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The Minister of Energy is revealed.

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Chapter Four-Energy Rules -The Minister of Energy is Revealed

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Blog by Dave McArthur 26 May 2007

It has been said that 10-12 year-old children form their cultures. So I would like every member of our Parliament to have to describe to our children how they see their roles as stewards of this planet and explain how carbon trading, carbon offsetting and carbon neutrality promotes qualities of stewardship in the children. I predict those MPs that retain a modicum of the science they were born with will be reduced to abject, confused silence.

I don’t know where I heard that about our ten year olds. Maybe I made it up? I can easily see how it is true. Children of that age are emerging onto a new plane of development and their ability to think in the abstract takes a quantum leap about this time. Their sense of morality takes on a new dimension as their ability to reason and articulate ideas combine with their growing capacity to internalise responsibility. At the same time they have not developed the complex rationalisations that adults employ to justify their unsustainable activities. So children at this stage could well be a potent force in humanity. 

Many 10-12 year olds also still retain the wonderful requisites for science to exist in them that they were born with. These requisites enabled them to experiment with symbols in most sophisticated ways and so develop their language and art. Science remains alive in them and has not yet been suppressed by our psychopathic media and school system. Concepts of what constitutes science have not yet been destroyed by national curricula that define it as a body of knowledge beyond the ken of most humans. In this weird modern theology the vast bulk of us who are deemed “non-scientists” can only be connected to “scientific knowledge” by a select minority of humans called “scientists”. This is the modern day equivalent of traditional European dogma in which the ordinary person can only gain access to the grace of God through select conduits or agents call cardinals and popes. 

And the sad irony is that even as our children have their sense of science drummed out of them the few that are chosen to be “scientists” have it drummed out of them most completely. This is proven by the fact that they label themself as "a scientist" rather than as an expert in some limited field.  True scientists know that we are all born scientists to some considerable degree and some of our greatest scientists reside unrecognised in our communities. I like Alan McDiarmid’s statement “Science is people” though I might spell it out another way: When the requisites for science all exist -*Inclusiveness *Honesty *Collegiality, openness and sharing *Time and trust* Reflection and Inquiry *Compassion – then we have humanity.

Parents of pre-teen children know well the immense moral force they bring to homes when for instance the children are taught the basics of Civil Defence. Unremitting social pressures occur until the hot water cylinder is strapped, candles are bought and stores of canned food and bottled water are in place, dated and labelled for everyone including the dog.

Whole books have been written showing how children this age have shaped technology. A great recent example is the way an obscure Scandinavian company realised the capacity of children to ask questions adults would never dream of and gave them the prototype cell phone to play with. Nokia is now a global giant in telecommunications after the children taught company’s canny management how cellphones might be used for txting. And so our culture is rewired and reshaped.

There is another way that the consciousness of 10 year olds is so potent. They form the main conduit for mass communication. A nice example is research at New Zealand’s National Museum, Te Papa. Its management asked why adults rarely use the adult buttons on information displays and prefer the children’s buttons.  The answer is really quite simple.

Our industrial society is designed to keep the mass of the population feeling time-deprived. This state ensures that people feel they have limited opportunities to reflect. This effectively disempowers them and keeps them politically malleable.

Te Papa found that adult visitors, true to our culture, have too little time to reflect and are wary of sources of information that might demand time and commitment. The adults questioned figured information for children would be simple, easy to assimilate and poses few demands.

Our teachers are some of our most time-deprived and are under unremitting pressure from intensive assessment regimes, growing curriculum demands and the moment-to-moment hassles of classroom life. Many do not have time to get beyond the 10-12 year old level of information on the wide range of topics they are expected to be familiar with and this shapes their own lives in turn.

The PR industry understands this only too well and its products are exquisitely framed to appeal to the ten-year old in us. The industry actually goes far beyond this though. It actively works to stymie the science in us when we are preteens and to arrest our moral development and sense of stewardship at the pre-ten year old stage.

Now the New Zealand Government has recently committed our country to becoming “carbon neutral”, to carbon offsetting with Landcare and to carbon trading. It has also effectively decided carbon has no value and has refused to put a value on its use in the form of a carbon tax. Our children will wear the major impact of these decisions and so I believe our Members of Parliament and other policy makers have a major obligation to explain themselves. I challenge them to tell us how they explain to 10 year olds the following:

Fossil fuels took eons to form. Some such as oil have fantastic resource potential. It is estimated a barrel of oil (42 gallons) when combined with our atmosphere and burned provides the equivalent of 25000 man-hours of labour. That is a lot of lifting, digging, pumping, winding and hauling. We have created a civilisation of 6,500,000,000 people based on this power sourced from eons of manufacture. 

Once burned the resource is gone for eons again. In two short generations of humans we have burned maybe half of all accessible reserves of oil and Gas. Our population has doubled in that time and so the demand for remaining reserves may have quadrupled. The exponential factor is because our food/health systems are now so dependent on oil/Gas. Also our transport and electricity uses are now so grossly inefficient. For instance our car use means often means as little as 25 man-hours of labour from that barrel with a potential of 25000 man-hours actually moves the driver.

How is it possible to be “carbon neutral” about resource that once used is gone for eons, if not forever? Can a good steward honestly ever-call themselves “carbon neutral” in this context?

Similarly in this context can a human ever “offset” their carbon use? Planting a few trees cannot replace the eons of forests that formed our precious fossil fuels. 

Also how can we be stewards of the atmosphere and conservers of vital balances of gases when we model behaviour that is not sustainable? We are Mirror Beings. Our brains are laced with mirror neurons. Mirror neurons enable us to form vivid images from symbols, to reflect the world around us. Mirror neurons enable empathy, communication, modelling and essentially enable civilisation. We cannot escape the fact that when a human models the destruction of fossil fuels by, for instance, using a car or a jet, their action is mirrored in all those who perceive it. Including 10-year olds. 

The PR industry has an exquisite and utterly amoral comprehension of the mirror reality of our psychology.

The harsh reality of humans as Mirror Beings is that actions cannot be offset. We are finely tuned to the actions of others. And in a cultures like ours that is caught in a destructive vortex because of its lack of science all actions have enhanced potency. 

Also as a person who was born and bred a Roman Catholic I am keenly aware of how the concept of offsetting is fundamentally dis-empowering of individuals and destroys our innate sense of stewardship. For millennia a select few individuals in the Church have sought to control and manipulate people using the concept of penances whereby these select individuals became the avenue of salvation and could offer penances that absolved the sinner from their sins. I recall as a ten year old first sensing the profound dishonesty and corruption inherent in this process involving the creation and manipulation of guilt.

So I ask you to explain how the concept of offsetting our use of carbon promotes a sense of stewardship in our young?

And when you explain carbon trading to our children you will have to explain what a market is and what trading is. You will also need to explain who and what are traders. You will have to explain what the Stock Market is and you should prepare yourself to be asked if it is a good thing or a bad thing. 

In preparation for your answer you will need to be able to explain some simple basics about the NZ Stock Exchange Ltd (NZX). NZX is a company or business owned by a few people. The company provides a special type of market place where people can go and buy and sell a special type of thing: shares in companies that members of the public can own shares in. (Many companies are not open to public shareholders.)  NZX manages the trades of shares in companies that members of the public can own shares in.

Almost every child will know names like Telecom, Vector Ltd and Contact Energy and you can explain how all New Zealanders used to own these companies but then the companies were put on the stock market where the reality is that now only a few people are shareholders in them. You can also explain how there are not many companies on the stock exchange because very rich overseas people buy all the shares in the companies and take the companies off the stock market. 

If the children ask you where do the new companies come from the keep the stock market going then it useful to know that they mainly come from shrinking group of companies that the people of New Zealand jointly own. And yes, it amounts to a huge subsidy to Mark Weldon and the other people who own the stock exchange.

If you want to show children how the traders work show them the traders of Bulk-generated electricity in action. There are very revealing scenes in the documentary tapes of “Enron – the smartest guys in the room”. Ask the children if they think the traders care whether people live or die or whether our environment is destroyed. If they conclude that the traders do not care for the lives of other humans you can tell them there is a special name for people with this condition – they are psychotics. Explain that people like these traders put zero value on humanity or electricity. They believe the Market puts the value on them. They believe that what happens because of their trading activities have nothing to do with them – they are traders just doing what they do best – trading.

Now you can explain that these same people want to be carbon traders too. The will trade carbon too just as they trade other commodities like Bulk-gen electricity and fossil fuels. The NZX traders will say they put no value on carbon. Something called The Market puts a value on it. This thing called The Market decides whether we use up irreplaceable carbon resources, whether the current ocean life collapses through acidification and whether poor people perish because they are pushed from their ancestral lands to make way for new carbon trading products. In other words, you have to explain to our ten-year olds why there is no need for individual humans to be stewards and why something called the Carbon Trading Market will ensure our survival as a species.

It may be that the children have some awareness of their nature as Carbon Beings. They might not know about molecules but they may be aware we are creatures of carbon. They might know we burn plants and fossil fuels when we eat, move and act to keep our temperature constant. Burning carbon affects the amount of carbon in the air. A certain balance of carbon is essential to our existence. In other words it has a very high value. You will need to be able to explain why you put no value on carbon and refuse to have a carbon tax to ensure carbon balances are maintained. 

I am confident you will find yourself in desperate dissonance and unable to face our ten year olds if you are fortunate enough to enjoy a trace of science still. In other words you will be unable to face the future that carbon trading, offsetting and neutrality generates. I am so confident that these socio-psychological mechanisms are destructive that that I will make even more detailed predictions. Adoption of these concepts will result in increased national debt, a reversal in life expectancy trends as our current oil/Gas driven economy fails, a growing gap between the rich and the poor and, general, deepening misery. Why am I so confident? All three concepts breach what I am tentatively calling the Sustainability Principle of Energy. As does our failure to institute a carbon tax.

 Since last writing I have had the opportunity to tinker with the wording of the Sustainability Principle and to link it to the co-evolving and complementary concept of bonusjouels-junkjoules as measures of energy efficiency.  I am well aware the rationale will go beyond the interest of the busy reader who has little time to reflect. So I will simply provide a summary of the thinking. Those who are intrigued can engage themselves at a deeper lever by reading recent postings pasted below.

Readers may recall in my last blog I began a series of letters to the Brian Leylands of our world.  It is part of my campaign to alert people to the fact that the Cheap Oil-Gas Era is gone. Our future as Carbon Beings lies in lifting our heads from holes in the ground and confronting the addiction in our use of fossil fuels. Our future is to be found in looking to the skies with all its solar and electrical potential. That potential is different for every community and so each must develop solar and electrical resources optimally according to their situation. The local potential cannot be developed by a few merchant bankers based in some far off land with no enduring interest in communities. Hence I am arguing that it is essential that the Auckland people retain their ownership of the Auckland Energy Commununity Trust and their control of the local utility grid. People like Brian put us all at risk when they destroy the Trust.


I posted on a national forum the links to my blog and to Brian’s media release through the Climate Science Coalition.  In this release he argues our future lies with Nuclear Power. A forum member responded with commentary on Bryan’s arguments. I realised the commentary provided me with a great opportunity to pull together ideas from a wider range of fields such physics, psychology, physiology and neuropsychology and further refine what I am now tentatively calling the Sustainable Principle of Energy:

“When a symbol use works for the acceptance of change it will materially alter the manifestation of the potential of the universe (energy) in a way that results in an increase in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality i.e. harmony is enhanced in the user.

When a symbol use works to deny change it results in a reduction in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality i.e. harmony is destroyed in the user.”

In brief I am suggesting mind is matter and our use of a symbol materially alters the atomic structure of our culture. We are each stewards, whether we like it or not. This exploration goes to the heart of Environmental Education because in essence the industry teaches “energy efficiency” strategies i.e. how we decide whether an activity generates bonusjoules or junkjoules.

In even briefer summary:

The Conservation Principle sets the parameters of energy within which we must operate.

The Uncertainty Principle suggests the intimate role between mind and matter.

The Sustainabilty Principle suggests how we can use our minds so we enjoy the greatest harmony with all.

 The latter principle seeks to amalgamate contemporary insights from the above fields. In particular it draws on neuropsychology and recent discoveries of mirror neurons in humans. These insights suggest these neurons enable civilisation.

The great application of the Sustainability Principle is assessing whether a strategy (energy efficiency calculation) is sustainable or not. It provides the ultimate test when evaluating long-term risks. It can be used to underpin “energy efficiency” theory and to evaluate its practice. Hence my confidence that carbon trading etc is a recipe for needless misery. Long term it generates junkjoules. Indeed I bet junkbond dealers see carbon trading as pure cashflow for themselves. The forum postings are pasted below for the benefit of hardy readers.

Which brings me to the Awards for this blog.

The Bonusjoules Award goes to the Finance Minister Hon Michael Cullen for boosting funding for electric rail networks in New Zealand on a scale that no other political party except the Green Party supports. In doing so he is reducing inflationary pressures from wasteful uses of oil and Gas while positioning cities like Auckland and Wellington to enjoy the opportunities of intelligent uses of solar and electric resources.

The Junkjoules Award goes to the Finance Minister Hon Michael Cullen for his commitment of the country to a superannuation system called KiwiSaver. Michael and other key Ministers including the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Hon Helen Clark, are remnants of the Fourth Labour Administration (1984-1990)  

The generation of New Zealand Members of Parliament previous to the administration had been very much influenced by their experiences of the Great Depression and the horrors of World War 11. Those that survived came home and put in place measures to ensure our children had access to quality education and health and to ensure thugs and bullies would not brutalise our communities. They had learned that community development and control of utility structures are essential to the welfare of the nation. Without quality infrastructure civilisation collapsed into savagery. Quality infrastructure is the least risk superannuation investment.

Labour MPs in the Fourth Labour Administration, my contemporaries, dismissed the lessons learned so hard in the War. They dismantled the protective mechanisms and let loose the thuggish element, especially the psychotics in corporate suits, on our people. As result household debt has rocketed so this week it passed $NZ150 billion in a nation of just of 4 million people,  student debt has rocketed to $NZ9 billion dollars and is expected to be $NZ11.3 billion within three years and core infrastructure such as electricity/telecommunications and rail grids are failing on scale.

What these well-meaning MPs failed to understand is that protective measures were created with profound reason by previous generations of legislators to reduce the risks to us all when Fascist and greed-driven individuals assume the Treasury Benches – as they will from time to time. 

By encouraging the flow of billions of dollars into personalised superannuation funds the Labour Minister of Finance strips away the protection of universal superannuation. He diverts it into the hands of money traders when it should be going in to the dwelling and electricity/telecommunications/ rail structures, which would have provided our wealth in the Post Cheap Oil/Gas Age. Which in turn only exacerbates our risk because of his failure in the Budget to install a carbon tax i.e. place a value on carbon.

And as I write news headlines are that Michael is threatening to pull funding for rail in New Zealand if he does not get the funding for roading that he wants. This reveals a truly astonishing ignorance of the fact that our current use of carbon is unsustainable. Rail is the sunrise industry while motorways are sunset industries. Governments and nations that persist with the latter are sunset too. 

And the thought occurs that KiwiSaver also undermines efforts to establish equality of sexes in New Zealand. One in three marriages end in divorce and I see no provisions in the Treasury Q/A for the equal distribution of wealth.

  Footnote for readers new to this blog. This panel of the Bonus Joules cartoon series was created mid 2003 at a time when New Zealand citizens were facing a crisis in their use of Bulk-generated electricity. The Fourth Labour Administration and subsequent National-NZ First Administration had put in places systems designed to prevent the intelligent uses of electricity and maximise the wasteful use of our carbon resources. The waste was reflected in a perceived “growth” of the NZ economy, something the Fifth Labour Administration (1999-) took great pride in. 

In this panel we see the reaction of the then Labour “Minister of Energy” Hon Pete Hodgson as the waste catches up and the economy turns to custard/turns to vinegar/goes pear-shaped/ the arse drops out of it/ becomes a meaningless quagmire/develops great entropy or whatever phrase you use to describe a shambles. 

Here are the forum postings for the very dedicated among you. First the posting from a member followed by my response:



Bryan Leyland, in a May 7 press release for the Climate Science
Coalition, says that the Green Party position on nuclear power displays
“abysmal ignorance of [the] electricity system and recent developments
in nuclear power generation.” He says “the problem of disposal of
radioactive wastes has been solved . . . It is easy to decommission a
nuclear power station. No one, to my knowledge, knows how to
decommission a large dam.” He believes pebble-bed reactors as small as
200 MW are “expected to produce base load electricity for less than 8

Leyland’s position is a close reflection of a 2005 book, “The bottomless
well”, by Huber and Mills, members of a right-wing think-tank, the
Manhattan Institute. The thesis of the book is that energy is a
bottomless well, which has been used in increasingly “refined” forms
since civilization began. Refining energy discards energy to waste –
inevitably, by the second law of thermodynamics. That’s right, of course.

The authors then contrast the beliefs of:

    * “Cornucopians” who say that energy efficiency will give us more
      light, refrigeration, warm homes with less energy ( the Lovins
    * “Lethargists” who agree with Paul Ehrlich who said 3 decades ago
      that giving society cheap abundant energy is like giving an idiot
      child a machine gun”. (attributing this as a Western European belief).

The authors say both views are wrong – that in fact energy efficiency
increases the energy used, as consumers use more the more efficient and
cheaper energy becomes. This is a theme oft-repeated in New Zealand. In
my opinion, it is partly right – like the rest the book and like some of
Leyland’s comments. We do, and should use more energy in home heating
for example.

What is most seriously wrong is conclusion we can consume without
constraint, and rely on technology to solve everything. The book only
discusses “energy” – contrasting low quality fuel with high-quality
electricity and even laser light. It ignores CO2, which remains unpriced
in their world. And it ignores other impacts of growth and consumption –
in particular, water, and environmental (and social) impacts. This is
the technocratic American-Pacific coalition view (AP6?), which I believe
many New Zealand opinion-makers would like to embrace.

What about climate change? Leyland disbelieves it. The authors have a
chapter on this very late in the book, in which they expose their
ignorance of science – saying wood burning causes acid rain worse than
coal, and that “America is the beautiful carbon sink”, with 20-80
million acres more forest now than in 1920. Maybe, but they forget the
huge loss of soil carbon from the praries, the effects of forest fire
and “bugwood” pests killing off forests in Canada and the US, and the
appalling waste of non-renewable aquifers in making ethanol from corn.

These ideas lead to wrong policies for New Zealand. If we go along with
the American-promoted technologies, our scarce R&D funding will be
diverted from where we can make the biggest difference – in retrofits of
our appallingly inefficient buildings, early retirement of much
energy-using equipment, and in land use practices that capture energy
from diverse sources from wind and hydro to forests and agricultural
wastes. And systems that can sequester carbon back into soils, improving
fertility and structure.

Entropy is everything, the authors say – energy as fuel is almost
irrelevant. Well they’re not scientists, and they’ve only looked at
entropy as “refining” fuel into e.g. electricity and laser light. They
forget that entropy includes utilizing each waste stream, wherever
possible, for its highest value use, whether for energy or for materials.

The real harm of the Climate Coalition thesis is that it promotes
continuing (or according to the book, ever-increasing) consumption on
the assumption that technology will solve each problem as it arises. The
philosophy does not mention, much less support, pricing energy to
reflect full environmental costs.

New Zealand’s solutions are many and varied, including both large-scale
and small-scale projects. To “pick winners” through politics just opens
the door to vague, inspirational, half-right all-wrong ideas. Energy
developments are technically complex, socially controversial, and
environmentally critically important. Let’s have fewer press releases
and more peer review of analyses that precede decision-making.

Energy, efficiency, EECA and all.( A small paper)

Thank you very much indeed for introducing me to ideas from “the bottomless well” by Huber and Mills. The book seems to encapsulate the major flaws in our civilisation’s appreciation of the nature of energy. It may also help me provide an improved explanation of what I am tentatively calling The Sustaining Principle of Energy.

“When a symbol use works for the acceptance of change it will materially alter the manifestation of the potential of the universe (energy) in a way that results in an increase in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality i.e. harmony is enhanced in the user.

When a symbol use works to deny change it results in a reduction in the capacity of the symbol user to mirror reality i.e. harmony is destroyed in the user.”

The synopsis could also assist me explaining how we can improve our concepts of energy efficiency.

I agree with Huber and Mills that energy is immensely bountiful though I find the use of the “bottomless well” symbol unhelpful. One reason is that humans cannot be definite about the infinite. Another reason is that no single energy form/common metaphor can be used to describe the central messages of the Conservation Principle. Forms and metaphors are part of something greater. I prefer to define energy as the total potential of the universe(s) and even this relatively open metaphor has its limitations. I am defining potential as “the inherent capacity for coming into being” (Princeton)

The Sustaining Principle suggests that any confusion with energy with the forms it takes immediately destroys our potential to mirror that universal potential. We experience that destruction as a sense of deprivation or lack of bounty and as a sense of disharmony or dissonance. It also acts to reduce our capacity to act as stewards of the resources that enable our existence. In short, it makes us more at risk of war, misery and extinction as a species.

Wiki says of energy: “in general terms, the word describes natural processes or phenomena that involve change”. This is consistent with the Conservation Principle (or Law?). However we all have a significant capacity to deny change. In particular each of us is prone to denying that every individual is also subject to change and is thus a mortal form i.e. we all die. Acceptance of the Conservation Principle is a spiritual matter. Many can quote the words of the Principle with ease and yet deny its existence in their hearts and their actions. The converse is also true. For over two thousand years great psychologists have identified the enormity of our capacity to deny change and have postulated that the denial is the ultimate source of our misery. 


Others and I have pointed out on this forum over the years how the 1950’s promises of unlimited power from “nuclear power” have been maladaptive. (Recall it was said Bulk-gen electricity would be too cheap to make it worthwhile having meters on dwellings.)

This particular confusion of energy with ones of its forms has generated a fatally flawed culture. The paradox of the flaw is that the belief in a limitless society has destroyed many of our options.  We now use valuable resources like the soil, coal, oil and Gas as though they are as bountiful and sustaining as energy. Indeed we now call these resources “energy”. Some say our elders inherited an average of 60cm of soil built up over eons on arable land. Our children may inherit less than 15cm. Our children will inherit a small fraction of the oil and Gas reserves built up over eons that our elders inherited.

I have often tried to imagine how “sustainable energy ” or “renewable energy” could exist. Clearly they are not energy because they are a subset of the universal potential – as are those energies that are “non-sustainable energy” or “non-renewable energy”. 

The nearest I have been able to get to imagining “sustainable energy” is that flawed vision of nuclear energy that I was introduced to as a boy. Now that I understand the vital difference between energy and an energy form I see how unhelpful that “nuclear energy” vision has been – as is the concept of sustainable energy. Our culture has increasingly failed to mirror reality, which as mentioned consists of constant change, constant transformation.

One of the lessons I take from the Uncertainty Principle is that I, a mortal form, cannot know the impact of my judgements and actions on the total of potential even though I know my perceptions alter the potential of individual electrons and ultimately the total potential.

As a result of this understanding I find the concept of entropy has severe limitations. To refresh myself I just checked out the web definitions again: 

A measure of the amount of disorder in a system.

the amount of Energy that is not available for work during a certain process

The state of disorder in a thermodynamic system: the more energy the higher the entropy.

Measure of disorganization or degradation in the universe that reduces available energy, or tendency of available energy to dwindle. Chaos, opposite of order.

They seem to share a common definition –we humans, mere mortals, make a judgement and define what entropy is i.e. what is useful/ordered. Hence the value of the concept is limited to the perceptions of a few individual humans and perhaps their extended groups.

Which brings us to the concept of “energy efficiency”

RE: The authors say both views are wrong – that in fact energy efficiency
increases the energy used, as consumers use more the more efficient and
cheaper energy becomes. This is a theme oft-repeated in New Zealand

Mention is made of the Lovins paradigm: energy efficiency will give us more light, refrigeration, warm homes with less energy 

Our Government, like many contemporary ones around the world, defines “energy efficiency” as the use of less energy. This definition is the logical product of national institutions such as the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority (EECA). It confuses the conservation of energy by humans (an impossibility) with the conservation of energy forms and flows. In denying the Conservation Principle (energy is conserved) our institutions destroy our potential to mirror the full potential of energy. Everything unravels from this denial and so EECA provides fertile ground for the amoral PR companies of sector interests (eg Contact Energy) to exploit the resulting fear, sense of deprivation, misery and general confusion of what energy and energy efficiency is.

The issue is not the quantity of energy used but the type and form of energy used and whether the transformations involved conserve or destroy the balances of the energy flows that sustain us. To use Molly’s suggestion of retrofitting as an example, we can conserve solar resources by clever uses of glazing, insulation etc to maintain our dwelling at 18ºC or reject this option and burn our more limited reserves of fossil and other fuels to maintain our dwelling at 18ºC. Each choice may use the same amount of energy. The critical question is this: which choice generates lives in greater harmony with the flows and balances that sustain us?

The paradox is that when institutions such as EECA teach that energy is limited, can be conserved and needs to be conserved they entrench legislation that prevents us using larger quantities of energy in more sustainable ways. For example, they entrench all that is unsustainable in our current Building Code, the RMA, the Electricity Reforms, transport investment policy, Environmental Education programmes etc.

The concept of energy efficiency is seriously damaged by the fundamental denial by our institutions like EECA, Parliament, BRANZ, Consumers Institute, NZ Royal Society, Government Ministries( the Environment, Education Economic Development, Statistics, the Treasury etc) and by Amory Lovins. They deny both the Conservation Principle with their denial of change and the Uncertainty Principle with their their denial of stewardship. The Sustaining Principle predicts that their denials generate unsustainable behaviour. Let us briefly explore the example of The Lovins concept of negawatts.

A negawatt is defined as a measure of energy efficiency. I have discussed the multiple flaws inherent in this symbol of energy efficiency before on SEF and will confine myself to one flaw. The Negawatt theory of energy efficiency suggests that if consumption behaviour is modified so less energy is used at a certain time then something called the Market will reward the consumer. 

An example of negawatt energy efficiency theory in practice is the instance when less Bulk-gen electricity is used at a certain time (a peak load time) and thus demand for investment in extra Bulk-generation plant is seen to be reduced. It is cheaper for the plant owners to pay consumers not to use a kilowatt of their product at such times because they don’t have to build extra plant that may lie idle most of the time. 

According to the negawatt theory, the behaviour resulting in the reduction in “energy demand” is rewarded and reinforced by something called The Market. The unit of energy not used in the form of Bulk-generated electricity is seen to be “saved” and the consumer benefits. 

This concept is valuable in that under conventional accounting processes this demand reduction is seen to reduce economic health measures such as the GNP. Modern economics is psychopathic in that inefficient and wasteful uses of vital resources generate high health measures. The system is only maintained by the increasing generation of debt at every level and of every type. 

The Lovins concept was a noble attempt to create a sane measure of resource use. By making “energy efficient” processes measurable and tradeable like any other commodity it was hoped that they would become positive measures in global accounting. Unfortunately this does not resolve the fundamental flaws in the framework of modern accounting – it takes no effective account of social or environmental considerations. It has no innate sense of stewardship.

As we saw in the movie  “Enron – the Smartest Guys in the Room” a multi-billion dollar trade in negawatts has developed, the grid systems are deliberately stressed to promote the negawatt trade and the main consequence has been that billions of dollars are siphoned out of community coffers into merchant bankers’ coffers and the public experience large scale “brownouts”, if not “blackouts”. 

As an aside, the movie is prophetic of the new currency of trade – theoretical carbon use. Watch these same traders manipulate and game the billions in carbon trades for their short-term gains and observe how your superannuation disappears in the process.

The evidence from the negawatt trade is that it tends not to promote sustainable behaviour. Why not? 

(a) It confuses energy with one of its forms – Bulk-generated electricity. Hence it fails to take into account how sustainable the alternative energy forms used are eg standby diesel generators etc. The existence of alternative transformations is denied.

(b) A reduction in Bulk-gen electricity demand is defined as an efficient use of energy and is thus supposed to promote sustaining behaviour. The reality is that this definition tends to promote an unsustainable culture. In the USA case the recipients do not reinvest negawatt payments in more sustainable practices. Quite the opposite. They bought fleets of jets, partied up, sponsored George W Bush into the White House and bought up generation plant so they could more effectively stress the grid systems. In New Zealand many individuals use a savings of a $100 on their Bulk-gen electricity bill to buy a bargain airfare to Australia to go shopping as a reward.

Environmental and social impacts do not exist in their considerations. In other words the Lovins negawatt concept promotes a static image of energy at one point in time. Or it you like, it denies the continual variance or flux in transformations over time.

(c) A reduction in Bulk-gen electricity demand is experienced by small-consumers/citizen voters as a so-called ”energy crisis” in which their panic buttons are pressed and they are threatened with a reduced life style. This shapes the general politics and voting patterns. “Energy efficiency” is equated with deprivation and this negative perception becomes enshrined in legislation.

Worse, the PR companies for the Bulk-gen merchant bankers actively destroy science in the community and create confusion. They do this by inverting reality on multiple levels. 

For instance, they define a form (Bulk-gen electricity) as energy i.e. extremely bounteous. This effectively neutralises the sense of stewardship in the public. The individual is encouraged to feel it is OK to consume with abandon. This definition (Bulk-gen electricity = energy) also associates the product with vitality.  

At the same time energy is defined as a very limited resource (a form). This promotes fear and confusion and makes the public more malleable. This combination of confusion/contradiction strategies disharmonises citizens and generates a diet mentality and unsustainable lifestyles.

Note those who watched the recent BBC programme on food will now comprehend a little how diet behaviour works.  Two groups – those who were in harmony with their mind-bodies (non-dieters) and those who do not experience harmony with their mind-bodies (dieters) were told they were going to be given food as part of an experiment. They had to wait a while before going into the experiment room and while waiting they were given rich milkshakes. When they got to “the experiment” it was found that dieters ate much more than non-dieters. The reason given?  The dieters decided that as they had already hogged on milkshakes and ruined their “diet” for the day and so they might as well go on a decent binge. The non-dieters who experience no such pressures of deprivation and failure ate till they sensed their bodies were sated.

It is probable this response is primal. For instance, some research indicates people whose bodies are vulnerable to excess retention of water are more likely to retain water when they do not drink enough. The body overcompensates any brief negative fluctuation in supply, driven by a fear of water deprivation.  Similarly the response to “energy efficiency = less energy” promotes diet behaviour with its over-consumption and over compensation.

(d) This is a reiteration. However it is worth pointing up a major and paradoxical social phenomenon. Molly mentions Huber and Mills are members of a right-wing think-tank, the Manhattan Institute. This group of people are at the forefront in arguing that individuals should be given and should accept responsibility for their actions. At the same time these same preachers abrogate their personal responsibilities to some virtual social being called The Market. 

The Uncertainty Principle does not allow us to void our stewardship.

This said, denial of these great Principles of Energy is endemic in our culture and for a wide range of reasons it is possible that those most at denial may be so-called Environmentalists.

What is required is a concept of energy efficiency that accommodates human frailties while being supported by the three Principles of Energy. In particular it is helpful if it incorporates 

(a) An acceptance of change/transformation at all points in time. (b) Actual measures of energy use.

(c) Acceptance of our roles as stewards.

(d) Acceptance of our capacity for denial.

Fortunately most of the thinking required has already been done for us thousands of years ago. The ancients said it simply: Accept change and you can transcend all”. “Trust and all comes to you.” “Know compassion and enjoy harmony.” Restating their insights in contemporary terms may be helpful. 

The symbols we employ need be viewed in the context of a culture dominated by money merchant and PR industry-derived concepts of energy and power. I mentioned other flaws in the negawatts symbol. These include the “nega” element being associated with “negative = bad” and “watts” being associated with Bulk-gen electricity in the public mind. 

The “bonusjoules” symbol perhaps avoids these unhelpful associations. The “bonus” symbol is generally equated with good and reward and “joules” is seen as a more universal measure of energy in the public mind. A bonusjoule is defined as a measure of an energy use that is generated within a framework of long term, low risk considerations.

However this measure is insufficient, as we have seen with the negawatts measure. It does not take sufficient account of change, stewardship or the limitations imposed by our roles as passing forms/mortal beings. It does not take sufficient account of the fact that an act that tends to generate bonusjoules in one place at one time may not generate them the moment the flows and balances of the energy flux are known to have changed. Hence the proposed use of the junkjoules symbol. A junkjoules is defined as the measure of an energy use that is generated within a framework of short-term, high-risk considerations.

It is helpful to see these measures not as opposites as in good/bad but rather as complementary measures of energy use. Each evolves out of the other and is equally valuable in mirroring reality. An analogy is how as artists which we all are, we explore the negative space as well as the positive space and the light as well as the dark of an object. Our cultures may predispose our neural networks to concentrate on only one of the complements e.g. the object itself (positive) space and only that of the object that reflects light.

It can be a valuable exercise to concentrate on the lesser-perceived complement as this activates neural areas not devoted to categorisation (intellectualism) and the development of preconceptions. The result often is a dramatically improved drawing as greater faculties are employed and we are better able to see the object. Our drawing is more the product of what we actually see than what our preconceptions tell is there. We are better able to mirror the essence of the object we are drawing.

So it is with measuring “energy efficiency”.  Bonusjoules and junkjoules are understood as co-evolving and complementary measures, neither of which is bad or good. When this is accepted the individual is freer to evaluate the consequences of each action he or she takes. The realisation that an activity that once was seen to generate bonusjoules now probably generates junkjoules is not seen as a personal failure of any sort. Rather it is to be welcomed for the new knowledge enables the individual to learn from past activities. Junkjoules and bonusjoules offer equal opportunities for learning. Energy efficiency is essentially an exercise in compassion and the constant forgiving of oneself.

This is the essence of science. For the last few centuries our culture has taught that science is some independent body of knowledge, somehow disconnected from our lives that only a few individuals called scientists understand. This disconnection is part of the wider denial of the great Principles of Energy.

To use the above strategy, science can be better described by what it is not. This can be done through describing the prerequisites for science to exist. I suggest that if one of the following qualities is not present then science ceases to exist. In the absence of science, knowledge tends to generate junk joules, not bonus joules.

*Collegiality, openness and sharing
*Time and trust
*Reflection and enquiry

This discussion of the nature of energy may seem esoteric to some. I suggest that if the Uncertainty Principle does hold then the discussion is as real as the chair you are sitting on. We each constantly affect the probabilities of the atoms, the manifestation of the potential of the universe. 

This is a boggling thought and the consequences in terms of our roles as stewards are immense. It is our greater spirit of which our intellect is a trace element plus our capacity for compassion that enables us to function and not be rendered helpless by our sense of responsibility.

The interesting thing is that the better we are able to mirror reality (universal change/transformation) the more we enjoy a greater sense of joy in being alive. We are not without guides – the Conservation Principle is the nearest we have to a natural law. The Uncertainty Principle introduces us to the enormous possibilities that exist. And maybe the Sustaining Principle provides us with the tools that enable us to refine our  “energy efficiency” strategies so we are more able to mirror reality. 

In our current culture the concepts I propose are revolutionary. The Sustaining Principle suggests that every policy of every party in Parliament is profoundly flawed and generates junkjoules, including and maybe especially the Green Party. The Principle also suggests our education system requires profound changes at every level and some university faculties need to be completely replaced. 

Similarly the indications are institutions like EECA are major liabilities. Maybe the new CEO and recent chairperson these last few years, Mike Underhill, is now having doubts about the vision of energy that he has adhered to. Maybe the failure of the National Energy Strategy is causing him to review the role and impact of EECA.  It is over ten years ago since, as CEO of TransAlta, he stomped through the meter reader’s room telling them they were “history”. Meter readers still exist, as does most of the inefficient and ancient metering stock.  Over five years ago he told the telcos they were “history”. Every day New Zealand moves further from the possibility of intelligent uses of electricity. The prospect of using our “electrical wiring” as broadband conducts is more remote than ever as is a resilient grid underpinned by small-scale electricity generation using reversible meters etc.

And today it is announced Roger Sutton, CEO of Christchurch City Council’s  Orion is appointed the new chairperson of EECA. I worked for Orion’s predecessor, Christchurch MED (1978-1986), and know it was a brilliant organization until gutted by the Electricity Reforms. It probably still is the most able of a crippled bunch. Roger is also a director of Energetics - “Australia’s largest specialist energy efficiency consultancy”. A quick look at its homepage reveals a catalogue of denial of the Principles of Energy. It is clear that the Hon David Parker (the impossibly titled Minister of Energy) does not understand the Principles either in his heart. If he did he would have appointed a cosmologist or botanist or anyone else to head EECA to give it balance. He would not have appointed another person from the Bulk-gen electricity industry, less still a person who also makes a living selling the concept of “carbon neutrality” and “offsetting” i.e., teaches how to deny stewardship.

The posting catalogued other failures of vision and resultant policy. This is what happens when the symbol uses of our politicians and bureaucrats consistently deny the great Principles of Energy. EECA’s media releases state, “EECA improves the energy choices of all New Zealanders in the home, on the road and at work.” It seems safe to predict that EECA will continue to have a net destructive impact on our nations capacity to mirror reality. Read that is continuing debt accumulation, environmental damage and general unsustainability. 

If anyone knows more advanced thinking on these issues I would be most pleased to learn of it. I trust I made it clear that this thinking also has ancient roots in psychology.

 Enjoy the potential



 RE: What about climate change? Leyland disbelieves it.

Here I share a great deal in common with Brian, and I believe my views are supported by the great Principles of Energy. We both believe in climate change. Brian and I both believe that climate change is the natural order and a most healthy process.  We do differ to a considerable degree as to potential risks from our current uses of carbon and, in particular, their possible impact on the thermal balances sustaining human life on Earth’s surface. The irony is his beliefs means that he is not an ardent proponent of carbon trading. He may do less damage to atmospheric balances and our sense of stewardship than those who call themselves environmentalists who avidly promote carbon trading.

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