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The electricity crisis - is the Govt the answer?

The electricity crisis - is the Government the answer?

United Future energy spokesman, Gordon Copeland, today raised the possibility that the taxpayer, via the Government, may be the solution to New Zealand's recurring electricity crisis.

"I am strongly in favour of free markets," he said, "however private investors cannot afford to build a reserve electricity generating plant on the off chance that it might be used every two or three years for a couple of months.

"Even that most free market of nations, the United States, has oil reserves to act as a buffer in times of shortage.

"In the USA, the Federal Government has purchased millions of barrels of oil and pumped it into giant underground caves so that they have reserve stocks. They have indicated that they would be prepared to draw on those reserves should oil supplies be cut off as a result of the war in Iraq."

Mr Copeland said "Our nation cannot afford to stumble from one electricity crisis to the next. The economic and social costs are frighteningly high - witness last Sunday's lay-off of 350 staff and contractors at the Carter Holt Harvey plant in Hawkes Bay.

"The Government could follow the US precedent here for electricity - in fact we used to have it with the Marsden B oil-fired power station which has been mothballed for some years.

"However I don't think that bringing Marsden B back on stream is a good answer since making electricity from oil is normally very expensive.

"A better option might be a reserve hydro scheme on the West Coast of the South Island, where the water supply is constant, or a plant using indigenous coal.

"Hence, as in the USA oil example, Government intervention is probably the commonsense answer," concluded Mr Copeland

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