Monday, September 17, 2007

The Greens really do hate poor people

From Radio NZ:

The Green Party says the Government should help people to use less energy, not give them money to pay their power bills, as part of a new carbon trading scheme.

Greens co-leader Jeanette Fitzsimons says if the compensation simply helps people pay their power bills, it will do nothing to reduce energy use.

Ms Fitzsimons says New Zealand homes are appallingly cold, damp and uninsulated - and that is where the compensation should be focused.

She says the amount that electricity prices go up by under the trading scheme will depend on the price that is put on carbon emissions.
Poor people, generally rent rather than own their own homes. While offering subsidies to make houses more energy efficient could work for people who own their own house, it is not a solution for people who rent. Unless the government ensured blanket coverage of a particular area, subsidising insulation and heat pump installation would lead to rent increases, and drive the poorest people who out of the newly warm houses.*

The underlying assumption for the Greens is that the problem with carbon is an individual problem, and if each person just made some changes we could make a difference. My electricity bill was unaffordable so I regularly turn my hot water heater off for days at a time. I can generally make this work by using the hot water left in the tank carefully, and showering when I go for a swim. I have a small radiator heater, and don't use it very often. There isn't much give left in my electricity bill. Poor people have generally cut back the parts of the electricity bill they control, often beyond what is creates a healthy environment. I don't think it's our behaviour that has to change - it's the environment.

I'm all for the government regulating the housing market, stating that a a landlord must lag the hot water tank, for example. But penalising renters with a higher electricity bill, when they have no ability to improve the housing stock, is ridiculous.

What is even more disgusting, is in the nine to noon, Jenette Fitzsimons appeared to be defending delaying applying the scheme to sheep farmers, saying they could ill afford it. They can afford it far more than a family on a benefit, or minimum wage, can afford electricity increases.

* Currently I think the government requires no rent increase for a year after subsidised improvements, I think that is woefully inadequate, and just delays the effect.


  1. Anonymous12:00 pm

    Industries use so much more power than individual households. If anyone wants to save electricity, they should go after businesses like grocery stores, who refrigerate more than they need to, and all stores who have a large amount of lighting on their products. I've never been to New Zealand, but in Canada most grocery stores have open freezers, which is one of the biggest wastes of energy around. Targeting individuals instead of businesses is a sign that the Green party isn't really serious about saving electricity.

  2. Maia,

    You do know that if you turn you hot water cylinder off, use the water, and then turn it back on again, you are actually using more power? It is far more efficient to leave on all the time, trying to maintain a constant temperature.

  3. Yeah, sometimes The Greens get the wrong end of the stick - pushing responsiblity onto the powerless because if they push it the other way the powerful push back... you might have noticed the farmers doing that recently.

    Anyway, water, I think that as long as you leave it off long enough for it to completely cool down you do save power. Best bet IMO would be to use the hot water until it goes cold, then leave it off as long as you can. Sucks to live that way, but it does save money.

    I (still) rent, and have done a few things to make the rented places work better. If you have access to reusable materials ( for me) DIY insulation of houses is possible, but the easiest thing is often the hot water tank (and any accessible pipes - they can reduce lost hot water when you turn a tap on by keeping more hot water in the pipe).

    It's also worth making sure there's no air gaps around windows and so on, mostly that just means buying a roll of packing tape and wandering round sealing up gaps with it. This can make a dramatic difference to how comfy the house is. Likewise, hanging blankets over the curtains and making sure the curtains don't have gaps around them. If you don't care too much how it looks you can do that bit really cheaply.

    Sorry if this is teaching you to suck eggs.

  4. Anonymous6:45 pm

    carebear - things like energy are not costing more because there is some tax on people using it - it is because there is a tax that the industry will be passing on.
    Businesses are slippery that way - the good news is that consumers are also slippery - eg a tax on holden car owners would indeed hurt holden despite not applying to them directly.

    But the bottom line is that at the end of the production chain is a consumer using somthing. Whether that is a house being built or a light being on or some food on the shelf, Fundimentally the government needs to discourage some of those behaviours in reation to their carbon footprint and consumers have to feel that in order to make those choices (unless they want the choices made for them by the party which asside from the reducton in choice coud have a similar result).


    Im a bit concerned that a lot of people who really dont care at all about the environment enter debates arguing about how the weighting should be distributed. It disguises one sort of argument as another and thus undermines the debate.

    If you arent willing to make any sort of sacrifice to your own interest group you dont care ( - in the same way that maia could be right about the greens hating the poor if they were to fail to suggest any sort of compensation to the poor) ............and if you dont care just be honest and say it.


  5. Anonymous8:36 pm

    Income tested beneficiaries (with some exceptions)are parasites, they consume more than they produce. I hope they all freeze.

  6. Anonymous1:04 pm

    Actually Big business are power parasites. They use most of the power and get much cheaper rates than the lady who died after her power was turned off. She was subsidising them. Paying a much greater price per unit.

    As for solo parents being parasites ( I have never been a solo parent or a parent ) They are the only beneficiaries doing any work for their benefits. The average mum with one or two kids does 50 hour housework per week and provides state mandated 24 hour care for children under 14 years of age.

    Yes leave your children alone in the house to go to work and you will be jailed. Your ex hubby will have nothing happen to him.
    I heard the Nats raving about beneficiary debt today and wonder how many mums are in debt because their ex's don't pay their miniscule maintainence.

  7. Maia, I'm sick of this. The Greens do not hate poor people (the Greens are more than bloody Sue Kedgely, thankfully)

    Everytime the Greens propose a policy like this, there are measures to shield those in poverty from it's effects. Rebates, tax reductions, tax shifting, subsidies - these are all things that are tied into Green Party policies to shift consumption away from environmental bads. Things like government funding for insulation, which is in such horrifically short supply in New Zealand, and which the Greens have been vocal about for the last 8 years, would dramatically improve the living situations of the poor in New Zealand, and have significant effects on health. Things like hot water heater insulation and efficient appliances would dramatically reduce power bills...

    But it's probably easier just look at the Greens, and repeat over and over that they hate the poor.

  8. George - Defend what the Greens did in this particular case. They specifically opposed helping people with higher electricity bills directly. While tax rebates and so on might be in their total policy, they are responsible for the bits they pick and choose. Upgrading the housing stock and subsidising energy efficiency will not solve the hardship of higher electricity prices for people who rent (I guess unless you can achieve a complete roll out to all households prior to the carbon trading scheme come in).