The 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.