Southerly by David Haywood

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Southerly: A Tale of Two Iceblocks: Part 1 (Or How Analysis of Greenhouse Gas Emissions in New Zealand Can Cause Us To Do the Wrong Thing)

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  • Moz, in reply to David Haywood,

    Ultimately a system of international GHG traceability on goods and services would solve numerous problems. This would work in a similar manner to the

    ... contamination tracking that dairy already use. We already have a system that allows annoyed customers or their next of kin to find out exactly where that block of cheese came from, down to the farm(s) involved, so those responsible can pull the rest of that run of cheese before too many people are affected. Or so goes the theory.

    The problem is "It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!" at a whole range of levels. As you point out, the incentives to cheat exist at every level and the benefits accrue to society at large. Alternatively, a lot of people are standing round saying "I would rather die"... than be the first to make a sacrifice for the greater good. Unfortunately we lack the services of a Cohen the Barbarian (via Pratchett) to help those people realise that particular ambition.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to ,

    abstinence has got to be fun to be sustainable

    This is something I struggle to understand. To me, living in a warm, comfortable house is a good thing, and it's something I'd be willing to pay for. The idea that I can have a warm, comfy house that's cheaper is mind-blowing. I am, above all else, a tight-arse (also literally, as I also cycle everywhere). But instead I see people everywhere paying a premium to make their houses less comfortable and more expensive to operate. It's weird.

    Much the same applies to a whole range of stuff. Our neighbours mostly mow their lawns. With two stroke mowers. We use a silly little electric mower that you just put the battery in and it goes, because most of our formerly-lawn is growing veges. Or fruit trees. Instead of spending time trying to start the mower, I spend it harvesting the survivors of whatever random stuff I planted. I'm a darwinian gardener... I plant whatever seeds are cheap, and a lot of it dies. What grows, I eat most of and let the rest go to seed. I like wandering round the garden eating stuff. I mean "gathering stuff to take inside and make dinner with". Ooops.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • linger,

    On the bike helmet law – even if no statistically proven effect on adult safety, there are subtler effects to consider, e.g. are children more or less likely to wear helmets if adults have to too? vs. other behavioural factors like the tendency for riders wearing helmets to feel safer, so be a little more careless, than riders not wearing helmets (which tends to minimise any actual safety benefits to adults).

    I may be slightly biassed, as I’ve personally walked away from a few cycle vs. car [and subsequent tarmac vs. head] crashes, partly thanks to wearing a helmet. (I say walked away, because the bike was munted.)

    Tokyo • Since Apr 2007 • 1942 posts Report Reply

  • Moz,

    My version of fun normally involves building stuff, ideally building stuff to solve a practical problem. Put me in the workshop, ask me to make something, I'm happy. Sustainability in the workshop generally means having someone who's covering the costs and more importantly, taking away whatever I make. Otherwise it just piles up until I can't get into the workshop any more.

    Speaking of fun, can we talk about cars?

    One relevant example is the 10-odd years I spent "saving up to buy a car" before deciding that I didn't really need a car, which was good since I couldn't imagine ever having so much money that I could justify wasting some on a car. Cars cost a fortune to run, regardless of how much they cost to buy (did you know you can often get more than one utterly awesome bicycle for the price a of a car?) Then you have to park them, and clean them, and worry about which bits are about to break, and how you're going to get from A to B in them, and where to buy fuel for them and geez, just get on your bike and point it in the general direction you want to go, already. For me travelling means: get my stuff, get on my bike, go. Not wait for people, wait for the scheduled service, wait for peak hour to end... just "I'm ready, go". That's not "make sustainability fun" that's "OMG, how do you stand all the crap that goes with anti-sustainability (FFS I would be there by now if you'd let me ride my bike) and please for the love of god stop faffing about and get in the car".

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to linger,

    I may be slightly biased, as I’ve personally walked away from a few cycle vs. car [and subsequent tarmac vs. head] crashes, partly thanks to wearing a helmet.

    Helmets are another population issue, not a personal one. It is almost certainly true that if you are someone who will ride regardless, the helmet makes you safer. Cycle planners have the "four types of cyclists" and it's the 50% in the middle who are "interested but concerned" that matter for the helmet debate. If half the crashes involving the the 10% who already ride can be mitigated by helmets that's kinda nice... but if it comes at the cost of another 10% of the total not riding at all, that's a net loss. Unfortunately the evidence is that mandatory helmet laws have exactly that effect. The overall result is that more people die or suffer injury/disability by being fat and unfit than are saved by not getting head injuries. But that benefit happens at a population level, while some of the benefits of a helmet happen at a personal level (the others happen at the idiotic "fewer cyclists in my way, more money for roads" level that only people who perhaps would have benefited from wearing a helmet can understand).

    Amusingly, more brain injuries could be prevented by "shower helmets" or pedestrian helmets in general, than by bicycle helmets. Buy a non-slip shower mat, it'll do you more good than a bike helmet.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Mike O'Connell, in reply to Lilith __,

    then load them on a ship and send them for vast distances across the ocean to India and China. How is that even viable?!

    Lilith, it isn't! As David has outlined with the iceblocks, the emission counting system will count those burnt coal emissions in the GHG profiles China, India etc.So we're off the hook. Though as you say, they are in the same atmosphere and over time will (largely) mix evenly. A more highly vegetated and forested northern hemisphere does soak up some of the emissions but can't keep pace - the Keeling curve keeps climbing!

    Also, the West Coast coal being exported - anthracite - is at the high end of the range of coals in terms of its calorific value – burns v hot and ideal for steel making - especially in countries which are rapidly developing. I Japan has bought a lot of our high-grade too over the years but stockpiles it in its harbours for ‘rainy days’. Japan of course being increasingly dependent on energy imports with its nuclear system way down in its operating capacity post-Fukushima.

    The very same coal, you'd think could be used here but our coal-fired power stations, actually (power station singular now – Huntly – though we used Meremere until 1991), were designed that they could burn only middle or lower coal grades, pretty much of what's located in the Waikato.

    In recent times, I understand Genesis Energy was importing dirty Indonesian-sourced coal, as much as a third, to make up the deficit in local stocks. Our GHG emissions profile would have taken a hit in those years if they were accounted for accurately – and our % of renewable electricity would have dropped down into the 65-70 % range.

    For the technically minded, the 3rd Edition of the New Zealand Energy Handbook is a good resource describing our country’s energy resources

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 385 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood,

    I’m struggling not to engage with the helmet discussion, but I might just point out that the whole issue of safety is fraught with surprises and counter-intuitive results. You can make an intersection safer by reducing visibility; workers can have accidents because they’re wearing safety vests (and therefore think that vehicles see them when they don’t).

    Does forcing everyone to wear a helmet send a message to non-cyclists (including children) that is cycling is abnormal & dangerous and therefore discourages them from doing it? If helmets reduce cyclist numbers (as seems very possible) does that reduce the safety-in-numbers effect for the remaining cyclists and therefore make them more likely to suffer an accident?

    Cycling has enormous health & environmental benefits. We don’t explicitly see these benefits in a way that allows us to mentally link them with cycling; but we do see cause & effect in traffic accidents in a very dramatic manner. No one ever sees a diabetic and blames the helmet laws.

    To drag the discussion back to GHG emissions, I don’t think that governments should force people to do stuff unless they’re pretty sure it will produce the intended result. If the government has no idea of the health effects then let people choose whether or not to wear a helmet. If the government hasn’t thought through whether or not a carbon tax will actually reduce global GHG emissions then don’t impose it on the country.

    EDIT: Help -- in the last paragraph here I'm starting to sound like my anarchist Glaswegian grandfather! Stop me when I start suggesting a bicameral legislature in New Zealand (one house that requires a two-thirds majority to propose laws, and another house that requires a one-third majority to strike them down).

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Mike O'Connell,

    For the technically minded, the 3rd Edition of the New Zealand Energy Handbook is a good resource describing our country’s energy resources

    Cheers, Mike -- I should have thought to mention that myself...

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Moz,

    “shower helmets”

    lol

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen,

    Two phrases I find myself saying more and more often are

    unintended consequences
    and
    confirmation bias
    and
    unconscious biases
    and
    mathematically challenged

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Ian Dalziel,

    Christchurch • Since Dec 2006 • 7950 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to Bart Janssen,

    Two phrases I find myself saying more and more often are {1} and {2} and {3} and {4: mathematically challenged}

    QED?

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to David Haywood,

    in the last paragraph here I’m starting to sound like my anarchist Glaswegian grandfather!

    It's OK, we'll notice if you start calling for the imprisonment of all dry-cleaners.

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Barker, in reply to David Haywood,

    In response to the question asked by Steven Crawford, above - the analysis of the net benefit (or otherwise) of solar power (photovoltaics) in NZ has been done – in it’s current form solar has little or negative GHG benefit in NZ if a lifecycle analysis is done (published by Luke Schwartfeger and Allan Miller, EEA Conference & Exhibition 2015, 24 – 26 June, Wellington, available here. The long and the short of it is that geothermal (300 MW consented currently) and wind (more than 1 GW consented) are both around 10x better (3-5 g CO2/KWh) as far as GHG emissions than solar (~ 50 g CO2/KWh, taking into account the carbon in a lifecycle analysis). Unless we can crack the storage problem (electric vehicle fleet which is connected to the grid during the day and drawn down at night??) solar is essentially pointless from a GHG perspective in NZ. This will likely only change in NZ moves to a fully electric fleet which requires consistent delivery of energy on a daily basis which only solar can relatively reliably provide (along with geothermal).

    Since Jul 2016 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Shaun Barker,

    analysis of the net benefit (or otherwise) of solar power (photovoltaics) in NZ has been done

    How does that compare with solar thermal? I'm guessing the storage problem is the same, but are the manufacturing issues any better?

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Lilith __,

    How does that compare with solar thermal? I’m guessing the storage problem is the same, but are the manufacturing issues any better?

    With solar thermal the energy is stored as hot water in your tank -- it's a whole different kettle of fish (a much better kettle) from an energy engineering perspective, and I would have thought (though I may be proven wrong) from a GHG perspective.

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Shaun Barker,

    In response to the question asked by Steven Crawford, above – the analysis of the net benefit (or otherwise) of solar power (photovoltaics) in NZ has been done – in it’s current form solar has little or negative GHG benefit in NZ if a lifecycle analysis is done (published by Luke Schwartfeger and Allan Miller, EEA Conference & Exhibition 2015, 24 – 26 June, Wellington, available here.

    Thanks for posting that link, Shaun! Photovoltaics (grid-connected) don’t make much sense from an energy engineering perspective in New Zealand either (from the viewpoint of the whole country). I hadn’t seen that paper and must say I’m surprised that the difference is quite that much in terms of GHGs. I shall read it with interest.

    EDIT: Steven Crawford’s quite right then – the electricity companies should be making a huge deal of this…

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Bart Janssen, in reply to Shaun Barker,

    Yeah it is pretty clear that NZ the best thing to do would be switch the bulk of our transport to electricity since that would convert gasoline use into (renewable) electricity use. Bearing in mind the energy costs of building new cars.

    But there are two things about solar electricity generation that make it slightly better - the first is the value of generating power close to the site of use, that acts to make the network more robust and reduces losses in the distribution network. Not a huge plus but still a plus.

    The second is that by adopting an new, but not yet perfect technology, you drive the improvement cycle and there is still a lot of room for improvement in solar electricity generation.

    That said NZ sucks for solar power, it's not hot enough for A/C to be relevant in summer and it is just too cloudy for really good energy production.

    Auckland • Since Nov 2006 • 4460 posts Report Reply

  • Moz, in reply to David Haywood,

    Photovoltaics (grid-connected) don’t make much sense from an energy engineering perspective in New Zealand either

    Well no, when your existing electricity supply is largely renewable the maximum possible GHG savings are negligible. I feared for a second it was another of the misleading calculations that we see so many of on sustainability.stackexchange, but nope. In Australia, on the other hand, PV very directly displaces brown coal (or carboniferous earth to give it the proper name... 40% or more of the "coal" remains after burning) and it's hard to get a bigger win than that.

    One thing that local generation does is increase resilience. Or it should.

    IMO every single inverter should capable of islanding (operating when the grid is down), and have a large, mechanical switch on the front indicating whether it is or not. Ditto the install. Our system already has labels to encourage emergency services to turn it off before getting involved, and the extra step is from "this might be live so you should treat it as though it is" to "this is slightly more likely to be live, so you should treat it as though it is".

    At least with passive hot water systems they will work as long as there is sunlight and water. If you have a pumped setup, though, it needs power. See above "capable of grid-independent operation" step. I am in the process of designing a sleepout that will have a solar-powered UPS which is an off-grid setup in all but name. Mostly because it's not much more expensive than getting power to the sleepout. Hopefully my free, ex-demolition coolstore panels will arrive in October and I'll be able to start construction.

    Sydney, West Island • Since Nov 2006 • 1233 posts Report Reply

  • Shaun Barker, in reply to ,

    In the question you asked above about concentrated solar power (solar thermal). This data was compiled by Vidal et al (Nature Geoscience, 2013, attempted link here to their supplementary data. In terms of resource consumption, CSP isn't too bad (PV is one of the worst) - not sure how effective it would be in NZ except for a few special areas in summer. The move to the electric fleet is the critical one - there are currently over 3,000,000 registered cars and 600,000 trucks on NZ's roads. Just short of 4,000,000 all up. If we replaced these with electric vehicles in an average battery capacity of 50 KWh, this would be around 200,000 MWh of storage capacity. If this could be charged up during the day via PV, and drawn down during the night time, this would be displace all of our thermal generation. Of course, that would also require us having significant new generation to charge up during the day, and would require the whole country not being covered with cloud for a week or two during winter......interesting times, and requires long term planning to really pull this off.

    Since Jul 2016 • 2 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to Shaun Barker,

    In terms of resource consumption, CSP isn’t too bad (PV is one of the worst) – not sure how effective it would be in NZ except for a few special areas in summer.

    Could it ever be feasible for each house to have a thermal-solar system on the roof to heat the hot water?

    (thanks for the link)

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • David Haywood, in reply to Lilith __,

    Could it ever be feasible for each house to have a thermal-solar system on the roof to heat the hot water?

    Sorry Lilith – hasn’t realized you were asking about CSP (my earlier answer referred to solar thermal for hot water production)…

    Dunsandel • Since Nov 2006 • 1156 posts Report Reply

  • Lilith __, in reply to David Haywood,

    solar thermal for hot water production

    I remember having some quite acceptable washes under one of those "solar shower" things you can take camping. (essentially a black plastic bladder you fill with water and lay in a sunny spot). Admittedly, that was summer, and one has lower standards when camping, but...

    Dunedin • Since Jul 2010 • 3894 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to David Haywood,

    Also, you could maybe make near zero-energy iceblocks in winter in somewhere like northern Manchuria (or indeed the Mackenzie basin) by pumping input water from the zero degree layers of a semi-frozen reservoir?

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

  • Rich of Observationz, in reply to David Haywood,

    Total digression, but something just occurred to me about HFO-1234yf.

    When CCl4 was widely used in the home, a noted hazard was that if you smoked whilst using it (the sixties were the sort of time when you could work with one carcinogen whilst deliberately inhaling another), it would be oxidised to phosgene (carbonyl chloride), which isn’t good for you.

    If an aircon filled with CH2=CFCF3 leaks and somebody is smoking in the car, it’ll get oxidised to COF2 which is similarly bad for you. I guess it’ll remove people who smoke in old cars with leaky aircon from the gene pool.

    Back in Wellington • Since Nov 2006 • 5550 posts Report Reply

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