Taxes won't cut it, we need practical solutions to live in a zero-carbon world writes Federated Farmers Dairy Chairperson, Andrew Hoggard.
It was with slight amusement that I spotted a tweet from Greenpeace with what they thought was a witty retort to opposition to the oil and gas ban, noting "likely a mixed reaction to the end of the stone age''.
Well, I doubt there was, as mankind discovered a new technology – bronze. Its benefits were obvious and it was taken up.
We didn't need a tax on stones, there wasn't a concern about 'peak stone' and we didn't need to stage protests in front of the chieftains' caves to argue for the use of bronze. It came down to developing the new technology, which had benefits over the old technology, and disseminating the knowledge.
To me, that's one of the things we are losing sight of in the climate change debate. What are the alternatives? Are they realistic? What are the barriers to uptake, and what will our lifestyles and production systems be like without fossil fuels?
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Some 83 per cent of our electricity generation is renewable. But of our total energy, only 40 per cent is from renewable sources; most of our vehicles and industries still rely on coal, gas and oil.
No doubt solar, wind and other renewables can be stepped up over time to help bridge that gap but we also have lots of electricity outages and a creaking distribution infrastructure that won't cope with Kiwis all coming home from work and plugging in their EV cars to charge up.
This was highlighted for me a couple of weeks back. As is standard for the Manawatu in spring, some strong westerly winds blew in. As is also standard, plenty of locals lost power.
On our road it was a cross arm on a power pole that snapped, and the faults people concentrated on town outages before getting to us. Our farm needed to run a generator for a little over 24 hours. No biggy, we're used to it and we have plans in place.
But it got me thinking. What the hell would happen in a CO2-emission free world?
Without that diesel generator, what are my options? Solar panels on the cowshed roof aren't a bad idea, and something I might look at, but they would only make sense to cover the base-time load. Twice a day during milking I have a big load come on - I imagine I'd need a whole paddock of solar panels to cope with that. And the kind of weather than knocks out power is hardly conducive to solar.
It occurred to me I might install some of those Tesla power walls I read about to store power? But on checking the price I found just one of those units costs the same as my generator, puts out a tenth of the power and is run out after 3-4 hours. That just ain't going to cut it.
Another big user of energy on the farm is vehicles. I could get an EV to go to town for the groceries but a Nissan Leaf isn't ideally suited to tow a silage wagon. To the best of my knowledge there are no commercially available EV tractors out there.
Perhaps robotics and autonomous vehicles will at some time in the future take care of some of the work of tractors at a smaller size, with the ability to be able to work 24/7 – excluding charge times obviously.
To my way of thinking we need to stop with the virtue signalling and start working on the technologies and solutions we'll need in a zero-carbon world.
At the moment our focus as a nation seems to be about "solutions for methane" or taxing methane emissions, despite it being a short-lived gas when compared to carbon dioxide, and one that may only require emissions to be stabilised rather than significantly reduced.
Would our efforts perhaps not be better spent in looking at practical solutions - for example, how we could create biodiesel for tractors or generators from poplars planted for shade or riparian purposes.