Tuesday, 10 June 2008

Tear down this tax, Dr Cullen!

I'm pleased to be able to correct an earlier negative of assessment of ANZ economist Cameron Bagrie by noting that he's come off the fence to make the obvious point that while the NZ government can do nothing at all about the international supply and demand problems pushing up the international price of oil, they can do something about the local price of petrol which is made up in large part by a large payment to government.  Says Bagrie:

ANZ Bank chief economist Cameron Bagrie says the Government should cut petrol taxes by 10 or 20 cents a litre to reduce the squeeze on incomes and help reduce inflation.

Bravo, sir.  I agree with you.

Spending, Saving and the 'Gone By Lunchtime' List (updated)

In the face of constant calls to release policy, John Key has been insisting against all the evidence that he already has, 14 polices, to be precise -- but these are not even 14 blocks of cheese (as David Slack points out they're barely even 14 cheese slices ).  The biggest slice includes a still vague post-budget promise to cut taxes "somewhere north" of Michael Cullen's stake in the ground.

Conventional wisdom however suggests he will have a problem answering Michael Cullen's block of cheese with more than even a small slice of cheese.  Not only is it still conventional post-budget wisdom that we all just got a tax cut (when all we got was a partial inflation adjustment), and that tax cuts are inflationary (which they aren't), it's still conventional wisdom that when National comes to put together a fat tax-cutting budget, they're going to find that the cupboard is bare, and Michael Cullen has already stolen the last of the chocolate. The oncoming economic woes only underscore the problem, say the conventional pundits -- and when it comes to punditry, there's none more conventional than the Listener's Jane Clifton, who says this week,

 it looks very much as though Cullen has used up all available oxygen in the scary chamber of fiscal responsibility. He has even – reluctantly – plunged us into a likely cash deficit, and with the economic downturn upon us, only a buccaneer would try anything bolder.

Ooh er.  A buccaneer!  How swashbuckling. 

Well, not for the first time, the pundits are wrong -- and just for a change I'm going to help National by showing they're wrong.

First of all, as Fran O'Sullivan points out [via The Hive], there's no need at all to buckle a swash.  Alan Bollard's "gloomier economic prognosis" than Cullen's actually "gives National the room it needs to campaign on even bigger tax cuts" without going into deficit, since with things in the toilet even Bollard might gather together enough sense to see he's been a macroeconomic fool.

And second of all, the cupboard they're confusing with Mother Hubbard's is just dripping with fat that can be excised.  It's laden down with sacred cows that need killing.  As PJ O'Rourke points out, the first secret when you're trying to balance the budget and give tax cuts the size of Texas is "to avoid looking for ridiculous examples of government waste."  When you're looking to make spending  cuts you don't want to "page through the minutiae in the "Notes and Appendices to the ... Budget," sifting the "Detailed Budget Estimates by Agency" section until you come up with something like the Department of the Interior's Helium Fund," at which point you "grow very indignant or start making dull, budget-critic-type helium jokes."  No, you want to slash wholesale, cutting bone if necessary -- after all, this is only government bone, with most of it concentrated around government skulls.

There's no need at all to worry about what to cut when without too much effort you can put together a list for the chopping block like the one below, a list my colleague Luke Howison calls 'The Gone By Lunchtime List'.

Luke points out a something crucial most of the conventional pundits have overlooked in their ministrations:  there are 407 -- four hundred and goddamn seven! -- government departments, offices, organisations, councils, SOEs and quangos just waiting, nay demanding, to be chopped down to size, in which hundreds of thousands of people spend their days drawing down a tax-paid salary paid to get in our way.  Given the parlous economic conditions, it would be foolish indeed not to liberate these guys and gals just to get them off our backs.  Fortunately for you all, Luke and his brother Phil have already done the job, helpfully sorting them out for an incoming government into categories. Here's the list a new PM could announce in November:

Gone by Lunchtime, ie., Don't Come Monday:

Office for the Children's Commissioner (he hasn't stopped the killing, has he)
Families Commission (ditto)
Commerce Commission  (AKA Communist Commission)
Ministry for Women's Affairs
Ministry of Pacific Island Affairs
Ministry for Maori Affairs  (let all 'their people' organise their own damn affairs)
Race Relations Conciliator  (have you noticed him successfully conciliating any races? No, me either)
Ministry of Youth Development  (let hoodie-wearers buy their own spray cans)
Ministry of Economic Development (the economy would develop quite nicely without Jim Anderton's attentions, thank you)
NZQA (provides neither quality, nor assurance)
Housing New Zealand (let the bureaucrats pay for their own holidays, and private house-builders do what they do best)
Department of Building & Housing   (why impoverish home owners and house builders to pay for a ministry that does things worse than any house builder in the land?) 
Alcohol Advisory Council of New Zealand
Asia New Zealand Foundation
Audit New Zealand, part of Office of the Controller and Auditor-General
Auckland/Waikato Fish and Game Council
Broadcasting Standards Authority
Broadcasting Commission
Central South Island Fish and Game Council
Child, Youth and Family (have they done any of the three any good?)
Creative New Zealand (let creative New Zealanders pay their own way)
Department of Internal Affairs
Department of Labour
Eastern Fish and Game Council
Electrical Workers Registration Board, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Electricity Commission (nice work, guys, well done)
Energy Efficiency & Conservation Authority (ditto)
Energy Safety Service, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Environmental Risk Management Authority
Environment Bay of Plenty
Environment Canterbury
Environment Court, part of Ministry of Justice
Environment Southland
Environment Waikato
Family and Community Services, part of Ministry of Social Development
Fish & Game New Zealand
Gambling Commission (I'm betting they'll object to this)
Governor-General (we're a republic now!)
Hawke's Bay Fish and Game Council
Heartland Services, part of Ministry of Social Development
Human Rights Commission
International Services, part of Ministry of Social Development
Investment New Zealand, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Measurement and Product Safety Service, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Ministry of Agriculture and Forestry
Ministry of Consumer Affairs, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Ministry of Economic Development
Ministry of Tourism, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Motor Vehicle Traders Register, part of Ministry of Economic Development
National Advisory Council on the Employment of Women, part of Department of Labour (bet there's some unemployable women on this 'council,' right?)
National Health Committee, part of Ministry of Health
Nelson/Marlborough Fish and Game Council
New Zealand Climate Change Office, part of Ministry for the Environment (haven't changed much climate so far, no?)
New Zealand Export Credit Office, part of The Treasury
New Zealand Game Bird Habitat Trust Board
New Zealand Geographic Board
New Zealand Sports Drug Agency (if it can't be funded voluntarily, what argument is there for keeping it?)
New Zealand Teachers Council
New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
New Zealand Valuers Registration Board (let them register themselves)
North Canterbury Fish and Game Council
Northland Fish and Game Council
Overseas Investment Commission (whose only job is to stop overseas investment!)
Otago Fish and Game Council
Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment
Personal Property Securities Register, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Plant Variety Rights Office, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Registrar of Unions, part of Department of Labour
Removal Review Authority
Remuneration Authority, part of Department of Labour
Residence Review Board
Southland Fish and Game Council
Sport and Recreation New Zealand (we did sport well, back before governments started paying for it)
SPEaR, part of Ministry of Social Development
Taranaki Fish and Game Council
Takeovers Panel
Te Mangai Paho ((if Maori broadcasting can't be funded voluntarily, what argument is there for keeping it?)
Te Matatini Society Incorporated
Tenancy Services, part of Department of Building and Housing
Toi Te Taiao: The Bioethics Council (oh please)
Tourism New Zealand
UNESCO Secretariat for the New Zealand National Commission
Wellington Fish and Game Council
West Coast Fish and Game Council

Phew!  And here's more, to face a slightly later axe:

Deadlock Holiday, ie., Don't come back in August:
Ministry for the Environment (all it takes is codification of common law and abolition of the RMA, and they're gone) 
Ministry of Social Development (let's face it, our social life hasn't been developing well for years, has it)
Ministry of Arts and Culture (aka Ministry for Subsidising Middle Class Tastes)
Ministry of Education (it's been some years since any education was fostered by the fount of political correctness and illiteracy
Crown Company Monitoring Advisory Unit, part of The Treasury
Crown Health Financing Agency
Employment Institutions Information Centre, part of Department of Labour
Employment Relations Authority, part of Department of Labour
Employment Relations Infoline, part of Department of Labour
Employment Relations Service, part of Department of Labour
Health and Disability Commissioner
Health Research Council of New Zealand
Health Sponsorship Council
Insolvency and Trustee Service, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Inland Revenue Department (who among us won't enjoy that day)
Labour Inspectorate, part of Department of Labour
Ministry of Health  (bureaucrats, not health workers) 
New Zealand Artificial Limbs Board
New Zealand Debt Management Office, part of The Treasury
New Zealand Food Safety Authority  (can't people just pay Sue Kedgely to advise them?)
Occupational Safety and Health Service, part of Department of Labour (they do stop people performing their occupations, but there's blessed little safety or health been seen)
Office for Disability Issues, part of Ministry of Social Development
Office for Senior Citizens, part of Ministry of Social Development
Office for the Community and Voluntary Sector, part of Ministry of Social Development
Office of Ethnic Affairs, part of Department of Internal Affairs
Office of Film and Literature Classification (we're adults, thanks, we'll classify our own films and literature)
Office of Human Rights Proceedings, part of Human Rights Commission (properly known as the Human Wrongs Commissariat)
Office of the Children's Commissioner
Office of Treaty Settlements, part of Ministry of Justice
Retirement Commission, Whiriwhiria!
Securities Commission
State Housing Appeals Authority, part of Department of Building and Housing
TeachNZ, part of Ministry of Education
Te Puni Kokiri
Tertiary Education Commission
Waitangi Tribunal, part of Ministry of Justice
Work and Income, part of Ministry of Social Development

And now for the one Helen Clark has been waiting for, the 'Sell, Sell, Sell!' list -- assets that should be sold so they become real assets instead of a drain on taxpayers; sold to pay off government debt and extinguish some contingent liabilities:

Sell, Sell, Sell!
Accident Compensation Corporation (after their monopoly has been broken)
Accounting Standards Review Board
AgResearch Limited
Agricultural and Marketing Research and Development Trust
AgriQuality Limited
Antarctica New Zealand
Airways Corporation of New Zealand Limited
Animal Control Products Limited
Asure New Zealand Limited
Aviation Security Service, part of Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
BIZ Information Centres, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Building Control, part of Department of Building and Housing
Career Services rapuara
Civil Aviation Authority of New Zealand
Crown Minerals, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Dispute Resolution Services Ltd , part of Accident Compensation Corporation
Earthquake Commission
Education Review Office
Electricity Corporation of New Zealand Limited
Food Standards Australia New Zealand
Foundation for Research Science & Technology
Genesis Power Limited
Healthline, part of Ministry of Health
Immunisation Advisory Centre, part of Ministry of Health
Maternity Services, part of Ministry of Health
Medsafe, part of Ministry of Health
National Screening Unit, part of Ministry of Health
New Zealand Health Information Service, part of Ministry of Health
Housing New Zealand Corporation (assets on a building-by-building basis sold)
Industrial Research Limited
Industry Capability Network, part of New Zealand Trade and Enterprise
Institute of Environmental Science and Research Limited
Institute of Geological and Nuclear Sciences Limited
International Accreditation New Zealand, part of Testing Laboratory Registration Council
Landcare Research New Zealand Limited
Landcorp Farming Limited
Land Transport New Zealand
Leadership Development Centre
Learning Media Limited
Mediation Service, part of Department of Labour
Meridian Energy Limited
Meteorological Service of New Zealand Limited
Mighty River Power Limited
Ministry of Fisheries
Ministry of Research, Science & Technology
Ministry of Transport
National Institute of Water and Atmospheric Research Limited
National Radiation Laboratory, part of Ministry of Health
New Zealand Blood Service
New Zealand Institute for Crop and Food Research Limited
New Zealand Lotteries Commission
New Zealand Lottery Grants Board
New Zealand Post Limited
New Zealand Qualifications Authority
New Zealand Railways Corporation (we won't get much for the 'infrastructure,' true but we'll save a mint on annual running costs, and the real estate on which the tracks sit should be worth a quid in the major cities.)
New Zealand Symphony Orchestra  (if Auckland's APO can make themselves pay, then Wellington's orchestra can too)
New Zealand Venture Investment Fund Limited
New Zealand Film Commission
Pacific Business Trust
Pharmaceutical Management Agency Limited
Public Sector Training Organisation
Public Trust
Qualmark New Zealand Limited
Queen Elizabeth II National Trust
Quotable Value Limited
Radio New Zealand Limited
Road Safety TrustRadio Spectrum Management, part of Ministry of Economic Development (sell the spectrum, keep the registry)
Reserve Bank of New Zealand (after removing their monopoly on printing money, and introducing restrictions on new fiduciary media)
Research, Information and Capability Group, part of Ministry of Economic Development
Royal Society of New Zealand (let the Queen pay)
Scion (scientific research)
Solid Energy New Zealand Limited
Standards New Zealand
Statistics New Zealand
StudyLink, part of Ministry of Social Development
Television New Zealand Limited (freed of the charter, it's bound to make its owners a profit again)
Testing Laboratory Registration Council
Transit New Zealand
Transmission Holdings Limited
Transpower New Zealand Limited

And finally, stuff in which ownership should be distributed as shares to existing and past taxpayers.

Distribute as tradeable shares to existing and past taxpayers, ie., to those who paid for them
Alexander Turnbull Library (part of National Library of New Zealand)
Aoraki Polytechnic
Archives New Zealand
Auckland District Health Board
Auckland University of Technology
Bay of Plenty District Health Board
Bay of Plenty Polytechnic
Canterbury District Health Board
Capital & Coast District Health Board
Christchurch College of Education
Christchurch Polytechnic Institute of Technology
Counties Manukau District Health Board
Department of Conservation (all it takes is the privatisation of government land, and recognition of existing rights in land and foreshore, and they're gone.  Could be incorporated with former New Zealand Historic Places Trust to form a wholly voluntary NZ National Trust)) 
Dunedin College of Education
Eastern Institute of Technology
Hawke's Bay District Health Board
Hutt Valley District Health Board
Lakes District Health Board
Lincoln University
Manukau Institute of Technology
Maori Television
Massey University
MidCentral District Health Board
Museum of New Zealand Te Papa Tongarewa
National Library of New Zealand - Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa
National Rural Fire Authority, part of New Zealand Fire Service Commission
Nelson Marlborough District Health Board
Nelson Marlborough Institute of Technology
New Zealand Fire Service, part of New Zealand Fire Service Commission
New Zealand Fire Service Commission
New Zealand Historic Places Trust (could be incorporated with some portion of former DoC assets to form a wholly voluntary NZ National Trust)
New Zealand Vice-Chancellors' Committee
Northland District Health Board
Northland Polytechnic
Open Polytechnic of New Zealand
Otago District Health Board
Otago Polytechnic
School Services, part of National Library of New Zealand - Te Puna Matauranga o Aotearoa
South Canterbury District Health Board
Southern Institute of Technology
Southland District Health Board
Tai Poutini Polytechnic
Tairawhiti District Health
Tairawhiti Polytechnic
Taranaki District Health Board
Telford Rural Polytechnic
Te Wananga o Aotearoa
Te Wananga-o-Raukawa
Te Whare Wananga o Awanuiarangi
The Correspondence School
Timberlands West Coast Limited
Unitec Institute of Technology
Universal College of Learning
University of Auckland
University of Canterbury
University of Otago
University of Waikato
Victoria University of Wellington
Waiariki Institute of Technology
Waikato District Health Board
Waikato Institute of Technology
Wairarapa District Health Board
Waitemata District Health Board
Wanganui UCOL, part of Universal College of Learning
Wellington Institute of Technology
Western Institute of Technology at Taranaki
Whanganui District Health Board
Whitireia Community Polytechnic
West Coast District Health Board

I'm sure it's possible to quibble over one or two of these on the list -- and even over a few that have been left off, like the Maritime Safety Authority of New Zealand, the Mental Health Commission, and the Ministry of Civil Defence and Emergency Management -- but frankly why wouldn't one want to relieve the tax burden of hard-working New Zealander by taking these drones from our shoulders?

For any incoming government looking to make savings, there's a veritable smorgasbord of opportunity just waiting for them.

UPDATE: Updated to reflect comments and suggestions from Ad Libertas and Comrade MOT.

Opera House For Dubai By Zaha Hadid Architects


I've been very critical of architect Zaha Hadid in the past, accusing her of weaving "chaotic spatial confusions" that are as incoherent as they are un-buildable. 

However, there was one thing that deconstructionist architects like Hadid always did well -- their affectations may have lacked purpose, but at their best their buildings were always intensely dynamic, like they were in motion. They might have lacked "the tension of purpose," but never the "freedom of release."

But look at what she's done now!  That picture you see above is her proposed new opera house for the desert dunes of Dubai, and it's, it's ... incredible.

dubai-opera-house-06dubai-opera-house-07 dubai-opera-house-02

It could be nowhere else, nor by anyone else.  This is architecture that takes your breath away.  To paraphrase how Ayn Rand once described a concerto by (fictional) composer Richard Halley, "It sweeps space clean, and leaves nothing but the joy of an unobstructed effort."

Bravo, Ms Hadid.   [More here at Mad Architect.]

Monday, 9 June 2008

After the latest Black Caps' loss, it's clear coach John Bracewell's latest plan for glory still isn't working.

Shop killers

I'm sure the thoughts of every thinking New Zealander are with the widow and three daughters of Navtej Singh today, who was shot  and killed by thieving scum as he stood unarmed and defenceless behind the counter of his family's Manurewa bottle store.

And I'm sure every thinking New Zealander will already be wondering how it would have been different if retailers were able to defend themselves with mace or pepper spray, or a taser or gun -- all of which are illegal for ordinary New Zealanders, and any of which might have made the criminal scum think twice before their murderous raid.

Seven Steps to Beat Back the Socialist Wildlife

Environmental_Judo When I posted my Seven Steps to Beat Back the Socialist Wildlife a while back -- seven transitional policies to advance the cause of environmental deregulation -- I received several thousand emails (well, one) insisting I publish them together as a tome you can download.

So I have. 

By clicking either on the picture to the right of you or the following link (this one here) you too can download all 26 PDF pages of these seven environmental policies that are so cunning you could put an Italian accent on them and call them Machiavelli -- all of them using MMP to beat back the grey ones, and leave property rights in the place of superiority they  should be.

I plan to hand one or two to a few of the politicians at Fieldays later in the week. 

Feel free to do the same job by email.  ;^)

NB: Links are now fixed.

Wait for the blackout

The Herald's cartoonist accurately captures the state of NZ's feeble electricity supply system [hat tip Whale Oil]:


And whatever current Labour Minister David Parker says (or former Labour minister David Caygill insists on), it's not true that NZ's electricity supply system isn't a shambles.  Even as Caygill, the head of the Electricity Commission, insists we aren't in crisis, he  concedes "switch-offs by lines companies may be necessary" this winter.  And even while he makes this concession, David Parker insists that "anti-blackout measures" being discussed by cabinet will make blackouts unnecessary.

These measure include such things as "buy-back being negotiated with major industrial users" -- which means cutting power to producers.  In other words, a black-out for those who produce the wealth.

It's clearly not just the electricity supply system that's in a shambles.

The only solution this government has to a problem caused largely by government is "a voluntary power conservation drive," about which we're going to hear more today.  Frankly, that's wrong-headed.

If we really want New Zealand's seriously underpowered electricity generation system fixed, we're going to have to draw attention to its enfeebled state -- and the only way politicians are going to notice it is if their own lights go off.

This isn't a time not to rock the boat, it's a time to rock the boat good and hard.  Instead of limiting power use, what we urgently need to do is lift our power use to the limit to draw attention to how close we are to those very feeble limits. 

belch I suggest we all pay attention to International Carbon Belch Day on June 12 -- and even join in, firing up the heater, taking frequent baths, basking in the infinite glow of numerous incandescent light bulbs, shunning recycling of any kind, and taking spontaneous road trips in gas-guzzling vehicles to increase our personal carbon output -- all in the hopes of drawing widespread attention to how the policies of successive governments have brought us to this parlous state. And about that, more here.

Saturday, 7 June 2008

Voting advice

"I did not vote for any presidential candidate in the last election. There is a limit to the notion of voting for the lesser of two evils."
- Ayn Rand, speaking at the Ford Hall Forum, April 26, 1981, explaining why she didn't vote for Ronald Reagan.  [Hat tip Joe M.]


Fire, fire!

If you want some lively discussion & good TV tomorrow morning (Sunday), tune in to Libertarianz firearms spokesman Peter Linton discussing Police, Guns & Tasers on Eye to Eye, TV1 at 11-30 AM,  with Willie Jackson, John Tamihere, Marie Dyhrberg, & Hone Harawira.

Friday, 6 June 2008

NOT PC: The week that was

The authors of the Double Standard have a good idea: a double-plus ungood weekly summary of their top five subjectively awesome posts for the week, posted on Fridays, because "even though we try to keep posts pithy, it can be too much to catch up on."

Same here, methinks.  Sometimes I can't even keep up myself with what I've written.  So to help us all out, here's the top six Week That Was at NOT PC that everybody else has been enjoying while you weren't paying attention:

Beer O'Clock: What's the Craic on Stouts & Porters?

Stu takes you through the subtle differences between Stout and Porter, a distinction requiring the most thorough and demanding research ...

pc_stout_and_porter It’s not all that clear where Porter ends and Stout starts but the two beers are so inextricably intertwined that I’ll leave the untangling to the late great 'Beerhunter' Michael Jackson, who sums it up well in Porter casts a long shadow on ale history.

To keep things simple: both styles of beer are black (or at least very dark brown) and can range from sweetish to dry, toasty to roasty, and malty to very bitter. They are not always heavy and filling, though they do tend to reside at the more robust end of the spectrum (as opposed the the leaner black lagers like Black Mac and Monteith’s Black). Stouts tend to be darkened by the grainier, coffee-like roasted barley with Porters being darkened by ashy black malt.

To taste Stout and Porter in their very best form, one should experience them hand pulled through a beer engine. This gives the beer a silky, creamy character from the lower level of carbonation – like you’ll have most likely experienced in a Guinness - but in this form the beers will tend to be a lot fresher, more flavoursome and showing far more vitality (Guinness is actually pumped full of nitrogen, which keeps the beer from going off, but severely dulls its flavour). That favourite ale house of mine in Mt Eden always has the exceptional Galbraith’s Grafton Porter on handpull. The Malthouse, right in the heart of Wellington, has a couple of handpumps that currently carry Tuatara Porter and either Three Boys Oyster Stout or Invercargill Brewery’s Pitch Black (the two best black ales in New Zealand according to the results at BrewNZ last year). The Twisted Hop in Christchurch occasionally brews a scrumptious Oatmeal Stout.

Slightly easier to find, though fizzier and unfortunately no longer available in bottles, is the very fine Speight’s Porter. Full of chocolate and fruity coffee notes, it is on tap at all of the Speight’s Ale Houses littered around the country and is certainly the best example of mainstream black ale in New Zealand. It is possible the only one left since DB Vita Stout went AWOL.

As for bottles on the supermarket or bottle store shelves: You can’t go wrong with trusting the simple descriptive labels on Emerson’s London Porter and Oatmeal Stout, and there is still one keg of their excellent, hop-filled May Day Stout left on Regional Wines and Spirits fill-your-own taps. I got a pleasant surprise from the strong Green Man Stout the other day, this strong export-style stout is a beer that I’m spotting more and more around the place. Renaissance Elemental Porter is a strapping version full of ashy black malt and a big wad of hops and is recommended for the more daring amongst you. For those lucky enough to have a very special beer retailer, or bar, seek out the Townshend No 9 Stout (from the tiny Townshend Brewery in Upper Moutere) which was recently awarded best Stout/Porter at the NZ International Beer Awards.

On the import front: Young’s delectable Double Chocolate Stout graces plenty of retail shelves and if you are very lucky, you might just come across the amazing Fuller’s London Porter – an absolutely outstanding and complex example of porter (possibly my beer of the year, so far).

So put another log on the fire tonight and pour yourself a stout or porter… Once you go black, you might never go back.

Next time I’ll take a midwinter break from the beer style crusade, and respond to Neil Miller’s The Best Beer Names in New Zealand, with The Next Best Beer Names in New Zealand.

Slainte mhath, Stu

Our weekly oil woes

It's worth reminding ourselves once a week who's responsible for the rise of oil prices. It's not oil companies, it's the government, who takes more out of each litre than local retailers:

If that pisses you off, then joining in Callum's email campaign is just one small thing you can do for mankind. And it's not just governments taking taxes who are to blame -- that's just the big fat red chunk band above -- it's also governments restricting refinery capacity and restricting new drilling and exploration who have made the blue band fatter than it needs to be, and oil resources lower than they should be.   And why do you think they've done that?  Brian Simpson explains:

    What do oil companies do? They spend hundreds-of-billions of dollars each year exploring for, drilling for, and transporting oil. They also spend vast sums refining oil into gasoline. Without oil companies there would be no gasoline, no plastics for myriad products (including appliances, packaging, and pace makers), no electricity generated with oil, and so on.
    In other words, our standard of living would be drastically lower. 
    What do environmentalists do? They prevent drilling in Alaska and offshore, which leads to less supply and higher prices...
    Environmentalists have also prevented new refineries from being built in the U.S. through lawsuits and regulations, to the point where no new refineries have been built in over thirty years. As a result, refining capacity has actually declined in the last few decades while demand has increased. This has contributed significantly to the high gasoline prices we now experience.
    In short, environmentalists have done everything they can to make oil and gasoline more expensive and our standard of living lower...

It's all a worryingly familiar parallel to New Zealand's own energy woes, isn't it?  And entirely consistent with the explicit misanthropy of modern environmentalism

Meanwhile, on the subject of refineries, the redoubtable Gus van Horn records that a county in South Dakota has approved via referendum the construction of what would be the United States's first new refinery since 1976.  1976! That's the good news.  However, while the large print giveth, the small print notes:

Despite a favorable referendum outcome ... opponents say the refinery has many hurdles to clear before construction begins...
    "There's probably a hundred pressure points that they have to pass through," said Ed Cable of Citizens Opposed to Oil Pollution, which currently has a lawsuit pending against the rezoning decision, Cable said.

Shades of New Zealand's Marsden B non-power station, don't you think, permanently mothballed by ecstatic local Greens.  Think about them this winter as the country struggles to maintain any semblance of a power supply.

The problem with the New Atheists

The 'New Atheists' have got the religionists publicly on the run -- the likes of Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris and the wonderfully blunt Christopher Hitchens have taken the battle to the mystics in books like The God Delusion, The End of Faith and God is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything, and given rational people much entertainment as they've made the defenders of faith-based superstition squirm.

So why are they taking a beating from inanities like these from Christian Dinesh D'Souza:

Thanks to the astounding discoveries of modern science, I think the God hypothesis has a lot more going for it today than it did in the eighteenth century.

Why is that so difficult to counter?  As Greg Perkins explains, their stumbling point is their failure to account for one seemingly simple question: "How do you explain the existence and order of the universe, the staggering complexity of life, the existence of morality, and so on -- without God?"  In the third part of a series exploring the key weaknesses in their philosophical foundations that effectively disarm the 'New Atheists,' Perkins suggests there is still much for them to learn -- and illustrates how D'Souza "wouldn't stand a snowball's chance against an Objectivist."  [Hat tip Nick Provenzo and this week's Objectivist Carnival]

Drunk History

It's not the drinking, it's how we're drinking ... for your delectation to that end, Derek Waters presents 'Drunk History.'  Frankly, if it's history you want, then you might find Scott Powell more accurate -- but Waters is a far more entertaining drunk.

Don't underestimate Saddam - Gore

Sanctimony comes easy to Al Gore, even when he's right -- as he is here in 1992 berating the Administration of Bush the Elder for ignoring the threat from Saddam Hussein: his cooperation with terrorists, his genocide, and his stock pile of WMD.

So, who lied?

Battersea Power Station - Gilbert Scott et al


Gilbert Scott's magnificent Battersea Power Station on the banks of the Thames.  Dubbed the Cathedral of Power, and captured here in its pomp in 1951, it is sadly now known chiefly only as a prop for a third rate rock band.

Thursday, 5 June 2008

WARNING: Auckland hasn't got the power

An urgent email from the EMA puts my two recent posts  on NZ's creaking electricity supply into context:

    Contact's Otahuhu B power station was brought off line at 6.00pm last night and will be out for at least 4 days. The 400 MW plant has been operating at near maximum capacity lately and is vital for Auckland.
    The issue is with a boiler tube requiring immediate repair. 
    The outage comes at the worst time with our hydro storage levels at near record lows, and with tight electricity supply conditions as a result. All available generation is now being brought into the market.
    The problem is particularly critical for the Auckland area....

You got that right.

There's lots to celebrate on World 'Environment' Day

Since it's World Environment Day, let's celebrate all the many achievements made in improving the human environment over the last three millennia -- in other words, in improving the surroundings of man, and making the external conditions of human life better.  If the concept "environment" is to have any meaning, then this is it.  After all, taken literally, as Ross McKitrick points out [pdf], the phrase 'the environment' as popularly used is a "vacuous truism."

[It] includes everything between your skin and outer space, and as such it covers too much to be meaningful. I can understand being “pro-environment,” since this amounts to being in favour of the world’s existence. The difficulty is trying to picture someone being against it...

I think he's too kind there.  He's right however to say that this popular usage of the term 'environment'  is "insufficiently precise," and amounts only to a bland generalisation waiting for someone to fill it with nonsense and scaremongering:

... [U]sing the general word “environment,” instead of more specific terms, tends to detach any ensuing discussion from the prospect of measurement with real data. We can measure specific types of pollution, biological conditions, resource scarcity, etc. But there is no way to measure the “environment” as a whole...  In the absence of specific measurement, or even agreement on what we ought to be measuring, the discussion too readily seems to get framed in the language of crisis.

He sure got that right.  If we want to be specific, if we want the term 'environment' to actually mean something, then it's not this bland generalisation we should refer to, not the preservation of things that have no value at all to man, but the valuing of things that do.

If the concept 'environment' is to have any meaning, then this is it -- and contrary to the claims of self-declared 'environmentalists,' mankind has been hard at work since time began making our environment better.  This is, after all, why most of us get up and go to work in the morning: to make our immediate environment better for ourselves.  As George Reisman puts it,

   It is important to realize that when the environmentalists talk about destruction of the "environment" as the result of economic activity, their claims are permeated by the doctrine of intrinsic value. Thus, what they actually mean to a very great extent is merely the destruction of alleged intrinsic values in nature such as jungles, deserts, rock formations, and animal species which are either of no value to man or hostile to man. That is their concept of the "environment."
    If, in contrast to the environmentalists, one means by "environment" the surroundings of man--the external material conditions of human life--then it becomes clear that all of man's productive activities have the inherent tendency to improve his environment--indeed, that that is their essential purpose...
    Thus, all of economic activity has as its sole purpose the improvement of the environment--it aims exclusively at the improvement of the external, material conditions of human life. Production and economic activity are precisely the means by which man adapts his environment to himself and thereby improves it.
    So much for the environmentalists' claims about man's destruction of the environment. Only from the perspective of the alleged intrinsic value of nature and the non-value of man, can man's improvement of his environment be termed destruction of the environment.

We've been improving our environment since recorded time began, since the first man and woman shooed a bear out of its cave and began building a fire on which to roast it; from the time our benefactors first began making beer back in Mesopotamia; from the time when we began planting crops to eat, and breeding animals to serve our needs; from the time we began building roads and bridges to take our goods to market; and mines and factories and power stations to produce goods to be taken there ... what we've been doing all this time -- or at least, what our predecessors were doing, since we've been falling down on the job, has been making our living environment better.  Which means taking what nature has provided, and putting it in a more useful relationship to ourselves. 

This is what it means to live as a human being -- what it means to improve the environment -- not denouncing our productive ability and seeking forgiveness from Gaia for having the temerity to inhabit her surface, but transforming nature's bounty to our ends.

Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Taliesin East' To make the point another way, just reflect for a moment on the survival prospects of a bare naked human being in a place like the deserts of Arizona, or the tundra of Siberia, or in the cold, rainy drizzle of a West Coast winter.  None of these environments offers much immediate comfort to that naked beast. But now see what happens when we improve these environments for human habitation: We build sheltering houses to keep out the rain, and to combat the extremes of temperature we build fires and install air conditioners, and truck in the fuel to keep these running.   And, since self-sufficiency in desert or tundra is not possible, and even in moderate Frank Lloyd Wright's 'Taliesin West' climates hardly desirable, we truck in food too to fill up our cupboards.  Instead of sleeping on the ground we install beds; instead of relying for conversation on the same stories that have been told for thousands of years, we stock a library, or install a flat screen television hooked into as many channels as we can afford; instead of relying on random berries to get us merry, we build liquor cabinets and buy fridges and stock them with all the necessaries of good living.

This is what it means to improve the environment, and this is what human beings have been doing and working towards since recorded time began.

And since it's World Environment Day, let's just pause for a minute to reflect that the doctrine of so called environmentalism that World Environment Day promotes  puts this all at risk. The doctrine that says trees, rocks and mud puddles (and snails) take precedence over living, breathing producing human beings puts at risk the wealth, success and livelihood of every human being on the planet.

So in this context, let's pause to give credit to the Chief Executive of Exxon Mobil, who proudly declares  that his company views it as its "corporate social responsibility" to continue to supply the world with fossil fuels.

If only New Zealand's Energy minister could say the same with respect to his portfolio.
NB: I'm indebted to George Reisman for most of these important points.

UPDATE: Poneke says it more plainly:

The posters boldly proclaiming KICK THE HABIT were mildly puzzling. ...  Today’s campaign is World Environment Day, and the habit we’re meant to kick is carbon dioxide. I kid you not. How extraordinarily bizarre. The United Nations is campaigning against carbon dioxide, was the news. Verily, the lunatics have taken charge of the asylum. Carbon dioxide, as every schoolkid knows, is what we exhale as we breathe, and which is absorbed by trees and other plantlife to enable them to grow, giving out the oxygen we need to live. Declaring war on carbon dioxide is declaring war on ourselves, and the trees. Without it, there would be no environment, or at least, no environment as we know it, Jim.

Remembering the butchers of Tiananmen

It's not just World Environment Day today -- a day when those in favour of governments cracking down on people celebrate the opportunity environmentalism gives them -- it's also the nineteenth anniversary of the massacre of three thousand peaceful people in Tiananmen Square by the "People's Liberation Army" under the orders of Chinese leaders fearful of what political freedom might do to them.

On May 30, 1989, protestors in Tiananmen Square erected a papier-mâché ‘Goddess of Democracy’ which for a time faced down the iconic portrait of Chairman Mao hanging from the gates of The Forbidden City. It lasted just five days before the killing began.

There has never been any public commemoration in mainland China of the massacre, or even an acknowledgement of it.

The prolific Scott Wilson has the appropriate memorial over at SOLO: Remember Today, 1989, in Tiananmen Square!

And Human Rights in China (HRIC) has "a podcast series of interviews with participants of the 1989 Tiananmen Square movement," and the BBC have have archive reports including Kate Adie's on-the-spot reporting from the China of 1989.

It's cold outside!

It's not just  New Zealand that had a cold May.  Satellite data is just out, showing that the whole world was colder in May: "The global anomaly was -0.17 °C, the coldest reading after January 2000," summarises Lubos Motl at The Reference Frame, "and the third coldest monthly figure after September 1993."

And even though the northern hemisphere is going into spring, the temperature in the northern troposphere (the part of the atmosphere that warmists' models say warming will occur) was 0.21 °C cooler than it was in April, and in the southern hemisphere  was cooler by 0.17 °C.

This confirms, as Lubos says wryly, "a warming trend" for the Southern Hemisphere during the last 30 years of 0.00 °C per decade -- so quite how David Wratt and NIWA can extrapolate this 'trend' to predict  "hot, dry Auckland summers, a wetter West Coast and plummeting frost-days await us" we can only guess.  Perhaps their careers are on the line?

So just to summarise: May was cold.  Colder than a well digger's arse.  Colder than it's been since September 1993.  Colder even than all the cool months in 2008 - and January 2008 "experienced the sharpest January-to-January global temperature drop - three quarters of a degree Celsius - since records began in 1880."  Colder than a ticket-taker's smile at the Aotea Centre on a Saturday night.

Lubos has a graph showing temperatures for the last seventeen months, including those two extreme Januaries:

And Anthony Watts provides an even broader context to this latest seventeen-month trend:

the change since the last big peak in global temperature in January 2007 at 0.594°C [gives] a 16 month change in temperature of -0.774°C which is equal in magnitude to the generally agreed upon “global warming signal” of the last 100 years...

That graph, by the way, shows all the years of the 'modern warming' era, and the drop over just seventeen months that more than equals the hundred-year rise of 0.6°C that is the "global warming signal" that launched several thousand warmists on the world.

Something to think about on World Environment Day.  If "global warming" exists anywhere, it's looking less and less likely that it exists around the globe.

[NB:I'm indebted to Tom Waits for the quips.  They were his first.]

Bastard of a thing

Annie Fox gives readers an update on her cancer, which you can see right here:

Some NOT PC stats for May

Some good stats here for NOT PC's last month:

NZ Political Blog Rank for NOT PC: 4th (Feb, 6th)
Alexa Ranking, NZ: 569th (last month 645th)
Alexa Ranking, world: 275,373th (last month 300,467th)
Avge. Monday to Friday readership: 1,019/day (1,044)
Unique visits [from Statcounter] 28,672 (30,025)
Page views [from Statcounter] 45,240 (46,767)

Top posts:

Top referring sites: 
   Search engines, Kiwiblog, 1324 referrals; Libertarianz, 603;  Whale Oil, 533; Libertarian Front, 266; No Minister, 198; Mulholland Drive, 185; The Hive, 153; Anti Dismal, 134;  Rod Drury, 127
Top searches:
    not pc, 482; broadacre city, 154; studionz, 104; china olympics, 93; peter cresswell, 70; nipcc, 66;  ipcc bali, 62; john key me too, 61; objectivism montessori, 60; sustainability not pc, 57
They're reading NOT PC here:
Top countries (measured by Statcounter):
   NZ, 51%; USA, 16%; Australia, 5.2%; UK, 3.5%; Italy, 2.4%; Canada, 1.8%;  Germany, 1.1%
Top cities (Statcounter):  
   Auckland, 14.2%; Wellington, 3.6%; Melbourne, 2.6%; Christchurch, 2.4%; Palmerston North, 1.2%, London, 1.8%; Sydney, 0.9%; Tel Aviv, 0.8%; Paris, 0.7%; Bronx, 0.7%; Toronto, 0.7%

Cheers, and thanks to you all for reading and linking to NOT PC, 
Peter Cresswell

The Guardians - Michael Newberry

                         OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA

Part of Newberry's 'Shadows' series - which I suspect relates strongly to his and Martine Vaugel's 'Spirit' works.  Prints of 'The Guardians' are proving to be one of his best-sellers.

Wednesday, 4 June 2008

Reading Recovery doesn't

I found this fascinating listening this morning:

Professor Bill Tunmer from Massey University and Mary Chamberlain from the Ministry of Education discuss the Ministry's Reading Recovery Programme. Tunmer says it's a failure. The woman from the Ministry disagrees. He points to failures in the Government's literacy strategy in general [who knew there was one?] and, in particular, the Reading Recovery Programme, which "are not delivering" -- or at least are delivering failure. The woman from the ministry talks jargon.

Tunmer points to OECD surveys showing New Zealand plunging down the literacy ranks (from 1st in 1970, to 6th in 1990, to 13th in 2001, to 24th today - ref IEA Reading Literacy studies), and the huge and increasing gap between those who can read, and those who can't. The woman from the ministry ignores them.

Listen here: NZ Children's Reading Ability[audio] - RADIO NZ: Nine to Noon (duration: 28′11″)

Reasons for voting Libertarianz

Elijah offers ten good solid reasons "based on the basics of day to day life" in answer to the question "Why should I vote Libertarianz." Here are ten things Libz policies would produce:

  1. Cheap food.
  2. Cheap petrol.
  3. Cheap alcohol [and tobacco].
  4. Abolition of the Resource Management Act.
  5. No income taxes on most (or all) of your income.
  6. We are the best friend of miners, fisherman and forestry workers, farmers and businessmen by greatly encouraging those activities.
  7. Lower interest rates as we will stop the Reserve Bank Governor engaging in gross stupidity.
  8. Those in the South Island will no longer have their taxes used to subsidise Auckland motorways.
  9. Increased choices for users of healthcare and education services.
  10. Public Servants will be servants of the public, not the Masters.

These are some of the main reasons you should vote Libertarianz: practical solutions to day to day problems.

UPDATE: Latest One News poll shows Libertarianz equal to Peter Dung's United No-Future, and one percentage point ahead of Neanderton's Progressive Party. Results here at Scoop.
Time to get on board now folks, now that momentum is starting!

Snarling warmist hatred - updated

The Greens's website links to a snarling interview of Great Global Warming Swindle maker Martin Durkin conducted by the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's Tony Jones after the Swindle screened in Australia.  [Lubos has the same links, and an infinitely superior commentary.]

Just so you know, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation is a government TV station.  Just so you know, this is the same Australian Broadcasting Corporation that has on its website a game for kids that tells them they deserve to die if they use too "more than their fair share of the earth's resources": Planet Slayer's Greenhouse Calculator

ABC_EvilBear in mind that this is a game for children.  Imagine a young seven-year-old (my own mental age) clicking on the government website and finding out that (as in my case) they should have died at the ripe old age of five.  As  Diana says at Noodle Food, this is "Pure Environmentalist Evil."   On this same theme is Flibber:

    I know people like to cut environmentalists some slack and say that not everyone who considers themselves an environmentalist is a dirty hippie like Greena who wants people to live in the dirt and mud.  But that's where it always goes...
    You nice people who think, "Well, I do think litter is bad and it's not difficult to recycle, so why not?" you're keeping company with people who really do consider human beings pests who should just die out.  And slowly, it's moving from "Don't Litter" to asking children to find out when they should just die to keep from spoiling the earth.
    These people aren't joking.  They do not have anyone's best interests at heart.  They want you to die so the weeds can get on with taking over your garden.

They really aren't joking.  As Patrick Moore points out in 'Swindle,' hardcore environmentalists really do think human beings are pests -- and the level of 'contamination' of the environmental movement by misanthropy is certainly less than one part in ten.  Ethically, they're anti-human.  Politically, they're  anti-freedom.  Just look at the proposal being seriously considered in Britain to bring in rationing to limit your travel, your food and your household energy use -in other words, your entire daily life.  The "ultimate green fantasy"!  And as Bob points out, "note that this nightmarish scheme is being advanced not by the British far left, but by the Tories."

This is serious.  They really do want a Blue Planet in Green Shackles, as Czech President Vaclav Klaus titles his latest book, which has just been translated into English  (Full title: Blue Planet in Green Shackles - What Is Endangered: Climate or Freedom?).  Said Klaus at the book's launch, he is no skeptic - with him "the word "skeptic" is an understatement" -- and he's all ready to debate Al Gore, although skeptical of Big Al ever showing up.

    Klaus, an economist, said he opposed the "climate alarmism" perpetuated by environmentalism trying to impose their ideals, comparing it to the decades of communist rule he experienced growing up in Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia.
"Like their (communist) predecessors, they will be certain that they have the right to sacrifice man and his freedom to make their idea reality," he said.
"In the past, it was in the name of the Marxists or of the proletariat - this time, in the name of the planet," he added.
Klaus said a free market should be used to address environmental concerns and said he opposed as unrealistic regulations or greenhouse gas capping systems designed to reduce the impact of climate change.
"It could be even true that we are now at a stage where mere facts, reason and truths are powerless in the face of the global warming propaganda," he said.

I suspect Klaus would enjoy Carbon Belch Day -- June 12 -- when you can save the planet one Belch at a timeBelch Day organisers want people "to waste as much energy as possible on June 12 by hosting a barbecue, going for a drive, watching television, leaving a few lights on, or even smoking a few cigars.  The point: the group wants to help [people] break free from the 'carbon footprint guilt' being imposed by Climate Alarmists."

Blue Planet in Green Shackles
by Vaclav Klaus

Read more about this book...

:  By the way, May 2008 was NZ's coldest May since 1992.  Just thought you'd like to know.  I wonder how NIWA's David Wratt felt when he released the figures.  [Hat tip Mulholland Drive.]

UPDATE 2: New blogger Jeff Perren (add him to your sidebar) adds another instance to the 'Blue Planet in Green Shackles' file:  America's so called Climate Security Bill -- "one of the biggest efforts to date to chain industrial civilization since its birth":

    Individuals, which is what the people who work for and invest in businesses are, have a right to use the Earth for their own benefit. Nothing in what they're doing is having nor will have the severe impact on the climate that the bill's advocates claim make it necessary.
    No one's health or well-being is going to be significantly harmed by producing CO2 at projected levels over the next 100 years. Even if it did, contra science, this bill will not do anything to change that. It will only further the takeover of the economy by
the new Communists — the Greens and their partners-in-crime in Congress.

UN & Anderton learn good economics! (updated)

Crikey! Jim Anderton and the head of the United Nations -- the head of the godamned UN! -- are both on the correct side of the economic argument on food production! Liberty Scott has the stories on this amazing development:

They're both far better than the raving lunatics at last weekend's Greens conference like Jeanette Fitzsimons, who has built a career on "fear, irrationality and ignorance," and Sue Kedgley, who has gone to argue the opposite of good sense at the UN food conference.

UPDATE: Paul Walker sees me agreeing with Neanderton and the UN and asks, "Has Peter Cresswell gone completely mad?"

Temptation too much for top cop(s)

When Eddie Ellison visited  New Zealand a few years ago, he related that when he was head of Scotland Yard's Drug Squad, he used to tell new recruits at every induction to look at their colleagues either side of him.  "If both of them aren't corrupt in two years, then you will be," he'd say.  That was the expected extent of corruption in police Drug Squads, Ellison explained -- the result of a collision between low-paid law enforcement and huge amounts of illicit money.  The money is the result of the War on Drugs.

So it's no surprise to hear that the assistant director of the powerful New South Wales Crime Commission, Mark Standen, has been corrupted by contact with a A$120 million international drug ring.  Whatever an erstwhile crime fighter is being paid, it's always far, far less than the amount of money washing around as the result of the War on Drugs.

That's just one reason that law enforcement officers like Ellison are now part of Law Enforcement Against Prohibition.

Here's Heaven 17, with Temptation.

The day Bo Diddley died

When Bo Diddley played his guitar, he used to say, he wanted to play it just like he was a drummer.  And Maureen Tucker, drummer for the Velvet Underground, reckoned that when she started drumming she wanted to sound like Bo Diddley on his guitar.  For good or ill, he changed music.  Says the New York Times this morning, "The singer and guitarist invented his own name, his own guitars, his own beat and, with a handful of other musical pioneers, rock ’n’ roll itself."

Bo Diddley died overnight.  Here's his early hit, "Who Do You Love?' played just the way he wanted to sound.


And here's my favourite cover of the song: the Patti Smith Group, live on the Letterman show.

Tuesday, 3 June 2008

Greens invoke the 'spirit of the flame'

Reports have been coming in of a unique start to the weekend's Green Party conference:

    The jiggery-pokery which started the Greens' annual conference on Saturday morning effectively confirmed in advance what the subsequent two days of debate and discussion more obliquely indicated - the Greens and National are never going to be a serious item.
Any party which begins its conference by lighting a candle so it can be guided by the "symbolic gesture of a flame" while "calling in the spirits" of Rod Donald, the Treaty, the sun, and just about everything else bar the kitchen sink would seem to be in fruitcake territory, as in nutty as.

NOT PC has now received video footage of the opening fertility dance, although we're unable to clarify the precise reason for Christopher Lee's attendance ...  ;^)

Meet the enfeebled, Part 2 (updated)

“It's very hard to invest in coal [because of Kyoto], nuclear's a sort of four letter word... hydro is suddenly becoming too hard... what's left? ...we can't do everything on windpower.”
– Alan Jenkins, Electricity Networks Association, 2006

ELECTRICITY IS THE LIFEBLOOD of every industrial country.  Electrical power allows human beings to multiply their relatively feeble muscular strength many times, putting that enormous productive power to use in transforming our world to make it a better place in which to live.  Says George Reisman:

    It is vital to recognize the enormous contribution that the essential vehicle of economic progress, namely industrial civilization, has made to human life and well-being since its birth over two centuries ago in the Industrial Revolution.
    Industrial civilization has radically increased human life expectancy: from about thirty years in the mid-eighteenth century to about seventy-five years today. The enormous contribution of industrial civilization to human life is [dramatically] illustrated by the fact that the average newborn American child has a greater chance of living to age sixty-five than the average newborn child of a nonindustrial society has of living to age five. These marvelous results have come about because of an ever improving supply of food, clothing, shelter, medical care, and all the conveniences of life . . .
    In the last two centuries, loyalty to the values of science, technology, and capitalism has enabled man in the industrialized countries of the Western world to put an end to famines and plagues, and to eliminate the once dread diseases of cholera, diphtheria, smallpox, tuberculosis, and typhoid fever, among others. . .
    As the result of industrial civilization, not only do billions more people survive, but in the advanced countries they do so on a level far exceeding that of kings and emperors in all previous ages . . .

Trade and the fruits of industrial civilization beat all the conquests made by all the kings and emperors throughout all history into a cocked hat.  At the most concrete level, the root of the success of industrial civilisation has been making it possible to multiply and direct our own muscular strength exponentially to produce what's needed to make our lives better.  For an industrial country, electrical power is not a luxury, it is a necessity.

Technology is man's means of staying alive. Human existence without technology is characterised by squalor, disease, plagues, starvation, drudgery, and helplessness in the face of natural disasters. This is the state to which the eco-freaks would return us.

When you look at the change in average life expectancy since James Watt invented his steam engine and Richard Arkwright installed them in his cotton mills -- from thirty-five years of age then to well over seventy now -- you might realise that everyone over the age of thirty-five now owes their lives to technology, and to the Industrial Revolution that made it possible.

TECHNOLOGY THESE DAYS NEEDS ELECTRICAL power (and most reliable electrical power is still generated by steam).  Nationally, the demand for power is growing by 150MW per year.  The graph below charts that rise.


Note that the primary growth is not in residential demand, but in industrial demand -- in supplying power to produce new wealth -- which puts  into context the claims from sandal wearers that if we all turn off a few lights and have a cuddle our power problems will all go away.

They won't. 

As it happens, over the years from from 1980 to 1998, the growth in New Zealand's generating capacity matched the growth in demand, growing at an averaged rate of about 150MW per year.  Despite this, regular power shortages such as the famous outages of 1992 showed that even at this time capacity was near its limits -- partly because of the lack of backup generation for the occasionally fickle hydro generators.

What  has changed since then is the National Party's introduction of the Resource Management Act (which was introduced in 1993) and the signing of the Kyoto Protocol by National in 1998, which was ratified by Labour in 2002.  The former made the construction of new generating infrastructure all but impossible; the latter (which under David Parker comes with an Emissions Limiting Scheme and a ten-year moratorium on the construction of new thermal power stations) makes the construction of any serious generating capacity immoral.  Together they make an anti-industrial dream team that has made every anti-industrialist in the country red-eyed with excitement.

As I said here last week, energy demand in New Zealand has increased at an annual rate of roughly 150MW, but, since the onset of the anti-industrial dream team, energy generation hasn't.  Energy generators have wanted to produce more power, but for the most part they haven't been allowed to.  We've enfeebled ourselves by a lack of industry's lifeblood.  The table below shows the slowing of capacity growth:


Have a look at what's been built since the Resource Management Act was launched by National's Simon Upton in 1993, (arranged from north to south):


Now, looked at baldly that looks pretty impressive, doesn't it. 

TOTAL NEW CAPACITY 1993 - 2008 = 1850.5 MW .

That's almost 125MW per year for the last fifteen years.  You can see how that capacity was used over the last year in this graph showing the contributions of each of those thermal power producers over the last few years [e3p and HLY p40 are the new Huntly additions):


So, 125MW per year, mostly from new thermal stations like Taranaki's Combined Cycle Station, Huntly's new gas and co-generation plants, and the Otahuhu B station (Pete Hodgson's new Whirinaki station is just too expensive to run).  Not quite the 150MW demanded (nor quite the figure claimed by an 'Insider' here last week.) 

We could even go back to 1990 if we like and add the Clyde dam, finally commissioned in 1992, contributing 432 MW to the grid (giving us a total of 2282.5 MW, or 127 MW/year new capacity from 1990 to now).  But all this new power production must be balanced against those plants that were decommissioned, either because they were too old, too inefficient, or just too damned expensive to run.

New Plymouth, 2007 (580 MW)
Stratford, 1999 (200 MW)
Marsden A, 1992 (114 MW)
Otahuhu A, 2002 (90 MW)
Whirinaki ‘a’, 2002 (216 MW)
Meremere, 1990 (133)

TOTAL DECOMISSIONED 1990-2008:           (1333 MW)


That's pathetic.  Looked at like this, we can see just how sick we are. If we'd kept up with demand we'd have produced over 2700 MW of new capacity.  Instead, we have just one third of that.  

Here's what we relied on last month (Waikato, Tongariro, Waitaki, and Clutha are the four main hydro contributors to add to the thermal production shown in the previous graph):


And just look at what we could have built.  In recent weeks we've heard about the ban on new thermal power stations, and in recent years we've heard the Environment Court and the High Court knocking back and delaying Resource Consents for several high profile projects, and killing stone-dead the planning of many more we'll never know about:

Projects Abandoned/Delayed/Restricted due to Resource Management Act :

· Project Aqua, hydro (520 MW) - abandoned 2000-2004
· Marsden B, coal (320 MW) - abandoned 2007
· Wairau Valley, Marlborough, hydro (75 MW) - abandoned 2007
· Whanganui/Tongariro, hydro – Environment Court effectively reduced the Tongariro capacity by one-third due to the “mauri” of the Whanganui river …
· North Bank Tunnel, hydro (260MW) - delayed until at least 2016
· Makara, wind - reduced from 210 to 140MW in 2007
· Project Hayes, wind (150MW) - still in delay
· Te Uku Wind (72MW) - awaiting consents
· Te Waka Wind (111MW) - consent overturned by Environment Court in April, 2007

Leaving aside the effect on the Tongariro catchment of restricting water flow from the Whanganui, which is difficult to quantify, this looks like 1580 MW of power generation that we could have producing power now ... if it weren't for the Resource Management Act.

This is just some of the 'surplus capacity' that energy analysts in the late nineties were beginning to talk about coming on stream, and it hasn't.  This is surplus capacity that hasn't come on stream, and in most of these cases never will come on stream.  (Instead of this, we have one line of the dirty, asbestos-ridden hulk of New Plymouth's burner cranked up one more time to try and avoid the election-year ignominy of a shortage of electrical power bringing down those with political power).

The result of this undercapacity was only noticed by government last week when the power went off in the Beehive, but that rest of us have already seen it in news last week that factories from Bluff to Auckland aren't just switching off heaters and changing a few lightbulbs, they're already running fewer shifts and producing less wealth, all because of the parlous state of the present system, and with no new real generation capacity in sight beyond a few windmills.

This is what it means when we say that the effects of global warming are already upon us: the effects, that is, of government throttling industry to keep our Kyoto commitments.

Fact is, we either meet that increasing annual demand of 150MW per year, or we make ourselves poorer.  If we're going to have any show of meeting that continually increasing demand -- which means, to remain as an industrial economy -- we need to build new power now.

Which means putting paid now to the Resource Management Act, and abandoning urgently the commitments we've made under Kyoto to throttle ourselves and our energy production.

UPDATE:  Some arithmetic errors amended, Thursday 6 June, 9:10am.