Hard News by Russell Brown

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Hard News: Be the party of good science

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  • George Darroch,

    National has committed to a 90% subsidy of whatever agriculture is emitting in 2015

    Wait, so we're subsidising agriculture almost fully past 2015?

    Head-desk

    If it cost more to produce the goods, then farmers might change their methods, consumers will change their purchases. If the government subsidises 90% of it, we're just delaying the system having any impact upon behaviour and therefore our environment for most of a decade.

    Yes, this is exactly the point. An ETS or carbon tax must impose costs on behaviours, by their definition. National, the Maori Party and to a lesser extent Labour all want to avoid imposing costs.

    However, only if you get others to pay those costs do you avoid having them levied on the polluters.

    If a dairy farmer's costs go up, then he or she can make a number of choices; weather the cost, pass it on to consumers through his prices and see demand decline, improve the productivity per unit emitted, work on low emissions techniques, or even grow something other than grass belching machines on the farm.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2118 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Whatever happened to the sacrosanct "user pays" "principle" when you need it

    It only applies to poor people. If you want to incentivise rich people, you have to give them money.

    I might be a simple person, but it seems to me that what you've just described provides virtually no incentives for changing behaviour etc.

    Pretty much. By insulating polluters from the fullmarginal cost of emissions through massive subsidies and price caps, National and the Maori Party have removed the financial incentives which will make the scheme work. Polluters won't face higher costs, so have no need to reduce them; those thinking about making reductions won't get a high price for doign so, and so will be less likely to make them. It is a textbook case of how to take a good idea - an ETS - and make it into a bad one. And it brings the whole idea of market mechanisms into disrepute. If they're just about wealth transfer rather than doing anything, then we might as well go for regulation instead. It's the only way we can ensure that we won't be out of pocket for it.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1625 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Yeah I get that. But the average of $3/person/week. Does that include the vast taxpayer subsidies, or is that just increased prices for power, transport etc, the taxpayer subsidies are on top of that?

    The latter.

    Wait, so we're subsidising agriculture almost fully past 2015?

    Yup. Though to be fair, even Labour had signed up to that atrocity - but at least they capped it rather than making it a straight production subsidy.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1625 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    Sweet, glad to know that it's as much of a screwup as it looks like.

    Umm, was there any good news in it?

    Since Nov 2006 • 6147 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Does anyone know if ACT supports this? I know they're still out in the loony bin, saying that the laws of physics are broken, but since it's a Government bill...

    If Roger Douglas votes for huge subsidies to farmers, the irony will be delicious.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2118 posts Report Reply

  • Kyle Matthews,

    If Roger Douglas votes for huge subsidies to farmers, the irony will be delicious.

    He voted for (effectively) large subsidies for Faye and Richwhite and everyone else who bought up everything he helped flog off in the 1980s, so I suspect irony is something that slips past him.

    Since Nov 2006 • 6147 posts Report Reply

  • Dinah Dunavan,

    Well National won last year by becoming more like Labour

    As far as I can tell National won by telling people it was more like Labour but has actually shown itself to be very much like National with a good dose of ACT.

    If the Maori Party was going to make a deal with National on the ETS why the hell didn't they get seats on the Super (dooper) City? So far the Maori Party seems like a waste of space for Maori.

    Dunedin • Since Jun 2008 • 170 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    I know, I know. But the fourth Labour Government, and him in particular, made such a big deal about removing farm subsidies.

    I'm sure that it will slip right past.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2118 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    The key idea underlying an ETS or any market mechanism is "polluter pays"...

    ...so we consumers don't have to.

    An ETS is a politically contrived piece of BS that has consumer society politicians portraying producers as "the problem".

    We are a consumer society wallowing in carbon footprints 4x larger than in anyway sustainable, we are the cause of climate change. We need to pay for this and honestly $20 per tonne is way too low a price to pay for the damage our consumption does to the planet, really it should be 3x more at least.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    And it brings the whole idea of market mechanisms into disrepute.

    An ETS was never a reputable mechanism. It was always a market mechanism to impose pollution costs on producers. It was put forward (unsurprisingly) by rich consumer societies as their preferred solution to climate change and inherently unfair to producer societies.

    If they're just about wealth transfer rather than doing anything, then we might as well go for regulation instead. It's the only way we can ensure that we won't be out of pocket for it.

    Actually that is the only other politically viable left wing solution, there is another viable solution but it is right wing in ethos - high carbon consumption tax to price signal consumers into changing behaviour.

    The greatest strength of an ETS is that it is a compromise acceptable to, more or less, both the left and right of rich consumer societies. The fact that it is unacceptable to the Chinese, Indian, Malay, Brazillian, etc. producer societies and therefore unworkable as a global climate change solution has not really ever been considered a problem.

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Gareth Ward,

    Ta muchly to I/S and George for le number crunching.

    Does anyone know if ACT supports this?

    I was thinking exactly that this morning - putting aside whether or not "it" exists or how the world should respond if it does; given that we have a Kyoto (and Copenhagen) liability, does ACT agree with massive taxpayer subsidisation of industry?

    Auckland, NZ • Since Mar 2007 • 1717 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    Umm, was there any good news in it?

    That depends on whether you think that this ETS is better than none.

    I don't, I really don't.

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1625 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    It is actually possible to follow some of the core beliefs of the left (e.g. equality, helping others) while adhering to some on the right (e.g. self responsibility, individualism).

    That's a New Zealand Herald summation of left and right. Self responsibility and individualism weren't invented by the right.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    The centre is just a concept that was thought up to sell newspapers.

    Sure it's not a feature of MMP?

    Sure, good point....and my point was lazy. Interestingly IMO our history of MMP has thrown up only one term that could really be called centre left, the one that destroyed the national party vote in 2002 and lead to the search that threw up donny b and johnny k .

    Of course our particualr MMP system has some basic problems still.For example the ACT party , in a proportional sense have no right to be stronger electorally than New Zealand First given last years results.

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Idiot Savant,

    As predicted, parliament is in urgency again, simply so the government can better manage spin around the Auckland supercity and have it all settled this week rather than a divisive debate lasting for the next two or three.

    Hamstring the bastards, I say!

    Palmerston North • Since Nov 2006 • 1625 posts Report Reply

  • ScottY,

    That's a New Zealand Herald summation of left and right. Self responsibility and individualism weren't invented by the right.

    Do you have a link to that Herald summation? Or are you just intent on dismissing counterarguments as "Herald" ones?

    It is possible, you know, not to be of the 'Left" without being of the "Right". The centre really does exist.

    Yorke of The Atatu • Since Feb 2009 • 787 posts Report Reply

  • Aidan,

    Quite. $500 dollars per year.

    Sorry, got to call bullshit on that number. To save $500 dollars a year implies spending $625/yr on lighting (CFL bulbs use 20-30% of the electricity of a comparable incandescent, here I have used 20%, which is a very generous assumption).

    According to this survey of household electricity prices most consumers pay between 22c and 28c per kWh. Let's be generous again and say 30c/kWh.

    So $625/yr at 30c/kWh implies 2083 kWh/year of electricity on lighting, which is 5.7 kWh/day. If we assume (again upper bound) we're running all 100W bulbs, this equates to 57 bulb-hours a day, so about 10 bulbs running continuously for 6 hours every day. Is this realistic?

    That survey of household electricity prices gives a figure for an average domestic consumer of 8,000 kilowatt hours (kWh) per annum. The $500/yr saving implies that household lighting uses 25% of the electricity consumed. In the US 8.8% of household electricity use is for lighting.

    I reckon that $500 figure is bogus and undermines efforts for energy efficiency when fair minded citizens do the right thing and install CFL lighting and find their electricity bill is nowhere near $500 less.

    If we use the 8000 kWh per annum figure above, and assume household lighting is maybe 10% of electricity consumption, then the average punter is paying $240/year on lighting. So the putative savings are 70-80% of $240, so $170-$190 per year. Not chump change but not $500 either.

    With respect to CFL dimmer bulbs .. they are expensive and they suck. When we bought one to try it out the dimming was very non-linear and it was incapable of dimming to a low level, it would just shut off. LED lighting is more efficient, more flexible (efficient electronic (Pulse Width Modulation (PWM)) dimming) and less environmentally unfriendly (no toxic lead). Unfortunately it is also rather expensive at the moment, but the prices will come down.

    Canberra, Australia • Since Feb 2007 • 141 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    According to this survey of household electricity prices most consumers pay between 22c and 28c per kWh. Let's be generous again and say 30c/kWh.

    Holy shit, really? And I thought we were being stung during winter at 21c. I don't even want to think about what our power bills would have been at 28c.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    The entire climate policy area in New Zealand is one giant SNAFU.

    This 2005 press release from the then New Zealand Government speaks volumes. We had a good climate policy, the price was set too low but could have been raised eventually, and it priced carbon directly for all sectors of the economy. It would have raised revenue that could have been cycled back into mitigation (insulation, home and business energy efficiency measures).

    Labour abandoned it for political expedience.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2118 posts Report Reply

  • George Darroch,

    Whoops, replied too early

    ...Don't upset the farmers. But the farmers, cheeky bastards (there are some good ones of course) were always going to fight until they were completely insulated, and got the kind of giveaway that National has just put up. Hell, they were storming Parliament after an 80cent per cattle emissions reductions research levy.

    You can't win if you don't fight. You have to pick your battles, of course, but climate change is something worth fighting against.

    The People's Republic of … • Since Nov 2006 • 2118 posts Report Reply

  • Tony Parker,

    Just seen on ONE news-Sharples claiming that in response for the Maori party support for the ETS there would be an increase in benefits. Bennett didn't want a bar of it and neither did Key. Sharples then tried to explain it was just discussion at this stage. Not a lot of communication there then.

    Napier • Since Nov 2008 • 232 posts Report Reply

  • DeepRed,

    The key idea underlying an ETS or any market mechanism is "polluter pays". National and the Maori Party have reversed that to "pay polluters".

    I can see "corporate welfare" written all over the whole deal.

    Cue this photo, or this photo. Caption: "This is what your tax dollars are subsidising."

    The southernmost capital … • Since Nov 2006 • 4057 posts Report Reply

  • Jeremy Eade,

    It is actually possible to follow some of the core beliefs of the left (e.g. equality, helping others) while adhering to some on the right (e.g. self responsibility, individualism).

    Alright brother it's your summation then. It's still poor.It is a disservice to characterise the left as being deficient in individualism and self responsibility.

    But to be fair to you what do you like about the present right wing administration that you couldn't find in the labour party and relate it to self responsibility and individualism?

    auckland • Since Mar 2008 • 1112 posts Report Reply

  • Angus Robertson,

    We had a good climate policy, the price was set too low but could have been raised eventually, and it priced carbon directly for all sectors of the economy.

    It was crap, it was designed in anticipation that the world would adopt an Emission Trading approach and that is not going to happen.

    Todays policy is crap because it is an ETS, anticipating a global ETS, when such schemes are dead in the water.

    An ETS approach was only ever an attempt to do one thing - shift costs for combating climate change onto producers. Well as it happens, producer countries are unwilling to bear the disproportionate cost of tackling climate change.

    You can't win if you don't fight. You have to pick your battles, of course, but climate change is something worth fighting against.

    Every day we see Western pricks applying pressure to adopt an ETS, so the West can exploit the worlds poor. It is going to take a long time to change the greedy, self-centred, self-absorbed, arrogant, exploitative instincts of the West.

    But like you say exploitation and climate change are things worth fighting against, right?

    Auckland • Since May 2007 • 984 posts Report Reply

  • Lucy Stewart,

    Every day we see Western pricks applying pressure to adopt an ETS, so the West can exploit the worlds poor. It is going to take a long time to change the greedy, self-centred, self-absorbed, arrogant, exploitative instincts of the West.

    Yes, and carbon emitted by the downtrodden poor is magically sequestered before entering the atmosphere by the special carbon angels.

    It is not fair that the environment is in this state before most of the world has had a chance to industrialise and raise their standard of living. It is manifestly sucktastic.

    But it is also manifest that we cannot continue to emit carbon dioxide - and nitrogen, and methane - at the rapidly rising rates we are doing so. We need to find ways to let developing countries industrialise without raising carbon emissions. We need to cut our own. Just saying "the evil West wants to keep everyone down" is not going to solve the problem. If there's no incentive to reduce emissions, no-one will do it. China and India might not want to; doesn't mean we don't have to try. We don't really have a choice.

    Amherst, MA • Since Nov 2006 • 2090 posts Report Reply

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