by Gareth Hughes
The Government’s “drill it, mine it, frack it” economic plan for New Zealand is a lazy gamble that belies a lack a vision. The coal-face of this Nineteenth Century approach is Solid Energy’s grandiose plans to convert Southland’s low-grade lignite coal to heat, fertiliser and fuel. The Government would have you believe New Zealand has no other choices, but we do.
A BERL/WWF report out yesterday shows Southland can prosper without the need to exploit dirty lignite. The report outlines there are good new jobs available in an enhanced forestry, engineering, and education sectors – jobs that won’t destabilise our climate nor require on-going taxpayer subsidies for carbon emissions.
There is enough lignite to increase New Zealand’s increasing greenhouse gas emissions by another quarter and perversely could be subsidised hundreds of millions of dollars by the taxpayer through the National Party’s Emissions Trading Scheme. It would be bad for the taxpayer and catastrophic for the climate.
Bill English turned the first sod for this project and it’s clear the National Government is picking the wrong kind of winners in its economic strategy. They are locking investment into old technologies within industries that are in long-term decline.
A better way forward would be to direct this State-owned enterprise to focus on clean energy and set in place the regulatory mechanisms and price signals that speed the transition to a smart green economy.