand Finalist to be named for the 2014 ANZ Young Farmer Contest.

The thirty year old agronomist took first place at the Tasman Regional Final in Murchison at the A&P Show over the weekend, Saturday 15 February.

Mr Carter had a dominant performance leading for most of the day and took out both the Silver Fern Farms Agri-Sports and Ravensdown Agri-Skills Challenges giving him solid platform going into the evening show. . .

Young Farmers heading south:

The ANZ Young Farmer Contest heads south for the second Regional Final in Otago/Southland, Saturday 22 February in Alexandra.

It will be a full on day with practical events at Pioneer Park where competitors will be tested on a variety of hands-on, physical and theoretical challenges – all with an agricultural and farming focus.

The day’s events will be followed by the entertaining evening show and quiz round at the Alexandra Community Centre where a cool head and quick wits are vital. Tickets for the evening show can be purchased at ANZ Tarbert Street, Alexandra. . .

Biogas generation systems for rural Samoa:

The Samoan government says it is developing bio-gas generation systems which will use green waste to provide power in rural areas around the country.

It has received 300,000 US dollars from the Secretariat of the Pacific Regional Environmental Programme, or SPREP, to do so.

The assistant CEO for energy at the Ministry of Natural Resources and Environment, Sala Sagato Tuifiso, says biogas generation systems are more cost effective than other renewable energy sources. . .


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