Monday, May 04, 2009

Go on, take real action on global warming

Frogblog is quoting a survey saying "a majority of kiwis support taking real action to combat global warming". Fine, who is stopping them? The survey the Greens are quoting lists a whole host of "measures", which I don't have a problem with, if they involve people making their own choices or they are about getting the hell out of the way of making choices. So let's go through them, nice to get rid of the euphemisms and describe what they really are

"More incentives for households to improve energy efficiency" means forcing other people to pay others to save money by being more efficient. Oh please. How about letting electricity operate at market prices, by privatising it, and not really caring where prices go as a result?

"Incentives for businesses developing renewable energy projects (like wind, solar, wave, geothermal, hydro power)" means forcing other people to pay for businesses in the renewable energy sector that the state identifies. Another option could be to zero tax any companies primarily engaging in that sector, but that starts to become complicated, better to just reduce the burden of tax on business overall.

"Lower vehicle registration fees for fuel efficient and low-emission vehicles" means reducing money to spend on road safety promotion and Police enforcement of traffic laws. Though the main part of registration fees primarily pay ACC (which would be better off just being open to competition and choice), and also pay for road safety promotion and Police enforcement of traffic laws. So do the Greens want less spent on road safety, or money transferred from roads? Yeah you've figured it out already.

"A cash incentive to encourage replacement of energy inefficient home appliances with energy efficient ones" means forcing you to pay for people to buy new appliances. Nice, could always just cut GST on them instead, or just cut taxes overall so people can better afford them. Guess it doesn't matter if the reason people don't buy them is it is cheaper to buy others and spend the difference on something more important right?

"Financial incentives to purchase fuel efficient, low emission vehicles" making you pay for other people to buy new cars!! When was the last time you bought a brand new car? Yep very Green. Could always just cut GST on them too.

"Incentives for landowners to plant more carbon sink forests" making you pay for landowners to plant trees. Yep. Own land do you? Nope no money for you.

"New Government investment funds to help quickly commercialise new lower-emission technology invented in New Zealand" making you pay for "businesses" that aren't profitable in the hope they are. How's your business doing? Yep maybe they'd all like a company tax cut?

"Lower road user charges for diesel vehicles using lower-emission bio fuels" less money for roads because I haven't noticed the type of fuel trucks and buses use reducing the wear and tear they impose.

"A Government information programme to advise businesses and households about climate change policies and ways to help manage it" forcing you to pay to be told what to do by the government. Is it polite to call it propaganda?

"Increasing goods transportation by rail and coastal shipping" how? What's stopping those who want to, doing it now? Oh yes, it often costs more. So is this about forcing you to pay for goods to be shipped at higher than cost? Where is the evidence this will make a difference?

"Increased spending on research to produce technology to help reduce emissions" force you to pay for more research. Be more polite to ask.

"Subsidies for farmers to use fertilisers which inhibit the release of nitrogen, lowering emissions and improving water quality" force you to subsidise farms. Fertiliser subsidies went in the 1980s, and this would hurt arguing for less subsidies in agriculture at the WTO, but the Greens don't care about exports soo...

"Assistance to sell New Zealand emissions reduction technology to other countries" subsidises for marketing to countries? So governments then? So are businesses that incompetent that they need to force others to pay for their marketing?

"Replacing road user tax with a lower vehicle licensing levy for light diesel vehicles, including cars" This doesn't even make sense. So light diesel vehicles should have their road use subsidised so they pay an annual fee instead of according to usage? Buy a diesel and use it as much as you like - very Green??

"Allowing forest owners to cut their trees and replant substitute carbon-sink forests on other marginal land without incurring any emissions penalty" Yes!! DON'T do anything that penalises behaviour that can reduce CO2 emissions. That can't be hard.

"Higher road user charges for vehicles which are not fuel and emissions efficient," oh so making a windfall profit from such vehicles, to spend on what? More roads? Didn't think so. Oh to subsidise the other ones for the costs they impose. Any evidence this would work?

"Higher road user charges for diesel vehicles which do not use lower-emission bio fuels" ditto

Bar one, it is all about making you pay more to prop up unprofitable businesses or to pay people to do something that likely benefits them financially (reducing energy use).

Here are four better ideas:

1. People who believe "more should be done" to prevent climate change should do it themselves. Turn off the lights, drive less and do all this without tax or regulation. Live the ascetic low carbon footprint lifestyle, and you can tell others to do so as well, but don't force them.

2. Stop getting in the way of low CO2 business activities. Nuclear power is an obvious one (which may go nowhere but still), but also cutting taxes and regulatory barriers to establishing any such businesses.

3. Stop subsidising business activities that emit CO2. Buses would be a start, since the majority of bus users don't have access to a car, you might find they walk or cycle, or travel less.

4. Get government out of activities that emit CO2. Privately owned energy and transport companies wont tolerate unprofitable activities or poor rates of return, so wont subsidise prices or run poorly used services. Coal mining is the other obvious one, farming too. This also includes roads, which governments stubbornly underprice at peak times, and overprice in areas where roads are cheap to maintain (e.g. Canterbury).

So would the Greens support getting the hell out of the way of more environmentally friendly businesses, and stop subsidising sectors that produce emissions, stop owning businesses that produce emissions?

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