A guest post by Susan Krumdieck | The Jackal

19 Nov 2012

A guest post by Susan Krumdieck

Kia Ora,

There are some important things that I want to be up-front with you about.

The oil supply has peaked and is in decline. It will be expensive forever. You will want to be planning to organise yourself, your family, and your business to be able to use less petrol.  The amount we use will need to decline about 4-6% each year, which should be doable just by improving things. But we really need to get to work now.

The amount of diesel we use to freight Chinese junk and rubbish around the country is a joke. You are going to have to work out how to grow local businesses to supply more of what you need and to generate less waste. Yes, things will cost a bit more. But what goes around in our country comes back around. And if more of your neighbours have jobs they can buy more from you. The government should not be developing more roads, and we'll be doing well just to keep the roads in decent shape, so we're going to need to start restricting how many trucks can move on the roads. The Ausi supermarket chains are going to have to re-think their sourcing and warehousing to reduce truck traffic.  The government should be setting up new regulations for towns and cities to designate local weekend market areas, product testing and local currencies. This local market growth initiative could add at least 1-2 new professional jobs per town, and spur growth in new local production and manufacturing enterprises.

We rely quite heavily on gas.  There will never be another Maui gas field. The supply is going into decline. We are building more geothermal plants, but you and your families and businesses are going to have to start making energy management plans for how you can cut back on electricity use when needed.  You will want to improve efficiency wherever possible because the price is going to continue to climb. The government should be supporting new training and professional enterprises in energy management and transition engineering. This could add 1-2 new professional jobs per 5000 population all across the country and help you sort out how to get all of your good ideas going. We will also be putting a hold on gas fracking in New Zealand. There is nothing we could do with gas today that is worth the risks of irreversible damage to underground structures.

To be honest, coal is really dirty dangerous crap. Mining coal, and well, really mining anything, is guaranteed to be an environmental disaster for more than just one generation. The thing is that we can't have any kind of industrial society without coal. So, what we are going to have to do is recognise that coal use is going to decline, it's going to get more expensive, we are going to have to spend 50-90% more on technology when we mine it and use it to make sure we don't muck things up, and we are going to have to make hard choices about what we really need and don't need. What is really worth burning coal for and what isn't.  We are not going to burn coal for electricity.  Those days are over.  We are not going to sell our coal resources off-shore.  Our grandchildren and great-grandchildren will need some coal some day. They will also be much more sensible about balancing their fossil energy use against the irreversible climate rupture we have created. We start now to face up to the facts about coal and we are going to do everything we can to reduce what we dig up - including a 10 year moratorium on new coal mining as a period to take stock, get the international corporations jaws un-clamped from around our necks, and decide what we really need to do.

There are no substitutions; there are no technology fixes. You were probably thinking that we could use wood or wind or solar or some other green thing to substitute for coal and oil and gas. But the truth is, while we support the development of renewable energy, and it might add some more jobs, the reducing fossil fuel supplies mean big changes. No amount of renewable energy development will change that fact. You're going to have to get much more efficient, and waste of any kind of resource will become a Kiwi anathema rather than a Kiwi norm.

We need to work together to restore our environment and build resilience wherever we can.   Every town needs to get busy organising groups to look at the local resources and start working with people to come up with solutions.  We have programmes with the universities to help out with assessing, planning and organising.  This will mean jobs for some of your local, uni educated young people back in their home towns planning and managing and monitoring the local reserves, and organising the new tourism opportunities, like connecting up reserves by bike trail.

I have told you the truth about energy resources and how we are going to adapt to use less energy. Now I am going to be honest with you about the economy. The economy is not something separate from us. The economy is actually just people who do a good job getting fair compensation for their work from the people who benefit from their labours. This is why there are different wages for different capabilities. We all pay taxes in order to live in a country that has high quality services and infrastructure. The people who are profiting the most should also do the most to make this country a better place. 

We need to figure out how to innovate so that we can build wealth - not from spreading ourselves open to the rest of the world to come and take what we've got - but by building real, sustained value, by having high quality of life, by long term thinking and by participatory, strongly democratic, fact-informed planning.