Ignorance in high places

BrownleeThe Minister of Energy, Gerry Brownlee, was reported on National Radio this morning as stating that the energy strategy policy of the last government is going to be altered, because it subsumed energy policy under climate change.  I was appalled by what I heard and tracked down the text of his speech, hoping it wasn’t as bad as it sounded.  It was. Here is the section in which he dealt with the subject:

The current Energy Strategy represents the high point of the total subsuming of energy policy into climate change policy.  The whole Strategy is an idealistic vision document for carbon neutrality.

You need only read the foreword of the NZES to get a sense of this. “Sustainability” and “sustainable” are mentioned thirteen times, “greenhouse gas” is mentioned four times, and “climate change” is mentioned three times. That is all very good, but security of supply rates only one mention. Affordability is not touched on at all. Nor is economic growth.

The National-led Government believes a refocusing of the Energy Strategy is required. The new strategy will focus on security of supply, affordability, and environmental responsibility, with the overriding goal of maximising economic growth.

The Energy Strategy  involved widespread public consultation.  I certainly made a submission on it.  It is an overly cautious, but still relatively hopeful document, carrying the subtitle “Towards a sustainable low emissions energy system.”

There is an air of ignorant complacency to Brownlee’s statement. Energy policy can’t be decoupled from climate change policy.  They belong together. The whole world knows this. The new Secretary for Energy in the US, Steven Chu, is in no doubt about it. He states quite clearly that his interest in energy has grown out of his concern about climate change. But much of what Brownlee has done so far reveals how threadbare his understanding of climate change is. He has lifted the ban on fossil-fuel powered electricity generation. He has reversed the decision to ban incandescent light bulbs. He has wiped the biofuel obligation only months after it was legislated. And now this statement.

Is this an example of what John Key meant when he said during the election campaign that economic growth takes precedence over environmental policy?  I wrote about that at the time.

The government needs to bring itself up to date with the science, or even with what policy makers in some significant countries (like the US) are now saying.

13 thoughts on “Ignorance in high places”

  1. Economic growth is all well and good, security of supply is also very important, but to glibly decouple energy policy from climate policy is ignorant in the extreme. Then again I get that impression every time I’ve ever seen Mr Brownlee open his mouth.

  2. Sounds like he’s working with the bogus notion that becoming carbon efficient is uneconomic by nature … stupid.

    Big ups to John Key and National for saving the economy at the expense of the planet … what’s the expression? “Penny wise and Pound foolish”.

  3. Note too his remarks about the electricity review – he’s going to use Business NZ’s report as the basis of the review.

    “I am therefore considering a Ministerial Working Party to take the Business NZ report as a working document that may form the basis for recommendations on future regulatory and governance arrangements.”

    erk. Doesn’t bode well for future consultation.

  4. These are very worrying signs – confirming my fears that this government just doesn’t “get” the climate problem. I suppose it’s a long jump from comfortable denial to reality, and National hasn’t made it yet. I wonder how happy Nick Smith is about all this…

  5. Here’s a glimmer of hope…..

    After reading the Business NZ report, I was immediately struck by the absurdity of calling for a review of duplication of activity in the electricity sector – when any further review would in fact duplicate the Business NZ report.

    Now, if that logic is applied in the ETS review…….

  6. And…in the same conference, but different day and different speaker. This time it is Vice President Asia Pacific of the World Energy Council, Younghoon David Kim.
    The age of cheap energy and suicidal lack of concern about negative externalities is over, a new age has begun. But transition, by definition, defines a process, a movement over time. We depend, and continue to depend, on conventional energy sources to power this transition,”

    I suspect Gerry wasn’t there to hear this – but then again when you and I might hear “suicidal lack of concern…..”
    Gerry would probably hear
    “…………………………………depend on conventional energy sources………..”

  7. Gerry might have taken on a bigger job than he realises stamping out idealistic visions. They’re popping up all over the place. This looks suspiciously like another one, from the President of the US no less, speaking to Congress yesterday:

    “But to truly transform our economy, protect our security and save our planet from the ravages of climate change, we need to ultimately make clean, renewable energy the profitable kind of energy. So I ask this Congress to send me legislation that places a market-based cap on carbon pollution and drives the production of more renewable energy in America. And to support that innovation, we will invest fifteen billion dollars a year to develop technologies like wind power and solar power, advanced biofuels, clean coal and more fuel-efficient cars and trucks built right here in America. “

  8. hehehe great thought Bryan.

    indeed, Gerry’s gonna be a very busy man. He’d best get himself over to the US pronto – Congress just voted down a World Bank Clean Technology Fund package because it included paying for coal-fired power stations in the developing world.

    Maybe he’d better take Don. They’ll sort out those pesky Democrats.

  9. Does anyone read the Investigate magazine? If so, can you confirm this (from yesterday’s question time):

    Charles Chauvel: Is not the real reason for the foot-dragging by the Prime Minister’s Government on climate change policy revealed by the Prime Minister’s reference, in an interview with Mr Ian Wishart in this month’s Investigate magazine, to the need to “have flexibility so that if the science deteriorates and the climate change sceptics are right, we have an ability to alter the impact on our economy”?

    Hon BILL ENGLISH: I think the member can understand how much uncertainty there is around the climate change policy process. The Australian Government is not exactly clear where it is going, the world carbon price is very difficult to predict, and the effect of recession on carbon emissions is also very difficult to predict. The Prime Minister is wisely making sure that people understand that the Government retains the flexibility to adapt to those circumstances.


  10. password1

    Thanks for drawing this to our attention.

    I don’t get Investigate but if Chauvel is quoting correctly it would be an even more alarming sign than Gerry Brownlee produced that ignorance extends right into the upper ranks of government. Rodney Hide will no doubt be delighted.

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