Carbon fin prints

Jeanette’s question this afternoon on the Government’s claim to be the first carbon neutral country in the world resulted in the usual banter with the Michael Cullen, who was answering on behalf of the Prime Minister. Even National’s Nick Smith got in on the game, asking much the same as what many Green supporters have been thinking for some time now:

Hon Dr Nick Smith: How is it credible for her to maintain the façade of carbon neutrality, and world leadership in sustainability, when during the last 9 years emissions have increased by 14 percent, one of the highest rates in the developed world; when 75 percent of new electricity generation built has actually been thermal, resulting in the largest drop in the proportion of renewables of any Government in New Zealand history; and when the last 4 years has seen a massive loss of forest area and the first years of deforestation since records began in 1951?

Cullen blamed all those emissions on a growing economy. And as economic growth remains a sacred cow, we all politely moved on to the next question. Afterall we wouldn’t want to stop growing beyond the limits of our planet’s ability to cope.

The more interesting parliamentary question came later on and was from Sue Bradford, standing in for Jeanette, to Pete Hodgson, the Minister of Economic Development who was standing in for Jim Anderton, the Minister of Fisheries. (I suspect MPs had been re-enacting the Mad Hatter’s Tea Party earlier and all standing up and rotating seats). Sue initally asked a generic question about trade of fish with China.  I thought she was likely to move on to talk about Maui dolphins which were also a topic of debate today*. But she actually followed up with this:

Sue Bradford: Can the Minister confirm that Talley’s Fisheries ships chilled, gutted fish to China for thawing, processing, and rechilling, only to ship it back to New Zealand for sale; and is that how the fishing industry contributes to the Prime Minister’s goal of carbon neutrality?

Hon PETE HODGSON: New Zealand fishing companies have been exporting to China for years, and a proportion of that product is inevitably processed further and onsold to Japan, North America, and Europe. That has been going on for some time in China and in any other continent in the world. Our fishing industries are international.

Sue Bradford: If shipping fish from New Zealand to China for processing, then shipping the fish back here to our supermarkets for retail sale is an example of his Government’s global trade agenda in action, then surely it is time to admit that the resulting carbon “fin print” of these fish, the race to the bottom on wages, and the threat to jobs here in New Zealand make the whole situation a disaster, not just for our country but for the planet?

Hon PETE HODGSON: Let me offer a different tack. I am the member of Parliament for Dunedin North. Cadbury’s and Gregg’s are both in my electorate. Both of those companies are food companies; they both import, then re-export products. That is the nature of trade.

No, it’s the nature of specific type of neo-liberal free trade. Really though, given our claimed high tech business environment, couldn’t we breed or train the fish just to swim over the China and at least save themselves one boat trip?

*Sorry to jump around so many topics. For more on the dolphin dilemma listen to this Checkpoint interview with marine scientist Steve Dawson.

17 thoughts on “Carbon fin prints

  1. I am an optimist compared to the environmentalists. We can solve our problems, they are not our master. But fair point, will try to cheer up.

  2. At least you know that non-environmentalists read your blog. That should make you happy. Maybe you will get a convert.

    I doubt coal will have any value whatsoever in 50 years. The technology will probably have rendered it useless. Therefore we should make hay while the sun shines and MINE THAT COAL. I reckon there is about $1000bn worth of coal in the ground. It is an absolute crime to leave it to waste – our children will never get to sell it. This is a once in a lifetime oppty to sell as much coal as possible to China before it is too late!

    Cheap solar is one option, let’s wait and see. Being an optimist I think that the next decade is going to be very interesting for power.

    Regulations have a chilling effect on the economy and cost jobs. I realise that environmentalists care little for such trifles, and fair enough too (hence the term ‘environmentalist’) But in the real world they must be considered.

    The world is for us humans. If we want to keep a few animals around to keep us amused then that’s fine. But perhaps (at least while there are still people starving in the world) it would be better if the environmentalists fronted up with the cash to do so.

    Going back to the topic (what topic?) I think the poster probably needs some sort of communist system (see I do know my terminology, but I still don’t know what Neo maxist is), where nobody moves unless the big man says so. Then you could have as many bureaucrats on the fishing boats as fishermen, and there would be no hanky panky. If the big man wanted the fish to swim to China then the fish would swim to China, or be poisoned faster than you can say ‘Tiananmen’.

    Of course you would need to subsidise fish, so that people can afford it. And fishing boats. Who knows where that would lead. But there would certainly be no unprocessed fish going to China without permission.

  3. Well cheap solar power is certainly on the way, and not in the very long term wave power/nuclear fusion way.

  4. all you have to do fwwog is be brilliant,
    that is there is a NZ GOVT NAT coming
    negotiate now,
    i keep telling yous fwogs
    don’t wait till it to late fwog
    them NZ NAT GOVT want you in.
    fwwog move now ..

  5. In reply to The Optimist:
    – we have 2000 years of coal in the ground just aching to be released
    Imagine the capital gain NZ can make on this if we leave it for a while…
    – nuclear starts with N
    And finishes with radioactive waste, with a capital R
    – hydro involves too much moving earth about
    I agree, the least earth moving the better, but hydro power does work well
    – wind is useless in the calm
    And is very good when not calm
    – solar is far too expensive still except for hot water
    So solar is they way for water heating
    – etc., etc.
    I wish you could have thought of more too

  6. What’s a “knowledge wave economy”? Is this a Marxist term?

    Does it mean training people who then go overseas and wave as they leave? Or waving goodbye to knowledge as anything we come up with quickly gets bought by an overseas company?

  7. it’s to do with wages not tariffs. cheaper to get the processing done in china.
    now with this knowledge wave economy, perhaps we could come up with automated factories instead?! ;)

    as economic growth remains a sacred cow, we all politely moved on to the next question. Afterall we wouldn’t want to stop growing beyond the limits of our planet’s ability to cope.

    even if we still have per capita growth, wouldn’t it be prudent to stop perpetually increasing the number of capitas for a start

  8. The real question here is what is the scale of this back and forth trade. As I see it, New Zealand exports a huge amount of seafood, and the market quirks (which may be related to the hangover of tarrifs which are soon to be removed) which cause this fish to be shipped back here only cause a tiny proportion of such back and forth movement to occur. The efficiencies of the unrestricted process we now have, I would be happy to wager, would save far more of every type of resource (including money, time, electricity, fuel etc) than would be wasted by this anomaly. Basically Sue’s criticism is meaningless unless she puts it in perspective.

  9. “impact of new regulations and armies of new state sector do-nothings?”

    Like regulations to prevent catching and killing albatrosses? Bottom trawling? Limits on catches through quotas?

  10. It seems like “The Optimist” is pessimistic about anything he doesn’t like the sound of, such as that new-fangled renewable power or his ability to look stuff up on Google.

  11. Neo-liberalism: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neoliberalism
    Pretty straightforward: bust down all the trade barriers and subsidies you can, get out of all but the key state services such as law enforcement, education, health, and infrastructure. Don’t lesislate any interference with trade, minimal labour laws, etc…

    Essentially, it’s free trade with no provision for social concerns or equality of opportunity.

    And no, this is not “marxist terminology”. Now, if we start talking about things like siezing the means of production and bourgeoise oppression, then we’re using marxist terminology. This is just basic political science.

    If you’re going to go libertarian, please actually learn about some of the related political terminology to save us some time explaining. :) There are enough ignorant libertarians on the net already.

  12. Doesn’t sound too difficult to require fish caught in NZ waters to be processed in NZ. Might mean a few people keep their jobs.

    I think you’ll find getting coal out of the ground involves moving an awful lot of earth around. The reason coal fired power stations have been a big growth area is because they are cheap – provided you don’t worry about climate change, habitat destruction, messed up rivers and all the rest of the environmental impacts. The alternatives start with doing a better job with what we already have, throwing in some renewables here and there, a bit of small scale hydro – simple ‘think small’ politics really. Not very eciting, but it does have the slight advantage of working.

  13. You seem to suggest that we should ban fish exports if the processed product might be imported back into NZ? How many bureaucrats are going to be need to enforce this? What will be the cost to the NZ fishing industry already reeling from the impact of new regulations and armies of new state sector do-nothings?

    Regarding electricity generation, given that:

    – we have 2000 years of coal in the ground just aching to be released
    – nuclear starts with N
    – hydro involves too much moving earth about
    – wind is useless in the calm
    – solar is far too expensive still except for hot water
    – etc., etc.

    it seems sensible that coal fire power stations are the only way to go. That explains why it has been a big growth area. I would love to see environmentalists state what the true alternatives are that don’t involve electricity price hikes and blackouts.

    * What is neo-liberal free trade? Is this some sort of marxist terminology. I have never read any communist literature in case megalamania take hold and I also start killing 100m people – but if there is a glossary somewhere please point me to it.

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