Concentrate washing powder

You’ll have seen all the ads for the new 2x concentrated washing powders, they are all you can buy these days and are being pushed as “better for the environment” – because there is less packaging to throw away.

Fair Go discussed tonight whether consumers were being ripped off – basically people are not reading the instructions and using too much because they are used to using the old, large scoops. If you follow the instructions you’re fine.

But fewer people know why laundry powder is actually concentrated. It’s nothing to do with the environment, that’s just a convenient side-effect and a handy marketing gimmick.

It’s all about transport costs.

At half the weight, you can transport twice the value of product for the same price. It’s that simple.

It’s not about the environment. It’s all about efficiency and cost. And that’s a very good thing. Enjoy your new, efficient washing powder.

And if it helps the environment along the way, all the better.

Sea level rise “greatest lie ever told”

I am frankly getting sick of hearing phrases like “Pacific island nations are already struggling with rising sea levels” on the news and other places – never backed up by any real data. Now Dr Nils-Axel Mörner, a sea-level expert, has come out and said the whole thing is a scam. A few excerpts:

But if there is one scientist who knows more about sea levels than anyone else in the world it is the Swedish geologist and physicist Nils-Axel Mörner, formerly chairman of the INQUA International Commission on Sea Level Change. And the uncompromising verdict of Dr Mörner, who for 35 years has been using every known scientific method to study sea levels all over the globe, is that all this talk about the sea rising is nothing but a colossal scare story.

Despite fluctuations down as well as up, “the sea is not rising,” he says. “It hasn’t risen in 50 years.” If there is any rise this century it will “not be more than 10cm (four inches), with an uncertainty of plus or minus 10cm”. …

The reason why Dr Mörner, formerly a Stockholm professor, is so certain that these claims about sea level rise are 100 per cent wrong is that they are all based on computer model predictions, whereas his findings are based on “going into the field to observe what is actually happening in the real world”.

There is a lot of aid money to be had in claiming your country is at risk of a natural disaster:

When running the International Commission on Sea Level Change, he launched a special project on the Maldives, whose leaders have for 20 years been calling for vast sums of international aid to stave off disaster. Six times he and his expert team visited the islands, to confirm that the sea has not risen for half a century. Before announcing his findings, he offered to show the inhabitants a film explaining why they had nothing to worry about. The government refused to let it be shown.

The Islamic government of the Maldives is particularly dodgy (I had a Maldivian flatmate once & it was an eye-opener, stories of aid being sold instead of given away etc, you can’t even take a Bible into the country), so this doesn’t surprise me much. Not everyone’s motives are pure…

Now the last thing I would suggest you do is blindly believe this scientist, or to blindly believe anyone else. Just note that there is debate on this issue, so the next time someone claims any island is struggling with rising seas, make sure they back it up with actual measurements.

If they can, please comment, it would be interesting to look at the data.

Plastic bag tax

National’s resident greenie, Dr Nick Smith, is considering a tax on plastic bags because, in his personal opinion, “New Zealanders were over-using plastic shopping bags”. We’ve lived in Ireland with such a tax, so here is a brief summary of the good and the bad:

The Good:

  • Reusable bags don’t break. They are much nicer to use than disposable ones.

The Bad:

  • You use disposable plastic bags for all sorts of things – lining rubbish bins for example. When you don’t get them from the supermarket you are forever running out of them, and have to buy plastic bin liners – defeating the environmental purpose of the tax.
  • Reusable bags are bulky.
  • You often forget to take enough reusable bags with you, and have to either buy more reusable bags or disposable ones. So in practice you waste money one way or another.
  • Most reusable bags are plastic. It must take a lot of resources to make one, so you would have to replace a large number of disposables with one reusable to make it worthwhile. In practice they only have a limited life before they get lost or have something disgusting spilt through them, so you don’t actually replace as many disposables as you would expect with each reusable bag. The environmental benefit is therefore questionable.
  • The main winners are the supermarkets. They sell more reusable bags (with their own logos on). They sell plastic bin liners as people aren’t recycling disposable plastic bags as bin liners. And in Dr Smith’s plan, they might even get the plastic bag levy itself. Expect the supermarkets to support this plan, but not for environmental reasons.

So I can only think of one advantage – reusable bags are strong and good to use. There is nothing to stop you using reusable bags now for this reason, and many people already do (for example MacDoctor).

It is highly debatable whether there is any environmental benefit from this whatsoever. Plastic bags are a minute fraction of NZ’s waste (0.2% according to the Dominion Post), much of which will currently be recycled supermarket bags containing rubbish. Most of these will be replaced by new plastic bin liners if this law goes through – in other words, there will be less recycling, and plastic bags will still be about the same amount of NZ’s waste, just more expensive.

Fortunately we have a far more sensible Prime Minister:

Mr Key said there was no way he was going to support a charge that was in effect a tax going into the coffers of supermarkets. “My preference is to find a voluntary and industry-led solution,” he said.”I’ve made that very clear to the minister.”

Asked whether he would preferred to have known in advance about both issues, he replied: “I think it would be more useful if I found out about things before I read about them in the newspaper.”

Good on you Mr Key!

Other comments around the blogs:
MacDoctor: Fantastic Plastic
Madeleine: Blue is the New Green: National’s Bag Tax
Homepaddock: Bin that idea, Nick
Not PC: Nanny Nick taxes bags
Whale Oil: More on Bags

Our house on Earth Hour

house_earthhourThat’s around 2000 watts of eco-friendly renewable hydro-electricity. So much better for the environment than the smoky candles the greenies are using tonight.

To see what others have been up to, check out the Anti Earth Hour blog.

Earth Hour

Earth hour is upon us. So this blog is switching on the lights. Thanks to Thomas Edison, we can light our homes without damaging our lungs, and while protecting the atmosphere from the gases burning candles emit.lightbulbFor more info on what you can do to celebrate Earth Hour (Edison Hour), click here.

Anti Earth Hour blog

Before deciding how to celebrate Earth Hour tonight, check out the Anti Earth Hour blog. Turn on your lights (they’re more eco-friendly than candles), and submit your power-hungry pictures of what you did on Earth Hour!

Earth hour will kill us all! 3 – Entertainment

What should you do this earth hour? You can’t watch TV, or read this blog, that would use electricity. You can’t work on the car by candlelight, you might cause a nasty explosion. So here are a few suggestions:

Don’t go to a concert. There is an “Earth Hour Unplugged” concert in Christchurch, there are probably other events on elsewhere. But to get there you’d probably use a car, or a bus. That one trip could melt a glacier. And they’ll probably have big amplifiers using thousands of watts of coal-fired electricity. And as you switched off the burglar alarm to save electricity, and everyone’s lights are off so criminals can easily work undetected. you may get home and find your furniture has disappeared.

Only go to a concert if your sole purpose is to switch off the amplifiers for the sake of the planet so everyone can sit in perfect silence straining their ears to hear the peaceful twanging of the electric guitar strings. Otherwise stay at home.

But what to do at home? You can’t read a book, or play a board game, you’d need to light candles for that, and that could cause immense ecological destruction. You could play “blind mans bluff” in the dark, but may trip over and break all the furniture you stayed home to protect. Or break an arm, requiring the consumption of toxic petrol to take you to the hospital.

No, you’ll just have to go to bed early. But DON’T be tempted to curl up under the covers in your cold unheated bedroom and snuggle with the wife. Population growth will destroy the planet. Keep your hand-knitted hemp underpants on.

To be safe, one of you had better sleep on the couch.

Lie in the cold, dark lounge, on the couch, listening to the hum of the fridge (which you should have left turned on) and contemplate that:

“Isn’t the only hope for the planet that the industrialised civilisations collapse? Isn’t it our responsibility to bring that about?” – Maurice Strong, founder of the United Nations Environment Programme. (via Micky’s Muses)

Get used to sleeping in the cold and the dark, it sounds like this won’t be the first night. And then one day, as you cough yourself to death from smoke inhalation (candles), hypothermia and botulism (you did turn the fridge off after all, didn’t you?), at the age of 40, with no children to remember your name, you may feel glad that at least by your sacrifice you may have saved the life of a snail, somewhere. Possibly.

See also:
Earth hour will kill us all! 1 – Lighting
Earth hour will kill us all! 2 – Appliances

Earth hour will kill us all! 2 – Appliances

Despite the terrible hazards to the global environment of using candles this Saturday, no doubt some people will still choose to use them. If you still use candles, at least don’t switch off your fridge.

Your refridgerator, freezer, thermostat-controlled heater, or heat pump are designed to turn themselves on and off as they need to, to maintain a certain temperature. If you turn these appliances off during Earth Hour, they will consume no power then. But the freezer will slowly heat up over that hour, and your house will slowly cool down. When you switch them on after the hour they will all switch on at once and have to work extra hard to make up for the hour they were not able to run for. Total electricity consumption will be about the same, except it will all come in a peak when they are all turned back on.

The same goes for appliances with batteries (cellphones, laptop computers etc). They too will use more power after earth hour if you just switch the charger off at the wall for that hour.

You may choose not to use your washing machine during earth hour. But you still have the same amount of clothes to wash. Unless you do them by hand, you’ll just use more power after Earth Hour.

What does this mean for the electricity network? There will be a drop in power usage from 8:30 – 9:30pm on Saturday night. Then a peak afterwards when everything is switched on again. About the same amount of electricity will be used all up, unless the peak load blows another Auckland transformer.

But although much of NZ’s electricity generation is renewable, the peak loads are serviced by dirty polluting coal and gas (owned by thieving rich capitalists no doubt). So your freezer will be killing the polar bears as it refreezes all your thawed vegan tofu-burgers.

To quote the Lorax:

“I speak for the trees, for the trees have no tongues, and I’m asking you Sir, at the top of my lungs” – What are YOU doing this Earth Hour?

I implore you, on behalf of the trees, the bar-ba-loots, the swomee-swans, the humming-fish, the polar bears, and the thousands of cute and cuddly animals as yet undiscovered that we could be killing in ways we cannot yet imagine – do NOT turn your refridgerator off (or use candles) this Earth Hour.

See also:
Earth hour will kill us all! 1 – Lighting
Earth hour will kill us all! 3 – Entertainment

Earth hour will kill us all! 1 – Lighting

In this series I’m adopting the language used by the global warming enthusiasts in an attempt to communicate on level ground.

This Saturday, we’re supposed to turn off all our lights for an hour to “join [WWF] in taking a step towards living more sustainably”.

But what is the real effect on the environment of switching off our lights and burning candles instead?

Modern candles are generally made from parrafin wax – ie, oil. They burn inefficiently, putting out most of their energy as heat, while producing a little bit of light as well. On the other hand, most of New Zealand’s electricity generation is from renewable sources (hydro), so produces very low carbon emissions.

So what are you doing if you huddle over candles this Saturday?

  • Depending on how many candles & lights you use, you may actually increase your carbon emissions (unless you make your own candles from tallow of course (a renewable biofuel), so the die-hard hippies are ok. But they probably have earth hour every night anyway).
  • Inhaling smoke, damaging your lungs (again no change for the die-hard hippies if they’re on the weed anyway). Smoke inhalation is a major health problem in the third world, and is one of the reasons we use electric light.
  • Wasting money. Electricity is far cheaper than candles – because it is more efficient.
  • Damaging local industry, sending money to China. Electricity is made by Kiwis, for Kiwis. Most of our candles are made in China (check your packet). Buy NZ made – use electricity this Earth Hour.
  • Creating a fire hazard. Candles are a major source of house fires. This week it could be you.

I’m sure there are more problems I’ve missed. If you don’t want your cemetary to be flooded by rising seawater in a hundred years, Buy NZ Made this earth hour, and use electric lights.

See also: Earth hour will kill us all! 2 – Appliances
Earth hour will kill us all! 3 – Entertainment

EDIT 1:
Although the Fire Service suggests torches as safer than candles, they’re at least as bad for the environment. Batteries are toxic and take a large amount of energy to produce relative to the amount of light you get out of them. And they’re probably made in China too. Don’t go there.

EDIT 2:
Rather than candles or torches, it would be far more sustainable to use some of New Zealand’s clean, eco-friendly renewable electricity, crank out the outdoor Christmas lights, and join MandM’s Earth Hour protest.

RMA reform – the good, the bad, and the ugly

National’s proposed RMA reforms have been released. The official summary is on Scoop. There’s some good in there and some bad. Reform of the RMA is certainly needed, it’s a horribly bloated piece of legislation. A few things that jump out are:

Removing frivolous, vexatious and anti-competitive objections
Good idea to get rid of anti-competitive objections. But what is “frivolous” or “vexatious”? Those words could mean anything. In practice this means:

  • Allowing the Environment Court to require security for costs.
  • Increasing the fee to appeal to the Environment court from $55 to $500.

Basically they are saying that any appeal from someone who is too poor to afford $500 plus an unspecified security deposit (could be thousands) is “frivolous”, and anyone who can afford that is not. This allows the wealthy greater access to justice than the poor and community organisations, and is a very bad move in my mind.

Streamlining decision making

  • This involves creating an Environmental Protection Agency (ie more bureaucracy) to determine whether a project is of national significance or not and push it through.
    I have no problem with streamlining things, but do we really need more bureaucrats to do less bureaucracy? Surely if it were streamlined we would need fewer bureaucrats?
  • Projects that are not of national significance can be sent directly to the Environment Court without the need to go through the local authority consenting process first.
    I understand the reason behind this. Currently our community is fighting the CPW irrigation scheme, and many organisations have spent thousands fighting the consents process knowing they will end up in the environment court anyway so their money is being wasted. But we need provision for one hearing, and one appeal. If the one E.Court hearing is the final decision, there is no backup if the first decision is faulty.

Minor changes to speed things up

  • Removing the ability for appellants to make general challenges or ones that seek the withdrawal of entire proposed policy statements and plans. But what if you have genuine concerns about the entire proposal?
  • Simplifying the process so that local authority decisions on submissions do not need to be made in respect of each individual submission but are to be made according to issues raised. Very sensible.
  • If consents are processed late, the fee must be discounted. Sounds like they were reading Family Party policy regarding building consents – this is a great idea. Can we have it for building consents too?
  • Allow local authorities to take enforcement action against the Crown. Also good.

So all up there is a lot to help push through big projects, a few things to help people with minor applications, and a definite bias against objectors regardless of whether their complaint is valid.

And still NO mention of private property rights ANYWHERE.

On average it may be more positive than negative, but there is a lot in there to be very concerned about. If they would only affirm common law private property rights they could throw away most of the RMA, just keeping a few bits that genuinely relate to Resource Management – such as permits for water abstraction etc. But unfortunately NZ elected a bunch of politicians who don’t have the guts to do that.

Other views:

Not PC thinks National is paving the way for Think Big 2.0

I am embarrassed to admit I actually agree with Russel Norman (Green Party):

However, increasing the filing fees for Environment Court cases and the requirement for security of costs will silence legitimate public input into local decision making. … How many community groups, made up of regular citizens, not millionaires, can come up with tens of thousands of dollars in security when they are trying to protect a coastal area from a property speculator?

Federated Farmers calls it “an ok first stab”, but has some concerns:

Some farmers will be dubious about changes that are aimed at streamlining projects of national significance and improving national instruments, without strengthening the rights of individuals to receive compensation.

Remember the Bill will be introduced later this month and open for public submissions.

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