Kevin Cudby wrote From Smoke to Mirrors, in which he investigated a variety of options for replacing New Zealand's liquid fossil fuel use with climate neutral alternatives without us having to change our current fuel consumption patterns. His conclusion is a solution involving gradual reduction of the amount of fossil fuels permitted to be imported or produced, leading to a full ban in 2040. A corollary to this would be the gradual uptake of alternatives and the development of infrastructure according to demand based on what ends up being the most effective technology or set of technologies for New Zealand.
Actually, it sounds very simple. I'm not going to question the hard science too much given that his research has been described as 'painstaking' by Hot Topic (the climate blog, not the babygoth popculture clothes shop). He led us through it in an hour and a half and it seems eminently sensible.
So, asks Tats in the tutorial session - what's stopping this from being implemented?
See, the technology to do this already exists. A lot of it is approaching commercial viability if it isn't already there. NZ is capable of producing biomass to supply a number of different fuel production methods. If demand for renewable liquid fuels in New Zealand existed, investors and manufacturers could be motivated to provide the production and the required infrastructure, and to reap the benefits of telling everyone they're being Clean and Green.
The problem is, the demand doesn't exist. All of the available technologies are more expensive than fossil fuel alternatives, and most people when presented with fuel at a dollar a litre or fuel at two dollars a litre, will; choose the cheaper one. So any demand for biofuels that happens outside of a worldwide fossil fuel shortage (ie, in time to prevent dangerous climate change), will have to be artificially driven.
Hence, Mr Cudby suggests the slowly phased-in ban on fossil fuels.
So, asks Tats in the tutorial session - given that the artificial creation of a market for renewable fuels is likely a government responsibility/initiative, what's stopping this from being implemented?
"Cost" says Mr Cudby. "Along with a bunch of political drivers that aren't really my field of expertise."
To which I go "Crap" cos that's where I'm interested in finding out more. My research into green tech for my essay has led me to believe that creating the regulatory structure, infrastructure and support environment for the mass implementation of greener technologies is a pretty important factor in our ability to make big changes from dependence on fossil fuels - and this is the sort of thing that governments tend to drive. So I'm left with the question (I'm always left with this question) - what motivates political will?
Anyway, he's an engaging, plain English speaker who looks like your typical favourite Kiwi uncle and talks plain sense. And this is my plug for his book, mostly because I haven't heard much about solutions this past couple of weeks and he has one on offer. He's stuck his neck out where many people don't and I can kind of relate to that.
PS tomorrow at 12pm there's a public panel discussion in Rutherford House on climate change stuff if anyone's interested. I won't be speaking but I might ask some questions eh? Maybe one day someone will be able to answer one of them.
In other news, if you hadn't already heard, the Teapot Tapes have been leaked and are now all over the internet. I haven't listened yet but if you want your dose of John Key is a Dick for the day, look at the hashtag #teapottapes for all the options you could ever want.