Gordon Campbell on the BlackRock deal and banning cellphones

blackrock smallerIf a National/ACT government had negotiated the renewables deal with the giant investment firm BlackRock, it is safe to assume that we would be never hearing the end of it. Only National and Act, we would be being told, would have had the business nous and deal-making expertise to pull off such a forward looking partnership, of the very sort that the climate-conscious customers for our exports are demanding.

But since the deal has been done by Labour, and has to do with the environment… The centre-right have been scrambling together a few crumbs of critical discontent. First, Christopher Luxon argued that the world is awash with investment money so no big deal that New Zealand has attracted some of it. Apparently, doing a multi-billion deal with the world’s largest investment firm is as easy as falling off a renewable log. Secondly, Luxon intimated he’d have done the deal, but would have consented to it faster !

As usual, the ACT Party rushed in where angels fear to tread:

David Seymour… Said the plan would push up power prices for little environmental gain.“New Zealanders don’t want to be subject to a ‘world first’ climate change experiment that will mean the government micromanages their lives,” Seymour said in a statement.

There’s a lot to unpack in that one outburst. Why would this particular public private partnership (and its profit component) be any more likely to have a negative impact on prices than any of the other public private partnerships that Seymour and his mates usually tout as the answer to all of our infrastructural prayers? Can the ACT Party (gasp) be coming out against private profit?

Also… If Seymour could ever be coaxed out of his 1980s man-cave, he might realise that it would not be a quote, “world first” climate change experiment’ unquote, if New Zealand went to 100% renewables. Norway, Iceland, Paraguay, and Albania are among the sizeable list of countries that have already reached the 100% renewables milestone. Moreover, the “climate change experiment” that Seymour fears is one that major economies are keen to pursue. Germany, for instance, is doing all it can to make the transition to renewables, as part of its target of climate neutrality by 2045.

In the US, a similar transition is underway. This year, electricity generation by renewables exceeded that generated by coal:

The Energy Information Agency of the US Department of Energy announced this week that for the first time in US history, renewable sources generated more electricity in 2022 than did coal. Renewables also outstripped nuclear power generation, for the second year in a row. In fact, renewables are even more productive of power than this report shows, since it only looks at utility-scale solar and leaves aside the electricity generated by rooftop solar panels.

All that may be holding us back, it seems, are politicians wittering on about the dangers of “world first climate change experiments”:

The Global 100% RE Strategy Group , comprised of experts on wholesale energy transitions, states unequivocally that the transition to 100% clean renewable energy systems is not only possible, but can happen much faster than conventional wisdom believes. A 100% renewable electricity supply is possible by 2030, and with substantial social and political will, around the world, 100% renewable energy is also technically and economically feasible across the whole energy system by 2030.

As with all public private partnerships, the terms and details of the BlackRock deal do need to be examined for fish-hooks. Yet if anything, having BlackRock’s muscle behind our renewables deal could enable New Zealand to bypass one of the practical constraints cited recently by Kerstin Andreae, the head of Germany’s BDEW Association of Energy and Water Industries:

[Andreae] warned that a lack of skilled workers could represent a bottleneck for renewables buildout on [Germany’s] path to climate neutrality by 2045, as many companies were having difficulties in finding suitable employees today. “In the coming years, the situation could worsen drastically,” she said.

So we’re not doing anything rash, as the ACT Party timidly fear. Instead, Labour seems to be making sure that New Zealand is not being left behind. Need one add that a country situated so far from its primary markets needs all of the brownie points it can muster when it comes to climate change mitigation measures.

Cellphones in schools

Banning cellphones in schools? Hmm. Again, if such a proposal had come from the centre-left, it’s a safe bet that ACT and National would be screaming to the skies about the excesses of the Nanny State. In reality of course, the centre right has never had a problem with using the powers of the Daddy State to boss around and intimidate beneficiaries, Maori, women and, in this case, children. Because the Daddy State always knows best. It will do anything to make our kids stop their infernal Tik-tokking, and get them back to reciting their times tables.

In the fine print, National concedes that the ban would apply unless the cellphones were necessary. Oh, right. So this will be an added administrative burden placed on schools, who will then cop all the blame if and when something goes wrong, and families can’t contact their kids (or vice versa) in a crisis. The whole exercise is mere virtue-signalling by Luxon, and an attempt by National to burnish its image as the “back to basics” party. Surely ACT – as the champion of trusting people to be responsible and to make their own decisions – have to part company with National on this one.

Footnote: BTW, think of all the things that are impeding effective learning in schools: Poverty, hunger, bullying, family violence, unhealthy and overcrowded housing at home, teacher shortages etc. etc… Yet National chooses to come down hard on kids using their cellphones. No doubt, some of those kids have been using their phones to organise protests against climate change. Best to nip that one in the bud.

Revivals, Recycling

Nice to see that Courtney Barnett likes Chastity Belt’s 2017 hit song “Different Now” so much that she’s recorded a cover version, which you can hear here. Yet even though the original track has had 26 million plays on Spotify, some people may not have heard it. The lyrics are so sympathetic and succinct that one can see this being an added reason why Barnett likes the song:

You’re hard on yourself
Well you can’t always be right
All those little things that keep you up at night
You should take some time to figure out your life
But you’re stuck indoors and thinking poorly

You’ll find in time
All the answers that you seek
Have been sitting there just waiting to be seen
Take away your pride and take away your grief
And you’ll finally be right where you need to be…..

And now for something completely different… Every episode of the TV show

The Bear

tends to contain a killer soundtrack (Edwin Starr! Mulatu Astatke!) and season two recently recycled this great 1998 “ New Noise” track by the Swedish neo-punk metal band Refused: