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David Haywood: The Opposite of Cold Showers

The Opposite of Cold Showers

Sep 15, 2005 09:10
PUBLIC ADDRESS GUEST: David Haywood on Energy policies

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Being an energy engineer has given me some insight into the complaints of my ex-girlfriend. "I just don't understand you," I find myself saying. "You never listen." Such is the unhappy relationship between the energy engineer and the energy-consuming public. The energy engineer provides the lifeblood that keeps civilization alive - but does civilization listen to a word we say? Does civilization return our phone calls? Does civilization even care? Well, not until civilization gets into a shower and finds there's no hot water. Or until it suddenly costs $150 to fill up the petrol tank in civilization's SUV.

It's hard to over-exaggerate the importance of energy to New Zealand and to the world in general. Consider your options without an energy supply. No heating, no lighting, no transport, no communications, no medicine, and no Edmund Cake albums. In a word: Palaeolithic. You couldn't even cook the rat you killed with a rock, since the use of fire is - by definition - just a very basic form of energy engineering. And, of course it doesn't take a total absence of energy to cause havoc in our society. Even a comparatively minor energy shortage could plunge the New Zealand (and world's) economy into freefall, as we discovered during the 1970s' oil shocks. In fact, if you think about it, a cheap and plentiful supply of energy is perhaps the key ingredient to civilization as we know it [1] -,

So why, given the importance of energy to our society, is energy not more prominent on the political stage during an election? And anyway, what is a sensible energy strategy for a country like New Zealand? The political parties have all released energy policies, but do they propose practical solutions for our current and future energy needs, or are they just talking pseudo-science? Or even, in that most hackneyed of phrases, political correctness?

Russell Brown thought that a change from the head-banging tax cut debate would be a fine thing. So here I am - an energy engineer on Public Address. And as an energy engineer I'd naturally like to see some political debate on energy policy. A good place to start might be to ask the question: "how would an energy engineer assess the energy policies on offer?" So I've undertaken a detailed examination of the energy policies of the main political parties, and have awarded them all an 'energy star' rating.


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