Last week, James Shaw announced he would like to put a tax on imported petrol vehicles to subsidise and encourage electric vehicles (EVs).
I felt it worthwhile to comment on this and other government initiatives that may accelerate New Zealand's efforts to mitigate climate change. These other Government announcements were to end to offshore oil and gas exploration, cutting planned four-lane roads and invest more in regional rail and roads, and then this was followed by Auckland Council announcing it would place a tax of 11.5 cents a litre on petrol to help finance alternative public transport.
This is what should have happened years ago, when it became obvious that building more roads was not reducing congestion.
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These changes should have been welcomed as they provided the chance of an upgraded railway being a way to get more trucks off the road and reduce carbon emissions.
To quit searching for more fossil fuels is really a no-brainer, particularly when there is more than enough discovered hydrocarbons to enable us to raise global temperatures above the 2 degrees currently considered not too difficult to manage. Mind you, the weather we've had locally and globally in the last year is getting beyond a joke in terms of increased severity. Yet the oil companies and the users seem to consider it a god-given right to continue stuffing CO2 into the atmosphere.
Meanwhile, Simon "roads of significance to National" Bridges and his party still ignored the connection between fossil fuels and climate change. Instead they made out they were concerned about the loss of jobs connected to this industry, even though numerous studies show that jobs in alternative energy will more than make up for any losses incurred.
This disconnect also appeared when the introduction of an extra petrol tax was proposed to help Auckland out of the motorway hole that it has been digging for the past 60 years. Speaking of digging a hole, it would take 10 years of this tax to pay for the Waterview tunnel. Ironically, David Seymour of ACT said the extra tax would affect the poorest car owners, but surveys have shown that they use their cars far less but will ultimately benefit from better non-car transport – a major objective of the petrol tax.
There is also concern about where the gas for cooking and heating will come from. There is plenty of gas in the current fields and more could be available if they stopped converting gas to urea and methanol. Methanol production at the Methanex plant uses close to 40 per cent of New Zealand's natural gas and urea was hardly used until it seemed like a good idea to make more use of the gas field. Now it helps pollute rivers.
It is not surprising those with a vested interest in our obsession with cars would put the most effort into denying climate change and that has been the case. Exxon Mobil and Shell hid this information and denied the science they knew about in the 1980s. It is no wonder there are possible law suits pending against them.
To better understand a future without fossil fuels, Google "Tony Seba, disruptive technology".
Finally, an example of why more education is needed about this change in technology was a comment from a listener on Radio New Zealand after the suggested tax on petrol cars. He said: "An electric car will run out of battery when stuck in traffic on the motorway".
■ John Milnes is a conservationist, past Green Party candidate, trustee Sustainable Whanganui, grandfather, and advocates for our environment when he can.