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Chapter Four-Energy Rules-The Economy Jitters

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Blog by Dave McArthur July 14 2006

Could it be the British Conservative Party is about to put care back into Conservative? And is Labour about to put arduous, difficult and wearisome into Labour? And is the Green Movement about to go green about the gills?  Check this new Conservative policy out:

First a health warning before reading David Cameron’s statement. (My apologies to readers who already know and maybe share my views of the nature of energy.) 

David evidences that peculiar modern ailment which causes people to confuse energy with the forms it takes. And, as you probably know, such a thing as decentralised energy is, of course, impossible. Energy is by its very nature decentralised. Any and every element of our universe that exists has energy, regardless of its position. I suspect he is talking about the decentralised generation of useful forms of energy.

With regards to energy generation, I think David may actually be talking about transforming resources so we are more able use energy. I can understand how we can generate energy forms such light, heat and movement but generating energy itself does seem to go far beyond what the magnificent Principle of the Conservation of Energy suggests is possible. 

Similarly I cannot understand what this stuff called renewable energy could possibly be. Either energy is conserved or it is not. How can you renew something that cannot be destroyed for a start? I have still to learn of a single example of where a human has managed to save energy and create a perpetual motion machine or achieve eternal life. Till then I tend to the belief that energy is conserved and is constantly renewed.

Similarly the concept of green energy is beyond my comprehension. Sure we can have “green” uses of energy just as we can have “black”, “red” or “purple uses of energy or any other name we might like to give to types of resource use. The main thing to understand is that energy is the potential of our universe(s) and when we define it as something less than that we miss out on much of the joy of life. In the worst cases we end up starving and slaughtering each other when we define energy as say oil or some such commodity. We also end up in the very boring world the PR industry continually attempts to condemn us to with all its generation of Energy Gobbledygook. 

So I try to remain mindful of the splendid potential of our universe. Even so I am constantly surprised at what can happen. I had not imagined I would read the following statement from David Cameron of the British Conservative Party. I still associate the party with miserable merchant bankers and that military industrial complex which was Margaret Thatcher. 

Conservative Party Energy Review - Interim Findings


David Cameron has today published the interim findings of the Conservative Party's Energy Review. The group has spent the last seven months examining future energy challenges.

Mr Cameron stressed the importance of tackling climate change and keeping the lights on in Britain. Speaking to a conference in Bournemouth he said, 'So our position is clear. Guaranteed carbon reduction to tackle climate change. Combined with guaranteed security of energy supply to make sure the lights stay on. We want to give green energy a chance. That means no special favours or subsidies for nuclear power. Where the Government see nuclear power as the first choice, under our framework it would be a last resort. Where the Liberal Democrats rule out nuclear power, we rule out subsidies and special favours for nuclear power. That is the strong and responsible position to take.'

He set out the principles of his policy direction, 'First, that government's role should be to set the right framework for emissions reductions and energy security' and second, 'That industry's role should be to develop the best and most affordable technology within this framework.'

Explaining the reasons for these principles he made clear that these principles will aid the three main components of the policy direction we are taking to meet the energy challenges of the 21st century, 'We can guarantee carbon reduction by developing a long-term 'cap and trade' regime for carbon emissions. That means setting a limit on the overall amount of carbon dioxide that the electricity sector can emit, and allowing generators to buy or sell permits to emit carbon dioxide within the overall cap. We can guarantee that there will always be enough electricity generating capacity to keep the lights on by establishing a capacity payment system. That means paying generators to have spare capacity on stand-by.'

And reconfirming his commitment to a revolution in green energy, Mr Cameron called for improvements in the regulatory structure for renewable and decentralised energy. He said, 'That means getting rid of all unreasonable obstacles to investment in renewable and decentralised energy, for example making it easier for local generators to sell any spare electricity they generate back to the National Grid. There must be a level playing field for renewable and decentralised energy to compete on equal terms with nuclear power. That means, for example, improving and streamlining planning procedures both for nuclear and for green energy'.


Here is the Guardian’s summary of his address to the Local Government Association conference:

 Cameron: Nuclear power last resort

Press Association
Thursday July 6, 2006 2:03 PM

Tory leader David Cameron has pledged that a Conservative government would only develop a new generation of nuclear power stations as a "last resort".

As the party published the findings of its interim energy review, Mr Cameron called for "renewables" such as wind power to be given the chance to compete on equal terms with traditional energy sources.

In a speech to the Local Government Association conference in Bournemouth, he said there should be a greater emphasis on "decentralised" energy, generated locally through units such as neighbourhood combined heat and power schemes.

"There must be a level playing field for renewable and decentralised energy to compete on equal terms with nuclear power," he said.

"We want to give green energy a chance. That means no special favours or subsidies for nuclear power.

"Where the Government see nuclear power as the first choice, under our framework it would be a last resort."

His comments were intended to draw a clear line between the Tories and Labour, which is expected to come out in favour of a new generation of power stations when the Government publishes its own energy review later this month.

Mr Cameron said scientists were on the brink of "amazing technological breakthroughs" which could transform the viability of green energy sources options, while decentralised energy could open up the market to new, smaller technologies and more local participants.

However, in order to make progress, he said that there needed to be a fundamental change of attitude to energy generation. "In Britain we are still lumbered with the same backward-looking, central-planning mindset that has dominated thinking on electricity since the first half of the last century," he said.

What does this mean for us here in New Zealand? Well it’s a bit of a bomb under our Labour Party with its blind faith in our Thatcheristic little industrial-Market complex that the Rogernomes created here. For all its talk, this Labour Administration (2000-) has basically accepted the structure the Neocoms foisted on New Zealand in the 1980-1990s. The repressive Electricity Reforms remain intact, private vehicle and especially SUV ownership has soared, education standards are set by “market responses” and the great daily slop of massive cross-city commutes of our students, and Labour pours the nation’s funds into the pockets of the bankers of the fossil fuel sector at an increasing rate. It does the latter by starving investment in rail, intelligent uses of electricity and smart shipping while pouring it into motorways and Bulk-gen electricity. All in the name of The Market-driven demand.

Now I am well aware there can be a world of difference between the political talk and walk. However I search for hope shining through any chink in the dismal structure that imprisons us at present. For a start I find hope in the fact that David Cameron’s speech was delivered to the Local Government Association. 

Sure, communities can go feral. We have witnessed that here in Wellington this last two decades. Greedy groups took over community structures and gave away our assets, gutting our heritage and forsaking our future. However in general I find communities are the greatest sources of innovation of sustainable behaviour. I contrast them with our Neocom-driven Parliament of the last two decades and my experience of working for corporations like TransAlta and OnEnergy. The Neocoms are revealed as bankrupt of awareness of the principles of democracy. Their policies reveal the psychotic nature of merchant bankers and their corporations.

On that note, rest in peace, Ken Lay of Enron infamy, who died this week before starting his lifelong jail sentence. Ken, maybe your legacy will be a new global awareness of the violence and misery inherent in the more monstrous of the corporations and a rejection of all the worst things they stand for. 

David Cameron describes New Zealand’s creaking legislative structure to its last rusting bolts, shackles and rivets when he says,

 "In Britain we are still lumbered with the same backward-looking, central-planning mindset that has dominated thinking on electricity since the first half of the last century." 

The NZ Neocom Electricity Reforms of the 1980-90s were lifted straight off JP Morgan and Edison’s demented plans for bankers to control the world’s wealth through the creation of a Bulk-generated electricity industry. That was back in the 1890s when J P Morgan’s house became the first domestic dwelling to be wired for electricity. 

I do not apologise for repeating ad nauseum the real history of what happened in the Electricity Reforms. In a gross abuse of the freedom and deregulation symbols, our Parliament locked out New Zealand communities from intelligent uses of electricity and forced them to hand over their assets to bankers with the Reforms. Moral issues aside, this was a plain dumb act in a world where our precious oil and Gas reserves are being gutted as though there is no tomorrow. Only communities that know how to make intelligent uses of solar energy and electricity will survive in a civilised form. 

And even then such sustainable communities will be a great risk from fossil fuel/nuclear-addicted countries going berserk as they implode. We can attempt to continue our own present cop-out but there is no outs in wasteful uses of resources. Whether we like or not, our lifestyle has a global reverberations. This is why we need to provide these high-risk countries with economic models that inspire their citizens and show them that there is a much greater life beyond their addictive uses of resources.

As I write the National Radio business reporter is telling us that oil prices are at record highs at over $US76 a barrel today as a result of a few isolated bombings and skirmishes. It is worrying when these guys are so ignorant of economics and history. Prices would need to exceed $US90 to exceed 1980 levels, prices are still ridiculously cheap and a chicken sneezing in China is more likely to affect oil prices than these events.

Now, back to the Great Electric-Solar Age, which I believe is our future now the Cheap Oil-Gas Age is waning. I do recall to my surprise last year hearing the leader of our National Party, Don Brash, put forward the sacrilegious thought that the Electricity Reforms should be revisited. He suggested that it is sensible that local lines companies be able to generate electricity. Since then that brief glimpse of hope in the National Party has been totally obscured by the dense monsoon of Energy Gobbledygook generated by his “energy spokesperson”, Nick Smith. 

Recently our National Radio programme Focus on Politics focussed on Nick and “energy”. You guessed it. The programme’s idea of energy is Energy = Bulk-gen electricity = Power =Energy = Bulk-gen electricity …

The programme really should also have had a health warning like David Cameron’s statement. When I think about it I must get off my butt and complain to the Broadcasting Tribunal about the use of National Radio (our public radio) for continual ads for the bankers of Bulk-gen electricity sector. Even commercial radio gives us a break from ads for at least two sentences. As I write I just counted three Bulk-gen ads in a 30 second news broadcast.

 A couple of years ago I established an Energy Gobbledygook register on my website but gave up, overwhelmed by the torrent. Nick could have provided a whole chapter by himself on the brief radio broadcast. Unfortunately I lost the scrap of paper that I recorded the range and velocity of Nick’s Gook on Focus on Politics. I recall he broke all records for generating non-sense, even the ones set by EECA (our impossibly named Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority). I could only conclude that he had been locked up in a room full of our “energy expert” type Government Officials for a month.

The Green Party “energy spokesperson” Jeanette Fizsimons featured on the Focus programme too. She made a little more sense (science) than Nick but not enough. I have detailed elsewhere how the worrying thing about groups like the Green Party, Greenpeace, EECA, WWF, Ministry for the Environment, Consumer Institute etc is that their popular reputation for non-partisan “environmental care” means the nonsense they create is far more potent at generating further nonsense. For instance, as I explained in my recent Green Party Alert!, the Party’s endorsement of Enviroschools with taxpayer $NZmillions is simply going to take our kids back to 1900 and J P Morgan’s miserable world. 

I honestly don’t know how to communicate with the likes of our Green Party. Why sacrifice our children’s future for the short-term interests of a few overseas merchant bankers based on the Cayman Islands and such places? Why become a conduit for their Gobbledygook and nonsense?

I relish this statement by David so much I am going to repeat it:

'That means getting rid of all unreasonable obstacles to investment in renewable and decentralised energy, for example making it easier for local generators to sell any spare electricity they generate back to the National Grid. There must be a level playing field for renewable and decentralised energy to compete on equal terms with nuclear power. That means, for example, improving and streamlining planning procedures…”

In that statement we see inklings of the future, folks. It contains the essence of a sustainable life for our grandchildren. Here’s a glimpse of it. The Electricity Reforms get binned as they are designed to block the decentralised generation of resources. This will be hard for a few people who are creaming it off the current chaos. Maybe when these bods are old their children will be able to explain to them why they needed a future. Maybe the creamers will come to understand that civilisation and common sense could not exist while the Electricity Reforms ruled us, disempowered communities and destroyed vital options.

The Electricity Reforms get binned because its makes sense for communities to be able to get together and introduce smart technology using their local resources. If they wish to get together to purchase electricity off the main grid they should be able to. Why should that right be effectively limited to a couple of large corporations? Why shouldn’t communities be able get together and build local networks that reduce the risk from earthquakes, weather events, terrorists and all those other events that can bring down centralised grid structures so easily?

If communities want to share consumption data so they can plan ahead they should be able to – just like they did for 80 years before the Reforms. If they wish to create comprehensive civil defence structures they should be able to. The increased number of humans, the extra stresses on the environmental balances that sustain us plus increased urbanisation means risk management is more vital than ever. Why should electricity consumption data be fragmented and locked up by the inane imperatives of commercial confidentiality under the false myth of competition? Why should a few unelected, unaccountable corporation CEOs determine our future?  

If a dwelling wishes to generate its own electricity and return excess to the local grid it should be allowed to. We get rid of the present blocks to co-generation. First to go are the obstacles to individuals owning their own meters and the requirements for double metering for small-scale electricity generators (micro or home-scale electricity generators). 

Reversible meters have been around since the first meter was invented. As I have explained before in these columns: You might take 9 units off the grid and put back in 8 units, the Government taxes you a net transaction of 1 unit with a reversible meter. With two meters it wacks you for 17 (8 out+9 in) times as much tax.

Sure the big corporations will kick up a stink and pretend to be   concerned for the stability of the grid and the public good. Two minutes listening to any business report reveals the truth – only one thing matters to these guys and that is their quarterly profit statement. You will note they are very silent about grid stability when they are hooking you into dependence on Bulk-gen electricity and when their generating plant is returning maximum profits at peak load times. They love the profit surge that comes with a demand surge. Have you ever heard them tell their shareholders that they had a bad year because the company felt morally obliged to encourage their customers to reduce their exposure to the risks of reliance on Bulk-gen electricity? 

And when your Member of Parliament whinges that its only fair to tax all transactions, ask your them why they penalise micro-generation of electricity with massive taxes using double meters? Tell them to step out Victorian times into the Electric-Solar Age. Come to think of it - go one step further. Ask them if they propose bring back the window taxes we had in the Dark Ages of Europe 1696-1851

After all, a well-designed dwelling that uses glazing and solar resources effectively can produce the equivalent benefits of Bulk-gen electricity use. 

If your MPs say they believe in window taxes too, then make sure they are voted out as soon as possible if you don’t want to return to the dungeon world of the Dark Ages. If they are aghast at the idea of window taxes and support sustainable dwellings, then tell them that reversible metering is a prime element of such a building. And then get your MP to get rid of the near double tax they place on those who do install double-glazing. Ask them why the most simple double-glazed panel (two 4mm sheets with 10mm spacer) costs over $NZ259 per square meter in New Zealand. The glazing firms might get the glass for under $NZ20 a square meter.

And finally to glimpse the vision, start employing science. You were born with science in your genes and it has sustained humanity for these eons. A scientific sensibility is not something only so-called scientists have. In fact the chances are you know more science than many of these people we exalt with the title of scientist. You are quite capable of using the science in you to cut through the PR industry Spin with all their Gobbledygook. You do it all the time. Do you experience confusion about “energy” and a vague sense of being ripped off when the PR industry generates Energy Gobbledygook? If so, this is a healthy sign that the science in you exists and you retain a primal knowledge of the real nature of energy.

For more on this subject, see my last blog. In it I discussed our Western culture’s dysfunctional state as revealed in the list of symbol uses. Key elements on that list were PR nonsense examples in which they would have you believe that power and energy are Bulk-gen electricity. 

So as a general rule, if you want to remain a sucker to the Bulk-gen electricity bankers, by all means reject science. Continue describing Bulk-gen electricity as energy and/or power. And please don’t complain when this flawed and high-risk belief fails you.

The truth is that Bulk-gen electricity is just one of many optional uses of electricity. It’s simply the stuff you buy off companies like Contact Energy, Genesis Energy, Meridian Energy, Trust Power, Mighty River Power etc. Why become conduits for their energy and power nonsense?

 If you want the intelligent vision David Cameron alludes to, let all your friends know there is a world of micro-gen electricity at our disposal. Use the term. If they don’t understand the term, just explain it’s the electricity generated at their dwelling rather than the stuff purchased off the big companies I mentioned. It’s the stuff that gets used at the point of generation and so there are minimal transmission losses. It’s a use of electricity that will still be available when the main utility grids collapse.

Sure cutting through the Gook is going to be hard for some. Journalists in particular will be stretched hard. Many are very comfortable with the present ways of categorising the comparative values of resources. Also in many cases bankers who profit immensely form existing frameworks own the media they work for and they may not tolerate their journalists employing science. 

The problem is that at present journalists have pretty much swallowed the bankers’ definition of energy. This states that energy/power = the fossil fuels and Bulk-gen electricity that the bankers control. Journalists are going to have to start deciding which particular energy forms and fuels they are talking about and learn and use the names for them eg Natural Gas, coal, oil etc.  …. I recommend this thoughtful definition of electricity if they need help in understanding that electricity is a carrier of energy and the carriers come in many forms and each has different uses and possibilities. As they will find, to talk of electricity is to dance with nonsense. The wisest practice is to describe the phenomenon they are talking about. For example BIOELECTRICITY, PIEZOELECTRICITY, TRIBOELECTRICITY, THERMOELECTRICITY, ATMOSPHERIC ELECTRICITY ...ETC

I suggest it is helpful to differentiate between BULK-GENERATED ELECTRICITY and MICRO-GENERATED ELECTRICITY. This way we at least provide a framework that will enable our children to enjoy a chance of knowing that these two very different types of electricity use exist. Each use works to create very different societies. The second type of electricity use results in more self-sustaining dwellings and citizens that are more empowered and better insured against extreme events crashing central grid supply.

The Green Movement, Environmental Educators et al are going to have to decide whether they really believe in this vision or if they prefer to carry on propping up the current centralised generation of electricity. If they decide they really are for decentralised, community-based systems, then they should start framing it with the mindful use of symbols such as I suggest.

I acknowledge it will be very difficult for some institutions. The Consumer’s Institute will have to forsake all the sponsorship it receives from Bulk-gen electricity sector interests. EECA will have to change its name and culture and cease teaching that human can conserve energy, “energy efficiency” is deprivation and to understand that corporation PR stunts does not equate with sustainable practice. The Climate Change Office too will have to change its name and culture, cease saying climate change is the problem and that we can trade away our personal responsibility for protecting the trace gas balances that sustain us.

It can be done. If they do not believe in the vision that science reveals I really see little helpful reason for their existence. And the excuse that the media or the public demands they use the current flawed uses of symbols does not wash. Where there is a will there is a way. Or if you like, where there is not a will there will not be a way. I am confident that there is a widespread sense of science in the public. If these institutions and movements better engage science they will find their message resonates deeply in the public. At present their policies jar with commonsense.

Finally a note about the cartoon series. Bonus Joules had written to the NZ Minister of Energy asking how any human can have such a role. The Minister replied saying he did not have time to meet to discuss the issue. So Bonus Joules set forth on a journey to Parliament to find out the true nature of energy and how we can best use it. Bonus Joules finds that the simple act of warming up in a patch of sun causes great alarm in our Treasury, Reserve Bank and sets off shock waves through the Market. It is a commentary on our daft psychology and culture and the way Energy Gobbledygook permeates our economists and business sectors. The cartoon was published in 2002 and has become more relevant than ever as the gap between GNP growth figures and sanity widens.

Could it be that the Conservative Party in Britain and its New Zealand equivalent have the potential to become the much-needed conduit for a sane, sustainable GNP? That is a novel green prospect for Greens.

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