Friday, March 23, 2007

Transpower's profit take this year

up 30%.
It must be a great business to be in when you are a mandated monopoly on an essential service and your only shareholder is the govt who get oodles of cash through a murky back-engineered tax.
here's a question, why don't you upgrade the freakin' network and drop your 'profits' back to inflation + 5%? how about treating people with respect during the consultation process? how about showing some pride and professionalism in your product and minimising constraints on the line? well, then again, 20 years of planning does seem to fly by when you're earning @£$£ loads.
the last 2 crucial pieces of infrastructure the govt flogged off in the early 90's was Telecom and the rail system. We all know how wonderfully those two were run to benefit NZ Inc.
Fixing the latest thing that broke is not a planned investment strategy...

Thursday, March 22, 2007

Paul Holmes gets nailed by Gordon Ramsey

say what you like about GR, he's a great chef and he takes what he does seriously, and he's Glaswegian. Add PH, a pretentious little prat and it's not surprising what happens.

NZ's first test of pricing carbon

and it aint going so well...

more informed induhvidual opinions on climate change at the herald

man, some of these guys aint so bright.

oh, and to the guy that thinks co2 and methane sink - yes to co2 (it weighs 44 g/mol v air at about 28ish) until diffusion kicks in, and no to methane (16 g/mol). haven't you ever wondered how puddles evaporate?

for every skeptic out there, choose 5 equally qualified scientists that say they're wrong (and can back it up technically). now discard all of them. the scientific consensus is what remains. doesn't mean it's right, it's a consensus. the process has error correction built in. thats the role of the skeptic and it is an honest, lonely calling in the science profession.
however, when the consensus is telling you that you are literally screwing up the ability for 100's of millions of people to live, you should probably start thinking about some prudent risk reduction strategies. it's the job of govt. they're the ones with a mandate for running your society. science is just an input.
25 years ago, that would have been increased funding for the basic science.
10 years ago, increased R&D in oil alternatives, price for the right to pollute (at a relatively trivial level) and change your building/auto standards to promote maximum efficiency.
current: aim for worldwide commitments.
these actions would not hurt your economy, can easily be scaled up or down and would result in a strong solid base for acceleration if the science started coming down the wrong way. contrast this with actual: dissemblence for 20 years and accusations of 'junk science' and manipulation of the media to create an apparant controversy. ye gods, the 1950's tobacco strategic handbook with a find&replace change of topic. and they won.

nobody believed einstein to start with and complete change in under 20 years. nobel prize (for different theory, oh to have your own annus marabilis...)
no-one believed stomach ulcers were caused by bacteria, 20 years to change opinion. nobel prize.

the blunt fact is that the scientific method, in general, and over suitable timeframes... works.

how many of you go to an oncologist and start dissing their chemotherapy advice? how many of you give your car to a mechanic and instruct them that they can't look at the carburator regardless of the symptoms? (do cars still have carburetors?).

good grief, blind ignorant vested interests are disturbing. as for the research gravy train? oh please, have you ever met a scientist? gravy train of funding is not a term i think you'll hear.

Wednesday, March 21, 2007

NZ in the news today

had a strange deja vu morning today. was having a coffee and flicking through The Times (v right wing paper here in the uk) and NZ had 3 colour photos on 3 consecutive pages of the sports section (it's an A3 folder one so i tend to flick through consecutively rather than turf out the sports section instantly).
comment by ben ainslie on NZL in Valencia with a beautiful spinnaker shot of ETNZ, next was Tana getting slammed by the english but with a bold outcaption stating 'NZ can play 4 different ways and win at all of them' and then the Black Caps whacking a cricket ball during a solid 'professional' display of cricket against, i think, Kenya.
i'd link to them but the fact is, you don't get the same experience on-line as off. it was all about the juxtaposition and consistency of page after page.
it's pretty bizarre to think that our country which is already greatly outnumbered by the world of warcraft population (currently at 4.5 million which i found trying to find the sailing comment piece above) is featured so heavily for it's sporting prowess.
if only we can fully translate that attitude of excellence to premium-priced export business focus - it's so close you can almost taste it...

Tuesday, March 20, 2007

Rod Oram on Forestry's complexities on carbon trading

sounds like a pretty good summary to me. build a carbon market and let the money flows figure out the solutions, it's bound to be more efficient that letting politicians and lobby groups horse-trade for special lenience.
oh, and BTW a hydrocarbon free economy is a stupid thing to aim for, carbon neutral is just fine - it encompasses electrical systems, biofuels, nuclear and, blech, hydrogen without dictating the solution.
Repeat after me people "hydrogen is great if we can solve 3 eeny weeny little problems: how to make it, how to distribute it and how to use it while simultaneously dismantling a 100 year old system of hydrocarbon distribution and use"

Op-ed by Rod Oram on agriculture's pollution footprint

I'm starting to like this guy more and more.

edit: can't find his contact email though - even Unitec doesn't say he exists. if anyone knows it, please let me know, i'd like to drop him a line

Owning a home NZ style

summary: go overseas to earn cash and then buy your house in nz. works well for the foreign exchange i guess.
nz, it's not just for christmas, it's for your retirement too.

climate change views in nz

ahh the quality of debate over climate change.
some of these are obvious spam posts but the ones that seem genuine are showing an appalling lack of judgement of cause, effect and risk management.
As one guy said, it's no big deal for the big/rich countries, we'll just roll with the punches. It's the poor countries that are going to get hammered.
Oh yeah:
  1. no-one denies it's been hotter/colder in the past. the big difference is that we weren't around then. changes to our relatively benign climate are serious because they will affect people. bugs were, are and will always be the big winners in life's marathon. doesn't mean we should exit stage left before our time...
  2. the sun is big. real scientists noticed it and have still concluded that not all the effects of the last 100 years are attributable. the maths is hard (and i'm not talking 'balance your cheque book hard, if PDE's and non-linear feedback systems are not part of your day to day vocabulary you need about 2-4 years tertiary maths just to understand what they on about).
  3. non-scientists should look toward the consensus view to try and gauge the opinion of complicated scientific problems. i can find a crackpot on groups.physics or groups.biology that deny relativity and evolution are credible, it doesn't make it true and i certainly wouldn't bet the world on it.
  4. if you are going to point to complicated sounding denials, quote the literature. last i read, of 928 papers on climate change reviewed in quality journals (impact factor >= 1), 0 showed evidence to contradict the thesis (Mooney, The Rebublican War on Science - excellent piece of pol reporting by the way **caution:refs quoted from memory are highly suspect - check for definitive references and objective reporting from actual climate scientists). It doesn't get much stronger than this.
  5. global 'cooling' was a media beatup. they are crap at doing science reporting. the herald is generally crap at science reporting.
  6. never underestimate the resources and dedication of vested interests. Big Tobacco is alive and well (ironically) despite the most concerted effort ever to ban their product.


just found a live, bite sized, embeddable spreadsheet-ish applet (here, i had to use the html version). The embedded applet is even user-adjustable. This looks pretty cool, specially if you're doing a back of the envelope calculation.
How many piano tuners live in Auckland? First order guesstimate might be:

a quick look at the nz yellow pages for piano tuners in auckland gives 19 - not bad!

Saturday, March 10, 2007

Govt R&D Expenditure in NZ

$500 million sounds like a lot, but that's only 0.5% odd of GDP, it'd have to be well over a billion to even be OECD average (and business would need to do the same).
Not sure if i agree with the focus on 18 month ROI's, i still think bulk funding of specialised areas with detailed dispersement left to them would be a clearer way of funding.
Let's see if Helen walks the walk with her sustainability drive by doubling R&D into a single centre of excellence (preferably somewhere that people want to live) focused on the multi-discipline skills needed to tackle the problem.

Wednesday, March 07, 2007

MRP says no to the Marsden B option

Fair enough, it's all about options.
It's interesting to see that DG is saying wind and geothermal are both competitive on price and have a strong outlook for the 2020 timeframe. $2 billion investment from the 4th largest generator is not a trivial amount of cash...

Brian Fallow on green electricity generation

1-2 c/kWh subsidy to make them better than gas fired huh? Man, that sounds like a reasonable insurance policy type cost.
Do you think NZ as a whole could benefit from a 1-2 c/kWh investment in electricity production? I sure do. Repeat after me people: sad as it is, people don't value things they don't have to pay for. If our electricity is cheap, we'll make and sell things that need cheap electricity (can you say aluminium?). If it's more expensive, we'll make and sell things that earn more money. I think that betting _against_ NZ ingenuity is a crazier bet than thinking we'll be doing exactly the same thing in 2020 as we did in 1980 (i can't believe that typing 1980 feels like the dark ages, i was at college in the 80's...).

Monday, March 05, 2007

NZH Editorial on Biofuels

The summary? Biofuels may be a good option but it's a complex problem. Maybe the best option is to not do anything for a few years and see how it plays out.
Ah, the kiwi spirit in all its glory. In fact, it's quite close to the core on this one. Biofuels taken out of context is irrational. What's the point in substituting one fuel for another when a lot of the problems are car-oriented not just fuel-oriented? Without considering land use patterns and letting people get to work in a reasonable time via public transport, all you're doing is exacerbating the congestion problem.
If you were serious about car pollution, double the cost of petrol over the next 5 years and re-distribute the income into biofuel subsidies, R&D and public transport. Petrol price will do more to change car use behaviour and urban sprawl than any of the think tank white papers.
Repeat. By 2025 you'd see some serious behavioural change. But maybe the AA, NZR and NZOG wouldn't like that?

Public Transport in Auckland

hattip to RB at Public Address, this series about the roading lobby in Auckland says it all.

The only idea i ever had for PT in Auckland was to build a bicycle lift in the CBD but build it for height, not distance - say up Queen St to K Rd. You could get to Parnell, Ponsonby, Ak Uni on Symonds St etc all from the intersection of K Rd and Queen St. If it went straight from Britomart how cool would that be? Cycling downhill is just plain pleasant... Mind you, it'd only work at capacity when it wasn't raining, this IS Auckland after all. There is already one built somewhere (JGFI) so it's not crazy.

Thursday, March 01, 2007

Carbon trading for Meridian's C-neutral

And fair enough too.

Meridian is carbon neutral

Nice work!
Now if you're a NZ exporter (heck producer period), buy your energy from Meridian and paint in big bright letters on your product 'carbon neutral, made in NZ' and sell it for a whopping premium overseas.
Use profits from said transaction to fund higher priced electricity purchases and strangely eccentric hobbies...
Rinse and repeat.

NZ's hydrogen bandwagon just keeps on rolling...

OMFG. There's nothing scarier than a technocrat with the answer. Carbon dioxide a problem? This'll fix it.
Repeat after me people "hydrogen may be the answer, but it's not guaranteed" and my $0.02 thinks it is definitely NOT the answer. I have yet to see a compelling case for it's use that isn't selectively blind to the elephant in the room (let's use electricity to make hydrogen that we can then use later to make electricity).
If you are going to release govt funding, make sure it's tied directly to something useful and measureable i.e. tonnes of carbon avoided for instance, then let the crazies out of the box (i really need to track down that old Genesis ad where the mad scientist concedes that, of course, he'll need more pigs... brilliant) and let the market figure out what is best for the individual. Oh yeah, stop funding studies of things you might want to do in 5 years and start actually doing something - learning by doing is an acceptable route to IP. If CRL can figure out a way to get the energy out of coal without the CO2, it's got a world-wide licence to print money - get cracking, you don't need a study to know it's a good idea.
Ye gods, it's like asking AT&T in 1970 what the internet was going to look like 2007. Looking back on their predictions shows it's more, less and completely different to what they imagined. It's going to be exactly the same with our energy gen/use patterns.