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Chapter two -My first Adventure - Banking in Black Holes.

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Blog Dave McArthur 21 June 2005

Chapter 2 No 7:  Is EECA a Black Hole?

Do I hear right? I turn the shower onto cold blast to check my senses are working OK. Have I just heard Don Brash, leader of the New Zealand National Party, the nation’s top polling party, saying, “Greens hate cars and electricity”? If so, roll on the Dark Ages if he resumes complete control of the Treasury Benches again.

As my last blog revealed, I have profound differences with the Green Party. At the same time I find they are the only political party big enough to even begin to accommodate my radical views. So call me a “green” or “conservative” or “patriot” or “pedant” or “killjoy” or ‘dreamer’ or whatever if you are into labeling people. Labour, NZ First and United Future seem unable to begin to grasp the issues. Don’s comments and National/Act’s continuing support for their Electricity Reform legislation give little cause for hope either. It sure is strange times we live in when my simple love of science alienates me and makes me a radical.

As an aside, it so happens I love cars and big motorbikes. I loved nothing better than to cruise up to Arthurs Pass in the Southern Alps from Christchurch in my 1937 Chev Coup or up the Kaikoura Coast Road on my Norton 500. At one point our family owned two cars. I was addicted to them and could not imagine life without them. A freeze clamped my spirit if the car failed to not start in the morning.

About 1991 our car was stolen and I went cold turkey. It was just like busting my tobacco addiction. I regained my taste for sweet life and my back balance rocketed. Subsequently we were kindly gifted a couple of cars and I am not being ungrateful when I say I was happier without them.

My allusion to addiction is deliberate. There are powerful synergies between the global drug, arms and oil-Gas trades. Life can become hell on earth for those innocents caught up in the cross traffic. All it takes is a change of neighbour or employer or to find yourself in the way of a proposed oil or Gas pipe. I have just read of the impact of the most recent  ‘liberation’ of Afghanistan. It ensures Gas pipes across the region supply the West and to quote Janes intelligence review :

“Farmers will produce between 5,400 and 7,200 tonnes of opium in 2004, depending on total acreage and average yields…

Nevertheless, the Taliban banned opium production in 2000, either to secure international support or, as some have speculated, to drive opium prices up to benefit from additional income. The move was unexpected and extremely successful, at least in the short term, as only 185 tonnes were harvested in 2001, much less than the 3,276 tonnes of 2000. Moreover, only 35 out of the overall 185 tonnes was effectively harvested across Taliban-held territory.”

As the Post Cheap Oil Age deepens ( $US59.52 per barrel today) we are allowing conditions to be generated that are conducive of worldwide wars as corporations scrabble to exploit remaining oil/gas reserves. Most of the world’s population will be directly affected. New Zealand will not be excluded from the hideous turmoil, despite the fact only Fiordland of New Zealand exists on the Pentagon’s  New Map detailing the areas the US is “exporting security” to.

Note: If these links fail for some reason there is an interesting Berkley interview with Thomas PM Barnett and here is his website.

Countries in every region are building military bases near oil and Gas resources. Overlay this map with Chinese, Japanese, European and Indian ambitions to “export security” and we have a potential scenario that makes the East Timor slaughter look like a picnic. And as last weeks report by the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute indicates, this military build-up is occurring while oil and Gas are still “cheap”. Iraqi blogs offer a small reminder of the misery and this is in a relatively “managed” situation.

 For the record, I love flying as well – in jets, small planes or gliders. For many the experience of flying is an exercise in boredom. For me it is a sublime experience. Even before a short flight between Christchurch and Wellington I used to fast the day before to ensure my senses were at their most alert and I would be able to soak up every second of the experience. As I write I am marveling at the sight of planes of all sorts lifting like gulls on the wind at the international airport below my home.

I do not fly anymore and have come to love rail and ship travel. Besides the added fun of physically experiencing the environment I travel through and of meeting more interesting people, I am aware air travel produces 19 times the Warmer Trace Gas emissions of trains; and 190 times that of ships. On balance, I now enjoy a greater sense of going with the universal flow.

Sadly I have come to the conclusion that it is now positively hazardous for a nation to invest heavily in systems dependent on the air travel industry. There are now 6.4 billion people stressing just about every environmental link that sustains us. The advent of the Post Cheap Oil/Gas Age combined with the increasing risk of climate ‘events’ and the collapse of our health systems ramps up the risk for air-transport based societies. Remember the headlines surrounding the minor scare created by the Sars virus and the way it emptied the skies? For example: Sars hit airlines ‘more than war’.

And check this link out if you ever wonder why the Supersonic Aircraft industry foundered and died with the Concorde. I hypothesise that if serious research on the impact of subsonic jets occurred and all the extraordinary subsidies in the form of exemptions from Kyoto Protocol carbon taxes (That’s gotta be unreal eh!), transport taxes, anti-pollution regulations etc were removed, then the industry would shrink faster than it has grown.

What is known is that the airline industry is now the fastest growing and most unsustainable emitter of the Warmer Trace Gases (carbon dioxide etc) in the world.  Scandinavian Airlines (SAS) kindly supply a calculator and suggest ways you can supposedly mitigate the impact of your emissions if you are concerned. If you are really interested in the topic, the latest Energy Bulletin has some good stuff.

As an aside, I am fascinated to ping up this startling insight into airlines’ role into cloud formation while researching this blog

“From 35,000 feet below, contrails may look like wispy lines. But they can grow into clouds many miles wide and hundreds of feet tall, and they often contain pollutants left by the burning of thousands of gallons of jet fuel. The trails and the clouds they create help to trap heat, contributing to the greenhouse effect, several recent studies contend.”

In short I put my money on communities that invest in alternative systems to air travel that are based on ship and rail transport and electronic communication. They will be the most resilient.

I am sure most New Zealanders do not wish to think about the oil-gas-arms-drugs synergy too much, especially has we have just committed more troops (SAS) to Afghanistan. Nor do we wish to think of the impact of our use of air travel. So we won’t. I will simply comment that as I reduced my personal dependence on oil, I experienced an unexpected deep joy and sense of release as I became liberated from involvement in these violent trades. Life has become much more fun. And anyway I really want to talk about the joy of electricity in our lives.

Contrary to Don Brash’s belief, I am passionate about this carrier of energy. I spend many of my waking hours dreaming how we can make more effective use of it. I suspect he maintains the typical accountant’s view of the world: Electricity=Bulk-electricity Sector. This is a plain miserable view of an awesome resource.

I love electricity. I celebrate the fact I am an Electrical Being. My act of breathing is the product of an awesome electrical system. These thoughts are electrical impulses – my brain is generating at 13- 40Hz as I write. If I am fortunate enough to experience “creativity, calmness, insight and centred energy” as these thoughts flow through me then I may be generating alpha waves i.e. be operating at a little under 13Hz.

I generate electricity to enable the muscular activity necessary to operate the keyboard. Similarly electricity links you to these thoughts.

I am also proud to be a drip. I love thinking of myself as a little part of the ocean that has bundled itself up in a skin, stiffened its form with a calcium frame, spliced itself with an electro-chemical network to enable a spark of intelligence to be generated so I can emerge from the greater ocean and wander the land, enjoying the trees, clouds, rainbows and stars. Always I need to top up with water and salt to keep my ocean healthy. (As ex-Governor of the NZ Reserve Bank, Don probably knows salary comes from salarius - pertaining to salt and originally denoted a Roman soldier’s allowance to buy salt.)

Without my skin I evaporate - an excruciating death. Without my skin I become very vulnerable to the electric currents around me and the exquisite order of the salts in my body can be destroyed with ease. My very DNA dissolves. Even a small break in my skin or wetness can lower my resistance from 500,000 ohms to a mere 100 ohms. A difference of less than 100 milliampere exists between a current that is trace tingle and one that is lethal.

The salts in my mini-ocean make me incredibly vulnerable to electrical discharges even as they make me a conductor of the intelligence in the universe. I am glad to be alive and embrace my Electrical Being, Don.

I love electricity on many levels. I was a meter reader for two decades and was privileged to visit tens of thousands of homes and businesses in New Zealand and observe its use. I marveled at how we controlled the flow of electrons across mountains and under oceans. I loved following the wires across our landscape and experiencing how the electron flow transforms our dwellings into linked oases of music, conversation, warmth, cooking smells, movement and electronic pictures of the world.

I also am very aware of how our civilisation is based on the intelligent use of electricity and how the ethos of the Bulk-electricity sector dominates the family psyche now. I have attempted to calm the distraught mother when I gave her the Bulk-electricity bill and I witnessed the smashed blood stained walls after she axed her children to death in despair. I have attempted to console a fellow worker after he returned to reconnect the Bulk-electricity supply and found the householder had slit her wrists. I have had to place their emergency heart control pills under the tongues of elderly people as they went into shock at their utility bills. Many elderly have told me electricity is more important than food to them. They never fear for lack of food but always are fearful they will not survive even a short period of temperature extremes. I know how quickly our remaining forests will disappear and how foul the environment of our cities will become without intelligent uses of electricity.

The NZ Electricity Reforms and its supporters relegate electricity (and the householders who use Bulk-generated electricity) to the status of mere tradeable commodities. When the Government legislated that community owned grids were to be “profit driven” rather than “service driven” in 1993 they created a new culture in which the managers told us industry workers that “electricity is no different to bread – it is just something to be bought and sold like any other commodity”.

They also told us workers that we were “liabilities while on the books” and they sacked us on mass. Especially targeted were those industry workers who retained the service and conservation ethic. Life became very nasty for our families and us. We became subject to all manner of ostracism, threats and violence. Indeed the Electricity Reform legislation enshrines violence against people and the environment.

That is not the most cynical aspect of the legislation. As mentioned, it first devalued electricity as a resource. This effectively stripped value from the companies so they could be purchased at bargain prices by mates of the valuing consultants. It also stripped away social obligations – electricity was redefined as “just any commodity”.  At the same time the Reforms disenfranchised communities by removing their right and capacity to develop intelligent uses of electricity and local grids.

Then the new management spawned by the Reforms has had the gall to turn around and begin spending millions of dollars to convince us that Bulk-electricity is energy itself. Now they control the resource they want us to believe it is the absolute source of life and hence they should be given control of the nation’s wealth and culture.

To top that off, they try to tell us the “electricity industry is now deregulated” when in fact the Reform legislation is an unprecedented intervention in the Electricity Market. The citizens of New Zealand have never been less free to participate in this market in the century of reticulated electricity.

Those readers new to this blog may be curious about my use of the symbol “Bulk-electricity sector”. There is a multitude of ways of generating electricity. Humans have developed large industrial machines that use resources such as “nuclear”, Gas, oil, coal, atmospheric gases, geothermal, ‘hydrodams’ and wind farms to generate electricity on a bulk scale. Often this electricity is distributed over wide areas to the end user. From the days of the very first grid in the 1890s Edison and the investment bankers (J P Morgan) saw how they could use Bulk-electricity to control the wealth of the world. It is no mistake it has been marketed as power, exploiting all the associations of that symbol.

Another type of electricity generation is Distributed Generation using small-scale machines. Typically these are based close to use and examples include photovoltaic cells, “backyard” wind turbines and diesel or gas powered generators like the new Christchurch development of the Whispergen technology.  

Unlike Bulk-generated electricity, Distributed Generation (DG) is very efficient in that there are minimal transmission losses. Use is at source. The bankers of the Bulk-electricity sector have waged an unremitting war on this technology and have attempted to suppress its development using every media, legislative, legal or monetary weapon available. There is a simple reason: Bulk-gen is an easy source of cash for them. DG threatens that flow.

Often we can meet our thermal, lighting and other needs by using means other than electricity. This is symbolised as Electricity Demand Control. It may involve storing hotwater in an insulated tank and switching off the Bulk-electricity powered heater when market prices are high. It may involve double-glazing your home so you don’t need electric heaters and coolers as much. Again these bankers wage an unremitting war to mitigate the impact of “Demand-side” measures on their quarterly returns.

Don’t be fooled by the pretty pictures of cuddly creatures and pristine natural scenes propagated by the Bulk-electricity sector. The warfare they engage results in a reality of needless misery for billions of people and the massive destruction of our environment. Civilisation can survive the Post Cheap Oil/Gas Age. It will not survive if this sector succeeds in maintaining ever-increasing demand for Bulk-generated electricity. Civilisation could literally collapse overnight as Bulk-gen systems go into instantaneous meltdown. This will happen long before oil and Gas run out. Recall the 2003 collapses of the North American system when “ a tree fell on the wires” and the Italian system. (Systems with nuclear plants are particularly vulnerable as they are very rigid.) Recall how a solar storm knocked out the Canadian system 1989

At present the odds look dismal for the average person in this war. The bankers are wresting increasing control of electricity grids from communities and now Bulk-electricity supply investment outweighs investment in Demandside/Distributed generation measures by $100s to $1. This is why I went outside and stood in the freezing southerly to clear my brain at the end of my last  blog before opining on Meridian Energy’s proposed wind farm for Wellington.

The Wellington region is gifted with a fantastic wind resource, almost without peer on this planet. Investments in Bulk-electricity from wind farms pose a relatively moderate risk compared to carbon and nuclear-based options. Transmission losses from this wind farm would be relatively small. So what’s the problem?

The problem is the barren spiritual climate in Wellington. This is a region that is environmentally illiterate. It gave away control of its local communication- electricity grid in the 1990s. In the process it destroyed much of the region's Demand-control capacity and almost all of its energy efficiency programmes. In particular it aborted its nascent broadband (knowledge) and “smart” metering industries. Only 20% of our houses are insulated, community trusts have been decimated and recent construction has destroyed significant amounts of the local solar-generation capacity in its urban areas.

The development of this sad state of affairs was actively championed by the region’s daily broadsheets -The Dominion and the Evening Post. Their new face, the Dominion Post, continues to promote the same unsustainable policy. In the issue containing Meridian’s media release their editorial expressed their vision of our options with the heading: “Catch the wind or light candles.” 

The problem is that it is pointless going to the expense of installing windmills while a population is still actively destroying solar generating capacity and living in homes designed to heat the universe rather than the occupants. That is why I proposed to the Wellington City Council that its District Plan should stipulate that for every dollar invested in Bulk-electricity generation a dollar must be spent on “demand control measures”. One of our prominent “energy experts” and wind turbine advocate afterwards dismissed my suggestion as “completely unrealistic”. So be it? So be the next world war.

One positive thing about the Meridian proposal is that it does not involve the use of the fatally flawed carbon trading system. This "market" experiment and high-risk gamble with civilisation, negotiated into the 1997 Kyoto accord by the ANZACs , obstructs the development of a sustainable economy in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age and is an active ingredient in the recipe for war.

Keith Turner, CEO of Meridian Energy got people like me wrong in his interview on National Radio (June 2) when he dismissed our concerns by saying, “The NIMBY (Not in My Backyard) syndrome is alive and well”. I consider Meridian Energy the most enlightened of New Zealand’s Bulk electricity companies and Keith went on to demonstrate how unsustainable even this company is when he said, “We need more energy. This (the wind farm) is the cheapest way of expanding the electricity system.”

In January 2002 I was inspired on a visit to Christchurch to write to Keith and suggest Meridian’s recent acquisition of the Christchurch Bulk-electricity retail system from the collapsed OnEnergy, the advanced culture of Orion (the community-owned local grid company) and the relatively enlightened Christchurch City Council offered an extraordinary opportunity to create world leading model of intelligent use of electricity. I gave examples drawn from my decade’s experience working in the Christchurch system in the 1980s.

Keith kindly acknowledged my note, saying he hoped to write his memoirs one day too. At that point I realised I was living in a different reality, an alternative universe. I understood why Meridian elected to spend its sponsorship millions on the launch of a film about Hobbits and not on energy efficiency education. I sure can understand people’s intuitive fears that if we leave decisions to the Bulk-electricity sector then every supportive link in our environment will be destroyed in its impossible search for “more energy.”            

My concerns have just deepened. I have just been directed to Greenpeace’s website:

For a clean energy future: The West Wind Proposal The transition to renewable energy is absolutely vital….

I find my reaction to sites like this so difficult to articulate. They are the product of such good intentions. They are so unsustainable and counterproductive.   I think I will go outside and expose myself to latest southerly (polar) blast and hope the act of freezing will enable me to know stillness of a sort.

I was linked to Yes2wind by the Royal Forest and Bird Protection Society of New Zealand

This describes itself as “New Zealand’s leading independent conservation organization” I had received this kind invitation

The election is only a matter of months away. You are invited to an Election Year Conservation Forum involving political party representatives at Forest and Bird’s Annual Conference.  Speakers will be Green Party Co-Leader Jeanette Fitzsimons; Conservation Minister Chris Carter; National Party environment spokesperson Nick Smith and United Future Party conservation spokesperson Larry Baldock.

Sunday 12 June
10.30am till 12.15pm
Mercure Hotel
355 Willis Street

Politicians will each speak for 10 minutes and then take questions from the floor.  This a chance for you to find out what the politicians are offering to do for conservation at this election and to ask them questions.

Note the time and day. I sincerely admire these politicians and all those attending the AGM of the Society. I went along, intrigued to see how the most urgent contemporary conservation issue facing New Zealand today is being addressed. 

I believe pollution of our images of the nature of energy and the resultant urgent demand for ever more ‘energy’ is the greatest long term challenge facing us – as Meridian and Greenpeace illustrate. Our potential impact on the climate is a pressing issue too. However neither of these is the contemporary issue I refer to. The issue is one that directly affects all those things Forest and Bird hold dear: the forests, the birds, the rivers and the oceans.

This issue was not addressed by any of the politicians.

Nick Smith (National) set the framework of discussion, declaring, “There is a strong consensus in New Zealand what conservation is about.”  I suspect it is safe to say absent parties (ACT and NZ First) concur with his definition. Only one party present challenged it at all.

Nick set the agenda with his outline of National’s prime concerns:
Top (No1) issue is Oceans followed by
(2) Water Quality,
(4) A new national park north of Taupo
(5) A 25 year “conservation plan”.

Most of the content and questions at the forum revolved around issues of recreational use of land, the Resource Management Act, pest control, the loss of native species and the role of DOC  

 (All parties put their hand over their hearts and said they did not plan to carve up DOC into park-tourism management and species management as rumoured though Nat and United hinted they wish to muzzle its advocacy role.)

Only the Green Party representative looked near addressing the issue when Jeanette attempted to widen the discussion by stating to the effect, “We will make no progress if we ring-fence conservation with DOC – it must pervade every policy: Energy, Agriculture, Fisheries and Economics.” This opened the way for one delegate to later ask her about the Greens policy on solar water heating. Jeanette said “ Ahh, energy!” (A counterproductive call) and outlined the Green's solar water heating strategy. That was as near as it got.

I looked around the hall. It is almost a decade to the day since I sat in this same room with hundreds of Capital Power employees and listened as the then Mayor of Wellington, Fran Wilde, assured us her sale of the city-owned “electricity” company to TransAlta would bring exciting new technology to the city and great new career opportunities for us in a company with model employment conditions. Time certainly showed what a lie that was!

This day the hall is filled with Bird and Forest Society delegates. There are grey-haired old warriors who would have fought in the Save Manapouri Campaign that began in the 1960s to prevent large areas of our fabled Fiordland being flooded and the hydro dam being sold to Comalco, owner of a nearby aluminium smelter. 

Incidentally Comalco is in the news this week with suggestions that it might build its own coal-atmosphere fired plant to power its massive smelter if it does not get Bulk-electricity at favourable rates. That will add to New Zealand’s carbon debit like crazy.

There are passionate young folk people, just breaking their teeth on the recent Save the Waitaki River Campaign and TransPower’s proposed 400,000-volt transmission line across the Waikato region.

No doubt there are a few Environmental Management graduates present. Who among all of these present would raise the issue with the politicians?

No one did and the reduced question time plus the chair’s request that we not address questions to the entire panel of politicians meant I did not get to ask the questions I had prepared:

Fortunate countries are about to experience the emergence and convergence of three major technologies:

(1)           So called smart metering and smart household appliances than can revolutionise electricity demand response.

(2)           So called Powerline Communication – broadband through every socket connected to the local grid.

(3)           Small scale electricity generation or distributed generation (DG)

We are also entering the Post Cheap Oil/Gas Age and possibly a Carbon Constrained Age.

This conjunction means the owners of our local electricity-broadband and Gas grids will have immense control of our wealth and conservation practice. It is in this context that we are witnessing the transfer of unprecedented power and wealth from the Auckland community to a few overseas investment bankers with the float of Vector Ltd. This transfer will have a far greater negative impact on conservation practice than even the literal gifting of NZ Rail (an asset worth tens of billions of dollars) to a couple of investment bankers in 1991 has had. Understand, for instance, Vector already controls the majority of New Zealand 1.8 million switchboards. The float will be at vastly undervalued prices because “the market” will not factor in this great conjunction of events.

My questions are:

(1)           What has your party done to alert the Auckland community of the scale of the transfer of the wealth and power and its probable negative impact on the environment?

(2)           Do you see any point in having a Conservation Minister in the future when the major decisions will be made by a couple of overseas-based bankers?

Chris Carter from the ruling Labour Party claimed to the forum that his administration “has achieved an incredible amount of conservation” and it “is a Government committed to conservation.” This claim does not square with our rocketing carbon emissions and the Prime Minister’s refusal to acknowledge my letter in which I attempted to alert her to the implications of the Vector float on her electorate. Nor does it square with the Government’s helplessness as revealed in the un-elicited response I received from the Minister of Finance Michael Cullen. History will judge that, on balance, Labour indulged in unsustainable development. It will also judge that Labour effectively endorses the Vector float and the resultant transfer of control of the national asset.

Labour provided the general mechanism and the National Party and New Zealand First are directly responsible for the Electricity Reforms that led to the float. The former two parties are responsible for the destruction of the national rail-communications system as well. See the latest revelation on the state of the latter:

The Government yesterday admitted that the rail network it sold in 1993 and bought back in 2004 is in appalling shape and will cost taxpayers more than the pledged $200 million to fix.

United Future has just announced they propose a 40% sell-down of selected State Owned Enterprises, including the three Bulk-electricity generator/retailers and the coal company. This proposal is bankrupt of common sense. Not much hope there either.

Even the Green Party has been unable to comprehend and articulate the scale of the transfer of wealth and power the Vector float will facilitate. Certainly this Forest and Bird conference of New Zealand’s leading conservators appears oblivious.

Vector, with its overwhelming control of our Gas, broadband and electricity grid potential, is key to New Zealand being able to benefit from the great technology conjunction I outlined. It is vital to effective conservation. Surely these environmental activists draw lessons from the costs we now endure because of the transfer of our "telecommunications" industry to the same overseas bankers?

This week has seen reports such as

            Call to cut mobile phone charges

10 June 2005
New Zealanders are paying nearly three times as much as some overseas consumers for mobile phone terminations Telecommunications Commissioner Douglas Webb says

Another report points up how our new privatised telecommunications system blocks data movement e.g. Telecom charges $NZ95 a gigabyte where as London’s Sohonet provider can move the same amount “for a few US cents”. It is little wonder NZ as moved from being one of the most advanced users of telecommunications to one with near the poorest uptake of broadband in the OECD.

And now we are set to profoundly compound the situation by giving away any real chance of developing an intelligent local grid system by flogging off Vector as well.

How is it we remain so ignorant of the issues? The sad state of our media does not help. For instance when the decision to float Vector was announced the Radio New Zealand Business reporters talked only of its impact on boosting the local stock exchange! 

Think about that mentality. Communities can survive without stock exchanges. They cannot survive without a healthy environment, sustainable uses of energy and, in our highly populated state, without intelligent grids. Listening to Radio New Zealand was an exercise in imagining a world devoid of children, trees and fresh water.

I suspect the NZ Herald broadsheet is even worse than the Dominion Post. The one copy I saw recently had an editorial vociferously proclaiming the necessity of destroying the community base of Vector Ltd. The online articles I read seem designed to obscure conservation issues. I use the word design deliberately.

Broadsheets were originally established to promote sector interests (Politicians from earliest times have paid cartoonists to lampoon them to ensure exposure.) and the tradition continues with our broadsheets being designed to serve the interests of the overseas bankers who own them and the advertisers who invest in them. The bankers are the same folk who will own Vector in a short period. That is why you will not learn from them of the  immense icontrol and wealth in Vector represents when the conjunction of events I have described occurs.

The design I spoke of is complex. In the Herald’s case, reporting of the general issues of conservation and  of the “ownership”  (of Vector) are divorced so that only “business” reporters cover the latter. These reporters share the Radio New Zealand "business" mentality. As do the business editors in my weekly broadsheet, the Sunday Star Times. This divorce, over-layed with editorial controls, prevents true investigative journalism.

On another level of design, check out the topic of Energy on the NZH website. What is its image of the nature of energy? Coal, Electricity (Bulk-generated electricity at that), Nuclear Power and Oil & Gas. That’s it folks. That’s NZ Herald energy. Solar energy does not exist. Nor does dwelling-based generation of valuable energy forms. Nor does the potential energy of urban design or intelligent grids or sustainable transport systems exist.
The media layout is the message, not the content. 

Its list of links contains only one hint that there if life beyond these four topics. It links to a couple of what it calls “climate change” articles. However this glimpse of sanity is pretty much obscured by the splicing in of an Ads by Goooooogle box containing only links to oil related issues. The nature of its algorithms makes Google a reactive force in that, on balance, it reinforces existing paradigms

This systematic failure is endemic. Take the Sunday Star Times business section June 12. D7 is a page of ideas of improving energy efficiency in homes. Surely quotes of $10,000 to double-glaze a home and “a payback time: maybe never” should have rung investigative bells. Then we might have learned why two years ago I was quoted $300 for square meter double glazed panel (2 Sheets of 4mm glass with a couple of dollars of aluminium and glue separator.) At the time glass merchants were purchasing 4mm glass at $12-16 a square meter.

The same article talked of ENERGY SAVING BULBS. As far as I know such a thing does not exist unless someone has finally circumvented the Conservation Principle/Law in a practical form. Perhaps they are talking of Low Watt Lamps? Turn the page and the confusion is amplified. Dominating your sensibility is two large photos of incandescent light bulbs under the headline Eureka! It’s the year of the bright spark. I ask you. How do they manage such design? 

Even when the SST article identifies returns of 100% on investment the information is sited in a small box with the message buried in size 8 font. Payback time: Within a year for a four person family. If the kids are teenagers, much more quickly. The main message of the investment page is contained in the row of large boxes that underlines the article. In colour and in size 72 Bold font are the returns 8.75% 12.0%, 9.25% 9.10%  
from various Finance Investment Companies.

I am not saying this bias towards the Bulk-electricity sector is a conscious act on behalf of the scriptwriters. It’s just how people who earn a living from this activity act out their primal response to energy. I am also saying this is the nature of advertising broadsheets and why we will never find out the truth through them.

There is another reason too why you will not find out the truth of Vector from our media – or educators or “energy experts” for that matter. These folk see household meters as just a piece of machinery for measuring the flow of electricity. They are unable to see these devices are immensely powerful switches that are capable of turning on and off the awareness off communities to sustainable  “smart” uses of electricity.

These folk insist on still describing the local grids as “powerlines” and think only of (Bulk) electricity when the new reality is these grids are communication grids that can also carry energy in the form of electricity.

And so because of this lack of insight New Zealand is about to experience a rip-off of unprecedented proportions and we will wonder why we are so broke. I see this morning the Reserve Bank suggests average household debt is now around 140% of disposable income, up from 130% a year ago and up from 60% in 1990. Keep counting.

Time for only one quick comment:

I see Don Brash (leader of National Party) has been going on again how he reduced inflation in the 1990s. Now Winston Peters (leader of NZ First has jumped on the bandwagon claiming he beat inflation in his period 1996-99. This is dangerous thinking in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age. 

The failure of Don, Winston and other Party leaders to understand our long-term wealth is based on our conservation of valuable resources will lead to misery. They will fail to address the essential issues and they will tend to flail around, blaming and beating up innocent citizens as they vainly attempt to contain inflationary pressures as the price of oil/Gas based commodities rises.

Want to check out how detached these guys are from reality? Link here to this oil price chart 1970-2003. 

It shows through the Peter’s era 1996-2000 global oil prices plummeted from $21 nominal dollars/barrel to $9 a barrel in 1999.

By comparison I well recall paying 18% on my mortgage in the mid 1980s when oil had been consistently $30-40 a barrel. The chart only goes up to $45 a barrel so today's price of $59.52 is right through the roof of it.

Gas prices were also troughing in the Peter’s period. We burnt it as if there is no tomorrow, in part to make the Electricity Reforms look like they were working. T

To get some idea of the impact of recent global Gas price movements check out the squealing coming from the US plastics sector:

“High and Volatile Natural Gas Prices - Impacting Our Industry

You must act today to save plastics industry jobs! US natural gas prices are the highest in the world, making it increasingly difficult for manufacturing industries to compete in global markets. Look at the plastics industry. Its gas bill has increased by $10 billion in two short years. The US plastics industry has lost $50 billion in business to overseas competition and more than 90,000 good-paying American jobs have disappeared”

And check out steel prices through the Brash-Peters period:

“The prices are much lower now than 22 years back. For example, the average price of HR coils dropped from $315 a tonne in 1979 to $210 in 2000. And it is less than $180.(in 2001)”

And as the thought provoking chart provided by steelonthenet shows, prices have risen from $333 in Jan 2003 to $638 March 2005. 

Winston would get a very different result if he devalues the $NZ this time down to the 0.5 –O.4 $US rates reigning through 1996-2000, especially with escalating household debt levels. 

 And in case Winston thinks I am being unfair I will point out that I often risk the friendship of some my acquaintances by pointing out the many positive contributions he makes. For instance, he was the only politician I heard who kicked up at the huge rip-off involved in the transfer of the Taranaki community shares in PowerCo into foreign hands. This transfer of wealth and power is just a warm up for the Vector transfer. And talking of PowerCo I will end by announcing it wins this week’s Junk Joules for its recent press release.

It is riddled with examples of Energy Gobbledygook. For example:
(It is overwhelmingly a Gas and Bulk-electricity company)
“power deal” 
(It’s just a business deal like any other)
“energy developer Ceramic Fuels Ltd” (Its just a ceramic fuels company – at best it can be described as a developer of a useful form of energy.)
“CHP –a Small Combined Heat and Power unit" (A home-scale heat and electricity generator. Heat is a form of power.)
“ground breaking energy technology”  
(Any advance in technology involves new uses of energy.)
“energy generation”  
( Energy is by its nature conserved. I suspect they are talking about energy transformations.)
“clean energy” 
(If energy is clean then it is also dirty. That’s the Zen of the matter. I suspect they are trying to claim the device has less negative impact on the environment than many other uses of electricity.)

And the Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy Cartoon? For those new to this blog, the cartoon strip/blog was created in 2001 as I attempted to make sense of contemporary images of energy. At the end of the chapter I was still unable to make sense of EECA and so, children, remember what your parents warned you – take great care when you go near Black Holes.

Click to enlarge

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