The party that would govern New Zealand after the next election released its energy policy today. Crude curses and furrowed brows abound at Greenpeace HQ. It's like National is living in an alternate reality where climate change doesn't exist.
The new policy reads like something from the 70s, and utterly fails to acknowledge the biggest collective crisis we're ever faced. It's heavily reliant on gas, does not support renewables to any significant degree and places little emphasis on energy efficiency and conservation. Also, extraordinarily, it sanctions coal for power generation. Yes, coal - that old dinosaur of fossil fuels, that blatant climate killer. Now, we know from Energy Spokesman Gerry Brownlee's video newsletter of last year - one chapter of which is entitled "sexy coal" - that this is a man who finds strange things attractive.
Malcom Evans Cartoon
But we would have expected a little more from John Key. Key has openly acknowledged climate change as a major issue, but has obviously failed to convince his caucus. And as for Environment Spokesman Nick Smith, his voice obviously got drowned out by the sweet sound of oil drills. Smith was onboard Greenpeace ship the Rainbow Warrior just a few months ago, categorically stating that 'coal is the worst form of generating electricity' and that 'we need to provide for greater renewable energy'. National's left hand needs to speak to its right hand and the party as a whole needs to wake up and smell the crisis.
The party uses security of supply as justification for its backward and dirty energy policy. According to them, we need fossil fuels in order to keep the lights on. This, frankly, is bull.
Current increases in generation capacity (mainly from renewables) are keeping pace with demand growth. Latest figures suggest that 1,520MW of new generation will be commissioned over the next four years - more than twice what is required to meet the increase in demand and most of which will be renewables. This amount includes over 745MW of geothermal baseload generation.
Security of supply is a poorly-masked excuse for what is clearly a major suck-up to fossil fuel interests.
National touts gas as if it's a clever solution, but neglects to mention that gas is a climate-polluting fossil fuel which need not and must not be part of New Zealand's energy future.
It also fails to mention that if we build new fossil fuel power plants - coal or gas fired - we'll have to pay the price under Kyoto. Unless we switch to low carbon energy options, our Kyoto bill will keep going up, and ordinary New Zealanders will face the cost of that.
National gives a nod and wink to carbon capture and storage (CCS) in its policy. CCS is a risky, expensive and unproven technology (see www.greenpeace.org/ccs). Relying on CCS in order to keep burning fossil fuels is like wilfully contracting a disease in the hope that medical science may one day provide a cure. It's a dangerous justification for continuing with business as usual.
National misses the point. And it is this - global emissions must peak by 2015 and quickly reduce from that point. We're currently increasing emissions at a rapid pace and we have to turn this around. National's policies are only going to make things worse.
Last thing. Greenpeace commissioned a major report last year into sustainable energy. We found that New Zealand can infact achieve 100 per cent renewable electricity by 2025 whilst maintaining security of supply. It's worth taking a look at.