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Bonus Joules: White is Black

Bonus Joules and the Knowledge Economy

White is Black


Bonus Joules finds things appear to be what they are not.
Bonusjoules Blog 12 July 2005
Chapter Three - A Holey Pilgrimage -A Black and White Matter
Chapter 3 No 2: Exploring the Matter of Metaphors.


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Aaaaagh!!! Oh fool me!*#* I am the very idiot the wise man warned me about. The basket is empty. All my eggs are scrambled and have evaporated into the ether. Yes, I did not heed the advice I gave last blog regarding the benefits of precautionary strategies. I am as stupid as those flogging off Vector Ltd.

First a quick explanation of the cartoon blog to new readers: It is a journey exploring the myths we use to express our understanding of the nature of energy. I am illustrating the fact that Scientists continue to use symbols that may well have reached their “use-by date” and now may even promote maladaptive behaviour. In this case Scientists continue to employ the Blackhole symbol and evoke images based on visual experiences. However we are profoundly tactile creatures and the reality they are attempting to communicate is the fact that some regions of the universe contain extremely dense matter. Such a region is the antithesis of a hole. In other words, there is little science in the communication.

The cartoon was created about three years ago and I am now adding this 2005 text blog to it.

In my last blog I argued that strategies that incorporate a powerful element of ‘civil defence” or precautionary practice have the by-product of enhancing most people’s lifestyles. I noted that the same basic strategy works to reduce a wide range of risks, including those associated with climate and tectonic ‘events’, our inordinate dependence on dwindling oil and Gas supplies, electromagnetic solar activity, increasingly fragile ocean and soil reserves etc. I pointed to the wisdom of developing systems based on the original Internet rationale: the creation of multiple communication nodes so that if one gets nuked the system automatically reroutes data.

In short, the non-centralised systems minimise the risk that a failure in one area brings down the whole system. We do not have all our eggs in one basket.

I argued this should also be the basis of our regional grids. We need to junk the Electricity Reforms and re-establish the right of communities to own and operate their local grids so they can maximise the potential of energy efficiency practices, smart technology, broadband-based knowledge and Distributed Generation.

So here is what happened to me when I failed to follow my own advice. I browse the web, searching on a topic and seeing what the system throws up. Contrary to the fallacies generated by “journalists” * in the daily advertising broadsheets, I read views I agree with and those I disagree with. I work on the old Zen-Buddhist premise that our enemy is our greatest teacher and we can never truly know who our enemy is. Put another way, to the extent I live Heisenberg’s great Principle of Uncertainty, I am aware that every point of view counts if we are to understand existence.

[* “Journalists” are a different type of person to a journalist. They are primarily motivated by fear that they will not have enough money and they draw a sense of power from their occupation. They fear new forms of media such as the Internet and disparage bloggers. Recently one of these ‘journalists” argued in the NZ Herald that they are more responsible than bloggers because their content is checked and rechecked by up to 3-4 layers of editors. He failed to mention that those editors have a strong motivation to put the knife into an article to ensure the most titillating headlines can be generated off the material and the material is best sized and placed to minimise the risk of upsetting major stakeholders in the media such as the broadsheet's principal shareholders and advertising companies.]

A journalist belongs to a different breed. They are primarily motivated by love. The pursuit and revelation of the truth matters far more to them than personal aggrandisement, money and career. Indeed some put themselves at extraordinary risk in their pursuit of the truth. They are meticulous in their efforts to identify and reduce dogma. “Journalists”, by contrast, tend to be dogma-driven. A common phenomenon is the sight of these people vociferously espousing “free markets” while assiduously working to suppress the power and influence of journalists and communities.

Unfortunately I cannot link you to the New Zealand Herald article trashing bloggers because I lost it. I lost it with a raft of other articles representing several hours of reading because I adopted quik-fix short-term thinking. “Free market economics” got to me.

Yep. On the surface, it seemed quick, convenient and economic at the time to create a folder called Blog 3.2 and dump articles into it as I found them. They would be there to refer to as I wrote the blog. A precedent to such thinking was the decision to take 57 Bulk-electricity authorities and dump most of them into the hands of a couple of merchant bankers. In that case it was argued the amalgamation would encourage “market transparency” and allow vast efficiencies of scale, such as could be offered by the likes of multinational corporations like TransAlta.

So there are all these articles sitting in one folder in my computer. Someone asks me when the next bus is. I leap to my feet to get a timetable, bumping the heater. It rolls forward and hits the off-button on my computer. Fortunately my current work, Blog 3.1, is automatically retrieved OK and I save it under a new name Blog 3.2 Mk 1 while I check nothing is lost. It all seems to be there and though I know well never to attempt to do two things at once I persist in chatting while I save it over Blog 3.2. Woe. Wail. Next time I open 3.2 all its contents are gone, replaced by the contents of Blog 3.1.

Now if I had created a new folder for each blog and saved each article into it separately they would be still there AND neatly filed by name for future reference. The problem is that under our current quarterly-result bean-counting mentality the time spent initially filing them is discounted as inefficient. This labour is deemed a liability. The benefits of the effort and care do not generate immediate returns. By contrast, the precautionary approach would have resulted in the articles remaining far more accessible longer term. Accounting would have been clearer. My data would be a less risk.


Click through to Bonus Joules Cartoon Strip

In the same way that a bump of my knee set in train a series of events that would wipe all those articles, so a rat chewing through a Telecom cable was able to collapse much of New Zealand’s Internet and a branch touching a wire was able to bring down much of the North American electricity grid.

The lessons do not end there. I now find it is actually easier to write the blog because the background information is filed in an accessible way. When the articles were all lumped into one folder I would have to scroll through them all when I needed them. Recall how I wrote recently of Bulk-electricity consumers having to ring up to seven different retailers during the floods in the Thames region to find out when the local grid would be operating again. The retailers in turn seemed unable to get sense from the grid owner who is based in another region. The “free market” forces generated by the Electricity Reforms dictate that consumers have to go through retailers to access the owner of the lines. If you do manage to contact the company that owns the lines you are often told,“…ring your local retailer and ask them to ask us your question – we don’t deal with the public directly”.

In the Bad Old Days, as the 'neocons' describe the days before the Electricity Reforms, you were able to ring your locally-based grid owner and access someone with intimate knowledge of local conditions. In the new system, the helpdesk of the retailer may be based anywhere in the world and have minimal local knowledge.

And when things go wrong, the chaos caused by the resulting inefficiency is exponential. Recall the chaos generated by TransAlta when it took over and amalgamated the community owned networks of Capital Power, Hutt Mana, and Christchurch etc. Its call centre for 540,000 customers ballooned out to 230 staff, wait times averaged 15 minutes or more, the drop off rate was ten fold at times and confusion reigned.

By contrast Wellington MED/Capital power had two phone operators serving over 50,000 customers. In my decade as a field worker for the department I never experienced a delay and almost invariably I could access accurate information in less than two minutes. Some days I made over ten calls. The same was true of Christchurch MED where I worked for a decade. I gave up trying to ring TransAlta –OnEnergy.

The irony is that the vast bureaucratic quagmire is generated in the name of “competition efficiency”. This is hilarious except for one thing. It is a very dangerous practice in times of emergency. It is also a luxury that only very rich countries can afford and even then such an ethos has destroyed major civilisations in the past. And as it may do ours as the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age deepens. (Oil is $US61.25 a barrel as I write and the fighting over remaining reserves intensifies, folks.)

Which brings me to coverage of the flog-off of Vector Ltd. As I have mentioned previously, I wrote to the Prime Minister of New Zealand, Helen Clark, urging her to make her electorate aware of the immense unrealised potential in their Bulk-electricity, Gas and optic fibre company in the coming Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age before they transfer controlled of it to a couple of overseas-based merchant bankers. For some reason her office went to great lengths to avoid her having to acknowledge sighting the letter. Michael Cullen’s response on her behalf revealed the Labour Government’s impotency. He pleaded that the Electricity Reform legislation precluded him from becoming involved. Presumably Labour has been powerless these six years to change the legislation. I wonder why.

Thought: Imagine if the Government had decided to use its recent half a billion dollar windfall from bank taxes to lend Vector the money to buy NGC. Metering rentals are almost pure cashflow and NGC predicts income from them to increase 10 fold (statement at AGM about 2003). The Government would get its money back - an important factor as it may yet have to return the taxes to the banks. More important: New Zealand would retain control of the most vital element of its electricity structure.

Anyway, all I was asking was that Helen urge her electorate to understand the emerging conjunction of the great new technologies (PLC, “smart” response and DG) and to think very carefully before giving away control of such a vital asset. As I may have mentioned somewhere, the same week that Michael’s hapless response arrived in my letter box Marian Hobbs was thundering on in the media about the stupidity of the idea of attaching onto a potential 4000 Auckland properties LIMS reports notifying people of possible soil contamination. Clearly the Government can offer advice to communities if it finds it politic to.

What are the politics that enable Ministers to express such public concern about a minor redistribution of capital value in the Auckland region and yet prevents them from expressing a concern about the biggest ever, single transfer of capital and control out of New Zealand with the sale of Vector? Is it because the LIMs reports would have created a neighbourhood redistribution of wealth as value was transferred to non-contaminated areas in the same way that the Leaky Homes Investment Strategy transfers wealth? In that case the new risks caused up-market “Mediterranean-style” homes to depreciate and down-market ex-state houses to appreciate.

Maybe politicians sense that almost all New Zealand Bulk-electricity consumers will suffer losses from the Vector sale and thus internal power (relative wealth) structures will be retained? Of course some canny communities not directly controlled by Vector’s owners will be able to minimise losses but not so the dominant political catchments formed by Auckland and Wellington. And it is a sad fact that these two dysfunctional communities drive overall investment and set the direction of our national uses of energy.

One of the benefits of my new risk-reduction strategy when filing my notes is that there is a new level of transparency.

Check out these subject titles from the NZ Herald. Most can be found under Vector on the Herald website.

Hopes grow Vector float will lift turnover

What you need to know about the Vector float.

Brian Gaynor: Investors willing to pay for quality. (for Vector)

Rise of Auckland Electricity Behemoth.

Orion dividend.

Casting vote secured share plan

Big Vector Float finally sparking.

Vector row “will not affect listing.”

Scramble indicates premium on listing

And from Stuff a sample couple of headlinks:

Energy Trust seeks Power over Vector.

NGC overpriced analysts.


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What’s the first thing you notice about the headlines? It is almost entirely Stock Market driven. The headline Hopes grow Vector float will lift turnover sums up the situation. The NZ Herald is fundamentally a stock market broadsheet with a sufficient sprinkling of general interest items thrown in to avoid prosecution for misleading advertising when it calls itself a newspaper.

The reality of the Stock Market is that its dominant use is as a plaything for speculators and it works against sustainable uses of resources. Environmental factors do not feature in its calculations.

There are fatal flaws inherent in speculation. One is that speculators are loveless. Second is that speculation results in all power and wealth residing in the hands of a few individuals and so new listings or turnover cease. Third is that humans cannot speculate with our environment. The results are brutal for humanity when we attempt to and we destroy our supporting systems in the process. Fourth is that speculation, a form of greed, can only be sustained by constant expansion and we live in a flux of ever changing yet limited energy forms.

The New Zealand Stock Exchange is getting few new listings and is desperate to be able to extend its ability to speculate.

“New Zealand Exchange chief executive Mark Weldon is counting on the planned $600 million share sale by utility Vector to attract new investors and halt a trading decline.

Vector owns $4.8 billion of power lines, phone lines and pipelines.”

Profits from our enterprises are now largely siphoned off to overseas-based bankers and there is relatively little wealth left in community coffers to generate new businesses. As a result, the float of the community resource, Vector Ltd, will be the only stock market listing of any significance this year. My brief readings of its operations suggest that net listings will shrink without this injection of community wealth and subsidy and the Exchange’s future depends on such subsidies.

That is why we should not be surprised at the NZ Herald coverage of the issue and its lack of journalism. Short-term interests drive the broadsheet and these do not coincide with the long-term interests of the community. It is primarily concerned for its own immediate survival in an age of changing technology. Hence its obsession with ensuring Vector Ltd is floated.

Of course I know wider issues are involved. There is the question of why the dearth of journalists exists. As I have pointed out before, even the “business editors” at Radio NZ – Voice of America in the South Pacific similarly fail to understand the value of Vector and are obsessed with the impact of its float on the Stock Market. The fact is not one of the Herald articles looks at the real issues. These are:

  • The owners of the grid determine our future.
  • We are entering the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age and most of our essential links with the environment that sustains us are profoundly stressed, if not breaking.
  • “Journalists” write headlines describing oil at $US60 a barrel as expensive. They are wrong. Oil is still very cheap. Check out

    Oil: Caveat empty
    By Alfred J. Cavallo
    May/June 2005 pp. 16-18 (vol. 61, no. 03) © 2005 Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

    Without any press conferences, grand announcements, or hyperbolic advertising campaigns, the Exxon Mobil Corporation, one of the world's largest publicly owned petroleum companies, has quietly joined the ranks of those who are predicting an impending plateau in non-OPEC oil production. Their report, The Outlook for Energy: A 2030 View, forecasts a peak in just five years.

    And that reminds me. I must follow up reports that Matthew Simmonds is now predicting oil to go to $US250-400 a barrel. I guess it is possible. That is how peak curves work. Take the example of fish. In the 1970s we used on average only one calorie to catch a calorie of fish. Now with 90% of the “top tier” fish stocks destroyed it takes twenty calories to catch a calorie of fish. And almost all of those twenty calories comes from oil. Hmmmm.

    Commentators on the Vector sale who fail to understand the new reality are setting us on a course to premature oblivion. In this carbon-constrained world, the local grid cannot become a plaything of the frivolous rich. Survival depends on intelligent community control and use of it. Already the Electricity Reforms mean New Zealand is now a model for the promotion of global war and famine. The Reforms are designed to suppress the ability of communities to adopt “smart technology”, energy efficiency programmes, Distributed Generation and cutting-edge broadband use. The Vector float works to further impoverish our options.

    Check out the article What you need to know about the Vector float. You would think this would mention the massive social and environmental implications of the float. There is not a single mention of it. Take the question:

    Q: What dates are important?

    A: The beneficiary offer - for eligible Vector power consumers - closes at noon, August 10, although the deadline for pre-registrations has already passed. The capital bondholder offer closes at 5pm on August 1. The NGC takeover offer opens on July 11 and closes 5pm August 10. New Vector shares are due to start trading on the stock exchange on August 26.

    What planet is this? It is certainly not Earth where New Zealanders consume resources at a rate that could only be sustained by a planet with eight times the resources. I would have thought the date that oil plateaus over $US80 a barrel was important. Basics like food will become much more expensive and interest rates will be rising for our debt loaded families car-addicted families. Survival will depend on our ability to make intelligent use of electricity.

    An even more momentous date will be the day oil settles at $105 a barrel. Dramatic changes will occur in populations in North America and Oceania as our oil-Gas based systems come under major stress. Already we are seeing signs of maladaptive change in New Zealand with the advent of reports of petrol thefts.

    Note that countries like Norway will not be nearly so badly affected as us. As I have mentioned in past blogs, they charge themselves $US6.66 a gallon and the NZ Automobile Association should read this before it speaks out in our interests in the future:

    As Norway is the owner of one of the largest oil fields in the world, most of that charge is tax. This is to limit the possibility of their economy being distorted by oil addiction. They use the funds to future-proof the population with provision of efficient public transport, urban designs, dwellings and communication systems. As the Bulletin article concludes:

    “For their part, American consumers would do well to take a cue from their Western European counterparts, who enjoy a comfortable lifestyle despite a per capita use of petroleum that is half of that in the United States. The sooner the United States begins this transition away from oil, the easier it will be. That's a far more attractive option than trying to squeeze oil from stone.”

    And in contrast to canny European governments, the NZ Government has announced even more spending on motorways since I last wrote. It is literally squandering the remnants of the legacy the country inherited from the Cheap Oil era. I can imagine more attractive options than chewing tarmac for breakfast, even if it is fresh-laid tar.

    The Herald's “journalism” promotes a myopic view of the world. It also reveals a profound ignorance of business in New Zealand. It fails to acknowledge the sad reality that some amoral individuals employ brutal business methods that border on psychopathic. The Herald is being naïve at best and deceitful at worst when it advances statements such as this one in its article Big Vector Float finally sparking

    “Less than one quarter of the company is being sold into private hands…

    As owner of 75.1 per cent of Vector, the trust has signed a deal with the company. The board, which will retain final discretion around price increases, has promised to consult the trust before increasing power prices to residential and small commercial customers in its home area.”

    The greatest lesson of Rogernomics (The version of Chicago Economics imposed on New Zealand since 1982-3) is that the privatisation of a community Trust of any sort almost always results in the community’s complete loss of control of them. Auckland's reclaim of control of its waterfront is a rare exception. There will be people working for the Herald who know this truth from the Wellington experience.

    Fran Wilde, mayor of Wellington, the capital of this country sold 49% of Capital Power. This was the council company that owned and operated the local grid. Her logic defies common understandings of democracy. She refused to have a referendum on the sale, arguing they are unscientific and unrepresentative. She, of course, held her position by virtue of a referendum.

    When polling revealed over two thirds of citizens opposed the sale she said she would respect that opinion and sell only part of the company. Councillors were subject to torrid ultimatums and deep secrecy still surrounds the deal. I have heard descriptions of the final Council meeting as a thuggish event, like the backroom Mafia meeting you see in the movies.

    With the sale went management rights and purchase rights. I worked for the Capital Power at the time. TransAlta, the new “part-owner”, working with the famed and now derelict Arthur Andersen and Co, immediately took over total effective control of the company. They gutted its capital, sacked service-driven staff and used ownership as a political lever to take over control of the neighbouring Hutt-Mana Energy Trust.

    TransAlta was profuse in its promises to the Hutt Mana communities that it would consult with them, even as they levered away every link the community had through the Trust. The Herald knows well that the Dominion and Evening Post, its Wellington broadsheet equivalents, told Wellington people that the Trust payout to individual members of the communities would enhance the local economies. It did not. The fact is in the aftermath of the first of the two 'payouts' the Hutt economy shrank 5%. I expect the second "payout' to impact in a similar way.

    The Herald does not warn the Auckland people of this probability. It does not tell them that the Wellington region is hemorrhaging hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars annually as it no longer has the control of the assets required to provide efficient heating of homes, smart uses of electricity and intelligent broadband. The region’s showcase film industry struggles with the lack of broadband and Bulk-electricity capacity.

    STOP PRESS. Just got the mail in. Yet another letter from my Bulk-electricity retailer:

    “Wellington

    New pricing

    As a result of higher energy costs and network charge changes, there will be an increase in the price you pay for your power.”

    I think this is saying:

    "As a result of our higher costs in delivering Bulk-electricity and increased network charge changes, there will be an increase in the price you pay to use these products and services. "

    As far as I can see they are not yet charging me for the power I source from the sun to warm me. They cannot yet directly tax me for using windows in my house. Such taxes have been imposed in the past.

    Actually, I must dredge up a few old bills. If I recall right, Bulk-electricity prices have more than doubled in seven or eight years while service and safety levels have dropped. And like a large portion of New Zealanders, my gross hourly wage has dropped over that period too. I would not mind if all those extra billions of dollars taken from us had been invested in what they call “demand control measures”. However it has not been. Rather it has evaporated, or should I say, ‘floated away’, into distant coffers unknown.

    The Herald article continues:

    "The relationship between the trust and the Vector board has often been fraught, with conflicting political and business objectives."

    This is plain nonsense. Business is politics and politics is business. Such a distinction is meaningless. At best it is one of those exercises in futility that some universities engage in. At worst it is a high risk-exercise in amorality. Either way in this case we end up with impoverished communities and degraded environments. Conflict is conflict. Whether it is for better or worse is another story.

    Again the world can learn from the Wellington experience. Our local advertising broadsheets, the Dominion and the Evening Post, were prone to describe conflict in the Hutt Mana Energy Trust in similar terms. A rough translation of the above is:

    “business” =greed, amorality, viciousness and contempt for democracy.

    “political” = care, concern for community and our environment, upholding the spirit with which the Trust was founded and love of democracy.

    These definitions reflect a reality in which there were often brutalising attacks by some Hutt Mana Trust Board members on others to silence them and prevent them communicating to community shareholders the full implications and options available to the Trust.

    Certainly such conflict is not found in all companies. Sadly, in some cases this is because there are companies that have zero concern for the greater welfare of society and the environment. A ruthless policy of eliminating vestiges of morality exists and employees are routinely “ laid off”. Recent books on Enron reveal this process. That company engaged in a routine layoff of 10% of staff each year to “keep staff on their toes.”

    Against the context of these amoral companies, the conflict occurring in Vector may well be a welcome and needed process that we should all be privy to.

    Reflect further, if you will, on this Herald quote:

    “Alliance Capital Management analyst John Norling said trust shareholders might have social and political objectives that did not fit with a well-run commercial company.”

    Another extraordinary statement concerning the reported conflict is:

    “Whether this will change when Vector lists on the NZX will be carefully watched - especially by institutional investors concerned about good governance.”

    It is an almighty and perhaps unwise assumption to attribute our institutional investors with expertise in good governance. It certainly is not apparent in their results this last two decades. Check out Dr Arthur Grimes report on the sad state of our saving’s industry. In my own case I trusted the industry 1990-2000 with my savings. At the end of the time I had less money than I started. If instead I had bought this home in the early 1990s as I could have I would have quadrupled those savings money by 2000 and I would be mortgage free.


    Click through to Bonus Joules Cartoon Strip

    Yes, a large portion of the population has lost considerable wealth after they entrusted it to our institutional investors. Indeed, many small, well-run trusts have generated far more genuine wealth in their communities. Strip out earnings from investment in speculation in oil, drugs and weapons and some institutional investors would be revealed as woefully inadequate.

    Brian Gaynor’s Herald article sums up the ignorance neatly:

    There are three key questions regarding the Vector IPO: Where are the 249 million shares being allocated? Do they represent reasonable value at $2.38? Is Vector a good investment?

    Ethical business would rephrase the three key questions regarding the IPO as:

  • Are shareholders fully aware of the potential impacts of the transfer of control of the company?
  • How will altered profit flows impact on the communities the company serves?
  • What is the capital value of the company likely to be in the Post Cheap Oil-Gas Age that we are entering?
  • I am not saying Brian is dishonest. I am saying the float is being driven by a combination of greed, ignorance and stressed-out individuals i.e. usual old human bumbling and fumbling. The question is: Can we afford such ignorance? The answer is no as it puts civilisation at severe risk. The answer is no if you subscribe to our future residing in a Knowledge Economy.

    And this begs the question: How was such ignorance generated. The article Rise of an Auckland electricity behemoth is revealing. For start the headline is misleading. Vector is equally a communication company with ripple response systems operating at least 50 years. It is also a Gas distributor and thus it plays a major role in how we use electricity. Its ownership of monitoring/response technology effectively means it controls the majority of New Zealand switchboards. NGC alone owns half of 1.8 million meters. In short: the sum of Vector’s parts is far greater than its role as an “electricity” company.

    The NZ Herald’s ignorance/bigotry is particularly apparent in what it fails to tell us about the history of Vector Ltd. It is correct in stating:

    “The history of Vector can be traced back to the introduction of electricity supply into Auckland homes and businesses at the dawn of the 1900s…..

    The board developed the electricity supply system throughout the Auckland region over 70 years”

    The Herald fails to tell us that councils around New Zealand ended up having to buy their local private electricity companies because they simply were not delivering intelligent, sustainable service. Similarly in the rural areas, farming communities set up their own co-operatives to reticulate electricity because the private sector did not deliver at all.

    The sentence summarising the development over 70 years is an even greater indictment of the Herald’s culture. It fails to give any hint of how that development occurred. It occurred because four generations of families scrimped and saved so their children might have warm homes, safe lighting and could use modern technology. Many of these people were new immigrants with families in Europe. It would have been easy for them to sell up the community assets and “have the trip of a lifetime” or maybe retire a year early. The latter use of the money would have doubled the retirement period labourers would have enjoyed. There were many other things those generations could have invested their community shares in the local “electric light” company money in.

    The fact is our ancestors sacrificed a great deal to develop the local electricity grids for us. Many took great pride in the fact that they were bequeathing on their children, completely freehold, the most intelligent grids in the world. I experienced their clarity of vision and pride – I am very privileged in that some of them expressed it personally to me before they died.

    Each time I came away truly humbled. And I was on occasion profoundly chastened as some even suggested that continuing my career as a meter reader under the Electricity Reforms regime made me a traitor and complicit with a crime.

    The Vector float and transfer of control into the hands of a couple of bankers completes a massive inter-generational betrayal and theft. The price we will pay is needless conflict, poverty and ill health. The Herald ignores and dismisses this great act of sacrifice and love of our ancestors though it does give a glimpse of their vision in this quote:

    At the opening of an Epsom substation in 1917, councillor A. J. Entrican rhapsodised about the promise of the future: "After the war ... electricity ... would be in every house, not only for lighting purposes but to move the household iron across the linen, to turn the mangle and even to rock the cradle."

    The article makes the very interesting observation:

    "Some things never change: just like today, voter apathy marked the inaugural AEPB election, with Bush's history of Auckland reporting a turnout of less than 18 per cent."

    Only 18 per cent of Auckland people eligible to vote in the recent elections were motivated to use their vote. This is little wonder. The general ignorance of our media of the great issues facing us tends to generate cynicism that is not good for democracy or the development of a Knowledge Economy. That low voter turnout at the original election was not an indication that the AEPB structure was unwise. The immense wealth it has generated for Auckland is testimony to that as does the fact the new owners will be given control of an asset worth tens of billions of dollars.

    The observation makes nonsense of the Herald’s commentary in general. For instance read this comment another of the Herald’s article pushing the float Investors will to pay for quality:

    “The response from AECT beneficiaries has been staggering with substantially more applying for shares than voted at the 2003 trustee elections. This is a huge vote of confidence in the AECT and indicates strong support for the partial privatisation of Vector.”

    The 1922 election figures of 18% turnout showed there is little or no relationship between voting figures and the wealth the new structure would create in the community. Similarly there is no reason why the recent 18% election figures bear any relationship to the massive loss of wealth New Zealand is about to experience, particularly Auckland and Wellington. I would argue that chances are that New Zealand would be obscuring issues then as now to serve the short-term interests of its shareholders. The difference is that there were a body of citizens then who knew the horrors of war and were prepared to act for the interests of future generations. Our generation has forgotten their lessons and ignored their insights and so has not produced such a body of enlightened individuals.

    Lest the Herald thinks I am targeting it unfairly, I will point out it is a dominant media form in the Auckland region and other broadsheets and other media are equally unhelpful. I will leave it to the reader to make what they will of this 1 July quote from Stuff

    Energy trust seeks power over Vector
    By MARTA STEEMAN

    Fund managers are questioning a proposal for "secretive consultations" and board-like powers for the Auckland Energy Consumer Trust over power giant Vector.

    Similar ignorance was displayed by this week's Sunday Star Times when its financial ‘guru’ was asked, “NGC: what’s in it for Vector?”

    His reply is summed in this sentence:

    “NGC is likely to be of value to Vector because of the vertical integration opportunities it provides.”

    Nowhere does he hint that the opportunities include the ability to control how you and I design and use our dwellings. It is a little known fact that NGC inherited effective control of half the nation’s “meter boards” and can determine how we interact with the local grid. Government legislation works to reinforce NGC-Vector's monopoly role in our lives. The recent history of privatised ownership of our rail and telecommunication systems illustrates this process. It reveals the clear advantage the incumbent dominant owner enjoys from being able to culture inertia in customers and governments. We end up with inefficient, costly and antiquated systems.

    Last week I promised I would enlighten Trevor Mallard why he was received the Junk Joules Award for services to the Bulk-electricity sector with his speech at the launch of Contact Energy’s service centre in the Hutt. Sorry Trev, I will try to get time to explain next blog. I did say I might announce a Bonus Joules award at the same time. Still thinking about it and it looks like Mighty River Power might get it.

    In the mean time chat up your local MP hopefuls and express your concern about Vector float. And don’t expect to see the Bonus Joules cartoon and blog in your local broadsheet. I did submit it several times to my local broadsheet,the Dominion Post, a couple of years ago. Tim Pankhurst, the editor, wrote back saying they do not have room for it. That’s fair enough. I understand. All those sheets of ads for cars, oil companies, the Stock Market stuff, breakfast cereals, beds, “universities” etc do take up a lot of space.

    “Beds? Breakfast cereals?” you ask, “What’s wrong with advertising them? We need them” Yes, sure we do. Personally when I buy them I ignore the ads and do my own research. The ads are just a private tax to subsidise the PR industry and keep it alive. So when you are chatting your MP about the Vector float and you find the subject of tax comes up, suggest we can remove this 7-10% private sector tax and have more money in our pockets which we can invest in real education. It could save a lot of trees and reduce pollution too. And conserve oil and Bulk-electricity reserves…

    So if you know someone who might find the Bonus Joules website helpful for teaching and developing sustainable images and uses of energy, flick it on. Its part of developing the mechanisms that will enable a Knowledge Economy.

    Oh, and that Orion Dividend report I included in the NZ Herald headlinks? Its only a small report but, dear Wellington and Auckland people, it reveals that the Cantabrians are smart at a lot of things besides being tops at rugby. A lot of their dividends came out of the pockets of very clever Wellington people. And the report gives no inkling of the clever things they do with the dividends. Perhaps we should let the Cantabs run the country?

    ENDS

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