Increasing petrol prices have unsurprisingly remained a hot topic of conversation. Brian Fallow wrote an excellent piece on the subject last week.

So why not give drivers a break?

Because fuel prices are too low, not too high.

This week we also received the latest, sobering report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), spelling out the adverse impacts we can expect from even another half a degree of global warming beyond the 1C we have generated already.

In terms of the ferocity of storms, the severity of droughts and floods, wildfires and relentless sea level rise, we ain’t seen nothing yet.

And on our current trajectory we will zoom past 1.5C and the Paris Agreement’s goal of 2C to something like 3C.

The IPCC’s predictions are based on careful appraisal of more than 6000 pieces of peer-reviewed research. Quality control on its report was provided by more than 1000 expert reviewers. They are not making this stuff up.

In light of that, even if the Government were minded to cut taxes — and Finance Minister Grant Robertson was the very picture of fiscal caution on Tuesday — fuel taxes are the last ones they should choose.

Consumers of petrol and diesel, and other fossil fuels, need to get used to the idea that the price of these things will have to keep on rising to the point where we no longer consume any.

The only question is how long it takes for commerce and government between them to deliver the alternatives we need for that to be feasible, and how much planetary damage is inflicted in the meantime.

It seems people have already started looking at alternatives, with the Dominion Post reporting:

If you’re searching for an electric vehicle (EV), bike, or a scooter to outrun rising fuel prices, you’re not alone.

Trade Me has marked a staggering 252 per cent jump in users scouring the online auction site for electric vehicles compared to last year, while electric bike searches have also jumped 40 per cent over the past seven days.

It will be fascinating to see if and how this change flows through to vehicle sales, both in the quantum of them and in what people are buying. You can still see some of the impact in the types of cars we buy from the last time we saw petrol prices sustained at over $2 a litre – from about early-2011 to late-2014. The Ministry of Transport’s vehicle fleet stats includes information about engine sizes of vehicles going back to 2000. It shows that the average engine size on petrol cars has decreased since mid-2012, not by a lot but prior to that there had been a steady increase. There’s also some interesting differences and trends between new and used cars.

While still small, the number of electric vehicles and plug in hybrids being registered continues to grow and now makes up about 2% of new light vehicle registrations. The MoT say that in September the total EV fleet passed 10k, but that needs to be put in the context of a total vehicle fleet of over 4.15 million.

As I mentioned in the last post, in Auckland at least, the alternatives have improved considerably, even since that 2011-14 period. On the PT side we’ve seen the rollout of electric trains, the introduction of integrated fares and new, much more useful bus network. We’ve also seen significant improvements for cycling although there are still many gaps that may be off-putting for less confident riders. The biggest challenge is often just to get people to try doing something differently and rising fuel prices might just be the trigger point some people need to give something different a go.

While it’s not fuel price related, a good example of someone giving PT a go and finding it’s actually a lot better than expected is none other than the Herald’s John Roughan. For many years he’s written numerous disparaging opinion pieces about public transport, especially rail. There is still a little bit of that in his most recent piece, but for the most part it’s very positive.

They called my brain failure a transient attack that left no damage but should be treated as a stroke warning. So on medical advice I haven’t driven a car for a couple of weeks and consequently I’m now better acquainted with Auckland’s bus service.

It’s good. Quite startlingly good.

The newly redesigned North Shore routes, for which Auckland Transport took some flack on their first day, have worked a treat for me. The trip from front door to office desk hasn’t taken more than 45 minutes, often less, and that included 10-15 minutes of walking and waiting. The total time is not much more than it normally takes by car.

Of course it has been school holidays and the traffic was light. It could be a different story next week when the bus will be stuck in right-turning traffic that I can avoid with a rat-run in the car. But the real revelation to me has been the transfers to and from the Northern Busway.

The need to catch two buses on each trip is not the deterrent I’d always supposed. At the busway station I hardly had to break stride. As you walk onto the platform one bus is leaving and another is coming in.

We can’t afford too, nor want people to have to suffer medical events to get them to try PT. Auckland Transport need to start marketing the PT network much better than they’ve done it in the past. They need to be thinking about how they can get people to give PT a try. Their current, or most recent marketing campaign is so bland and non-descript I struggle to even remember what it’s called, let alone any details about it. They need to be bolder, such as this 2008 advertising campaign by the Los Angeles County Metropolitan Transportation Authority.

They also need to think outside the box a bit, for example, now that all of the new bus network has rolled out, why not give every Aucklander a free day on trains and buses – not all on the same day though, the system wouldn’t cope. Basically “give it a go, it’s better than you might think”.

They’ve successfully managed to get most of their own staff out of cars, now they just need to replicate that across Auckland.

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101 comments

  1. I have decided that the next car I’ll buy, that is…IF I ever buy one…Will be a pure electric. Especially after hearing the shit that is going on in Saudi Arabia.

  2. The complexities of how people change their behaviours is shown on a post I saw this morning on an EV users site which included the comment “I get ownership of my leaf tomorrow, so will be dropping the public transport at $15 a day, and driving into work again, becoming one of those nasty road clogging commuters”.

    1. That example makes a very good case for road pricing.

      Additionally it would be interesting to get data on this, however I think we can fairly confidently assume that most new EV users will be previous ICE drivers, simply because of our very high driving mode share.

      1. Yes, though both are growing at once. Also, people switching from PT to bike are making room for new PT users at lower societal cost.

    2. So is that not purely a financial decision as the electric car fuel costs are likely several hundred percent lower than the PT fare.
      Also if you are a bus commuter then there would also appear to be a lot of sense in swapping from a diesel engined bus to an electric car.
      I have this same decision to make quite soon when electric suv arrives before end of year then thats the end of bus PT for me.
      OTOH it would be different if rail to Kumeu was possible, even if it was a DMU shuttle to Swanson or preferably a BEMU.
      As it is NW LRT seems likely 20 years or more away.

      1. Some people are happy to contribute to their city. They donate bench seats. Revegetate streams. Assist the local school’s reading recovery. Help refugees.

        If public transport ends up being more expensive for you, you could just see it as a way to contribute to your city. You’d be supporting a sustainable transport network, reducing congestion and danger for children.

        It’s an option for you, anyway, one that’ll have you able to look in your grandchildren’s eyes and say, “Well, some of us tried…”

        1. Contributing to city happens in many ways above justpaying rates.
          CS voluntary work is my contribution.
          I see using electric SUV as making a major stand for the environment. Even more as I plan to be self sufficient with electricity and be off grid. No petrol, no diesel, no gas, no lpg and not using grid power where there is still the possibility of fossil fuel generated electric in NZ.
          Maybe that will change when Tiwai point smelter closes.
          Just have to green fingers and grow more veg now that my organic hot radish crop is a fire breather.

          1. That’s a great line-up. Our solar has been mucked up since the company did a software upgrade a few months ago – the battery hasn’t worked since, getting worse and worse, and totally killing my tech son’s enthusiasm for solar 🙁 The invertor needs to be replaced now, after they tried replacing the battery. Grrr…. so much for getting good data to report back.

            Any community garden near you? Great plant material and know-how to be gained there. We’re having home globe artichokes tonight, with caramelised beetroot, mixed herb omelettes, relish, olives and pear cider. All home grown / raised / made. True hedonistic bliss. (So much for sacrifice, miffy).

            What CS volunteer work do you do? (If you don’t mind my asking?)

          2. Sorry to hear your solar energy power experience is not positive.
            I’d suggest getting a manager on phone if your account rep is useless. I assume you have grid tied system?
            Thinking about vkt reduction plus traffic evaporation, its unlikely to improve if light vehicles become electric. Sadly I also think PT patronage will reduce unless PT fares reduce significantly or severe taxes such as RUCs, congestion taxes or some other revenue extraction scheme is invented to hit motorists.
            I just hope I get a few years with my EV before the govt gets organised to tax me into PT.
            I do volunteer driving taking C patients from home to ACH for treatment then home again, several times a month. The CS is always looking for volunteers, please contact them, anyone who can help. It really is a feel good job

          3. Good on you, Bogle. That’s great volunteer work. I won’t be offering with that, though; driving’s something I avoid. When a few community projects I’m involved in have finished, I’m thinking of offering to help refugees and immigrants learn English – I thought that might be something I’d enjoy.

            We have a system that allows us to be grid tied or not. We wanted resiliency for when the grid is down, but be able to contribute to the country’s power needs too. It seemed to be a bit experimental; they didn’t explain the limits on peak load initially, which means we’ve had to bring forward installing a hot water heat pump to lower that load, and bought a lower wattage kettle. Once we have a shedder installed I think we’ll be right with all that. The invertor problem was just bad luck, I think – none of the other systems the company has been installing have had the same problem. Our company isn’t fixing it fast enough, but they are working on it, and since they’re learning quite a bit in the process, I think it’ll be great for them in the end. Nice guys.

        1. Under construction in three years for airport LRT and ten years for NW LRT. That is 2018 to 2028.
          So airport LRT should be under construction by 2020/21
          Lets hope these timescales are realistic. I suppose there is some progress as NZTA appear to be at the junket stage, sending staff to get advise from overseas organisations experienced in facilitating light rail systems.
          Yay!

  3. Would incentives from AT to businesses like providing package deals of subsidised Hop cards to give to employees to encourage use of PT, work?

    The trouble is not all of Auckland is set up well. West Auckland needs to direct buses to more train station hubs rather than duplicate trips because West really lacks the bus lane infrastructure to make using buses over any distance attractive.

    As for electric vehicles, already largely unaffordable and yet that won’t stop the importers cashing in and ratcheting up the prices, therefore I do not see them as our saviour. For most of us, in reality, small internal combustion engined small cars for a far cheaper purchase price is the way forward for now!

    1. Yes but we can’t wait until the PT Network is perfect before marketing its use. We are around 15 years into a 30+ year total transformation of PT in AKL. I say now, with the roll-out of the first version of the New Network, is an ideal time time to start confidently marketing its PT services. At last.

      Running a PT system, especially in a growing city, requires a culture of constant improvement, and that means there will never be the perfect time to promote services. But it also requires pride and confidence in the services as they are, and to be communicating that confidently…

    2. $13,000 for a < 30,000 km fully electric Leaf is not too high a purchase price, I'd say. Especially considering an under $10,000 petrol car will probably require a good few thousand dollars in maintenance over the first few years, not to mention the fuel prices. We save around $3,000 a year in just petrol from using our EV. Doesn't take long to pay off the difference.

      1. Series 1 Leafs in the less than 15k bracket have their issues and would be best avoided. Resale is paramount unless you are rolling in it. The far better Series 2 and above are hovering around late teens to 30k plus price bracket.

        Yet there are a lot of smaller very practical petrol powered cars that are very economical that can be bought for well less than $7000 with low
        mileage that are good Japanese low maintenance cars. Purchased a few myself.

          1. The Series 1 is a 24kw model, the battery/s degrade owing to lack of temprature control, more or less rectified in the post 2012 models. Even then Nissan have given up development on batteries and are outsourcing.

            Batteries are everything to an EV and worth more than the car at that level.

            Try selling one, honestly that is, when you know the batteries are on the way out.

          2. Based on data available my 24kwh battery should last at least 6-8 years from this point (for my 2nd hand model), which would be a savings of $18,000 – $24,000 on petrol alone, so… more than the price of the car. I think I’m happy with my decision 🙂

          3. 24k over 8 years is $3000. That’s a lot of petrol.

            I was reviewing some of the numbers earlier today. This site is interesting:
            https://www.eecabusiness.govt.nz/tools/vehicle-total-cost-of-ownership-tool/#

            And the comments here: https://www.geekzone.co.nz/forums.asp?forumid=162&topicid=191715&page_no=32.

            From my quick read, it seems to me that EVs are most efficient at short city distances. However, this is the distances that eBikes are also best at.

            At medium distance. I’m not sure. Need to study more. For example:

            Stated range for a 24 kWh Leaf is 135 km. But for an older battery and lower SOH, let’s say 100 km. So let’s say 4 km per kWh.

            I just drove to Whitianga and back in a hybrid – it was 5L per 100 km.

            So for the 500 km trip it would be 125 kWh (power) vs 25L (petrol). Or roughly $45 (at 25c per KWh + 25c/min) vs $60 (at 2.5/L).

            Charging priced is based on https://charge.net.nz/faq/cost/ and total of 60min charging.

          4. Chargenet charging 25c per kwh then 25c per minute charge time. You can see where this will be heading towards the current price of petrol especially if taxes and levies get added.
            Not sure how the govt could regulate home charging from a house grid connection but no doubt they will find a way.
            If electric vehicles become commonplace then NZ may not have sufficient generation capacity = higher prices.
            Then some smart kids will get a solar panel controller and charger sorted out to get free car charging.
            Although will NZ mimic Spain and come up with a sunlight tax.
            Interesting electric times ahead.

          5. Check out the Baillie House in Mt Eden. https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?fbid=2191294287847333&set=a.1388306831479420&type=3&theater

            People are certainly charging their Leaf’s off grid.

            Charge net is if you go long distance. From what I can I calculated today, the cost saving isn’t as great. Basically save $15 for 60 min of time. This is assuming zero cost from carbon.

            If carbon was $1/kg. Then the extra petrol cost for 25L would be about 55 kgs of carbon or $55.

            However, for short distances with more time in the EV sweet spot. The amount of power used is much less. But the contrast is that eBikes are even better for the environment at this distance. Plus they don’t use as much battery.

            Basically everyone with a fixed commute under 10km should switch to eBikes.

            Further note to the above – this summer it’s likely we will be importing coal for power. The hydro lake levels are too low. El Nino, so maybe not much rain.

            Importing coal…. Crazy town.

          6. The geekzone forum posts have some real world data.
            16.2kWh + 20.4kWh + 19.7kWh = 56.3 kWh for
            108km + 127km + 127km = 362 km.

            Total cost $35.90 + 57 min charging.

            So 6.4 km per kWh and 64c per kWh.

            I’ve dropped the last section, as he didn’t post the kWh number.

            Equalivent for a Hybrid (5L/100km) would be 18.1L. This was Dec/16. Lets say $2.2/L – outside Auckland, although Tuaranga has cheaper petrol as well – so ~$40 for petrol.

            Same fuel cost. Ignoring carbon.

            Note the cost of the cars is about the same. Both 2016 Corolla Hybrid and Leaf are about 25k.

            So same CAPEX.

            The Leaf has a battery that probably needs to be replaced/reconditioned at 8 years.
            In contrast the maintain cost of the Corolla is higher.

            Maybe similar OPEX over lifetime of the vehicle.

            According to EECA the NPV is the same for both cars. I’m think I can see why.

            This is all calculations for long trips. Short trips with cheaper overnight home charging and maybe solar will have definite savings over the charge net rates.

            To me this indicates that the change to EVs is not as obvious. Without new low carbon power sources, switching the fleet to EVs may actually lead to a similar carbon footprint for long distance travel.

            EVs as a low carbon commuting option is not a solution for Auckland. Which needs mode shifting.

          7. “To me this indicates that the change to EVs is not as obvious”.

            To me it indicates that you have selected the examples to suit your conclusions.
            A 362 km journey is not a typical, mean or median distance for most motorists. Your 64c/kWh seems to be predicated on all charging taking place at public charging stations. A return journey that is within the range of an EV could be assumed to be charged at home. By changing to Electric Kiwi (quoted marginal rate of 19.57c/kWh) as a supplier and utilising their free hour of electricity (between 9 pm and 7 am) and assuming a 3 kW charge rate an electricity cost of around $16.5c/kWh can be achieved, ie. around a quarter of your calculated rate, less if 3 phase is available for faster charging during that hour.

            “Doctor, it hurts when I do this”
            “Well don’t do that”

            (“this” being charging an EV at a commercial charging point)

            The same point can be made for the concern that marginal electricity generation will come from fossil fuel. “Well don’t do that”. Overnight EV charging is highly compatible with wind and geothermal generation and makes use of surplus capacity in the distribution network.

          8. It was only a simple search, but I haven’t selected examples to suit any specific prior opinion. The numbers also seem to match other numbers I checked.

            Charge.net current listed rate is 25c / kWh and 25c / min.

            56.3 kWh at 25c and 60min at 25c = $14.08 + $15 = $29.08. So 51.7c per kWh is the current rate.

            Certainly the home rate is cheaper, but not practical for trips over 150 km.

            My conclusion at the moment is the EVs like the Leaf are best for short trips around town. However, I also point out that eBikes are much better for commuters at that distance.

    3. The company PT package is a good idea.

      In Japan a lot of companies offer staffs free PT pass.

      AT should have company subscription packages that offer great value compare to the cost of owning the car park.

      1. Alternatively, there could be a carpark tax, and to reduce their tax, companies could decide to offer PT subsidies themselves. To me, that seems a better tool to shift behaviour, leaving more money in the coffers to improve the PT.

          1. Yes. If you give your employees a PT pass you pay FBT, if you give them a carpark then you don’t (provided the cost is bundled into your lease). That is a significant distortion that the new government may well want to address. Alternatively, you could remove FBT for non-car expenditure as a second-best alternative.

  4. Moving as much as our economy as possible to energy resources generated within this country seems to me to be simple common sense purely from the perspective of energy security and the ability to insulate our economy from future wars – hot, cold and trade.

    Take this appalling murder of journalist Jamal Khashoggi by the absolutist and positively medieval Whabbist killers who run Saudi Arabia. Saudi Arabia has said it will “retaliate” against any sanctions against it for this act of (for them routine) savagery. Our reliance on imported oil means these sorts of unexpected events by the assorted crazy people who seem to run most oil producing states can at any time plunge our utterly oil dependent economy into crisis at a moment.

    Let’s do ourselves a favour on multiple levels and get as much of our economy off oil ASAP.

  5. When you consider that the two largest selling private vehicles are two tonne 4WD utilities masquerading as cars, change in this space can’t happen soon enough. It will be good for safety as well as the environment. Regardless of their ability to protect their occupants large, heavy vehicles certainly do more damage to other road users. Like diesel engine emissions, their “real world” safety performance is worse than their test scores suggest.

    I think this is one of the causes of our worsening road toll. Our vehicle fleet is getting less safe. This has been analysed for New Zealand and Australian data:
    https://theconversation.com/ive-always-wondered-are-suvs-and-4wds-safer-than-other-cars-98559

    1. Thanks for this- we were just discussing on the weekend. My partner had to drive an SUV for work recently and remarked on the reduced visibility she had due to bonnet length and shape. Also think the ” Urban tank” call is right, people cocooned in these armoured vehicles feel safe and are less likely to think of the impacts to those outside their shell.

        1. Ironically the 4WD drivers themselves are also more at risk than they assume. The real world outcomes for these vehicles are worse than they think because they are big and heavy. Hitting another vehicle, that is an advantage. But most fatalities are single vehicle accidents. In those the extra mass of the 4WD means extra impact force. Plus they roll over more because of their height. So the “increased safety” is an illusion. Plus they are almost all diesels, and diesel emissions are harmful to human health. We should not be subsidising these things.

    2. Yes, and it’s not just huge carbon emissions and danger that these big vehicles present. They are also used to mount kerbs and drive over all sorts of places they’re not supposed to be, compacting and damaging the soil and grass.

  6. It is getting harder and harder for the IPCC to get people to notice them. They have to keep writing reports that are more extreme than the last. Yet countries either pull out of the Paris agreement or have little intention of honouring their commitments. Just buy somewhere well above the sea level and cut down any big trees you have because nobody is going to do anything to stop climate change.

    1. Thirty years ago, acid rain was killing forests in Scandinavia. The Brits and others had to install scrubbers on their power stations. They did so due to international pressure.

      When I lived in Ireland, I would never have thought they’d succeed in allowing abortion – at the time, my friends’ access to contraception was down to the opinion of the local pharmacist.

      The only thing stopping social pressure from bringing change on the topic of climate change is naysayers like you saying it can’t be done.

      1. Europe had one government, or at least a type of government that had some sway over national interest. Ireland was a backward theocracy and probably still would be if their priests had not been a bunch of deviants. Only some countries care about emissions, and most of those that say they care, exempt their favoured national industry. Mining in Australia, farming in NZ, oil extraction in oil nations. If the US ever signs they will exempt defense industries and so on. The real problem is most people are not prepared to impoverish themselves for the sake of 2 degrees. The climate is changing and nobody can actually stop it. Far better to prepare for it.

        1. If we hit 2 degrees then a great many people will become impoverished whether they like it or not by forces entirely outside their control.

        2. Change will come. It’ll be inequitable, and it’ll be insufficient. But the earlier it comes, the less misery will be suffered. As the IPCC report says, there’s a huge difference between stopping short of 1.5 C change and returning to 1.5 C change after overshoot.

          You can be part of the solution, or you can be part of the problem. Yadda yadda.

          The best thing is that the right choices in NZ to minimise climate change are the right choices for lifestyle, health, social development, urban form, and other environmental issues.

          1. Even if what we do doesn’t make a scrap of difference? You present it as a choice. But your option involves making sacrifices now and getting the pain when others don’t. The Nash equilibrium means nobody will cooperate so the best place to spend money is getting ready for the inevitable.

          2. It’s not all sacrifice, though.

            Choosing to NOT widen SH1 and SH20 or build the Pukekohe ring roads, Mill Rd, and so on will mean lower carbon emissions than if we do build them, and the decision could be made on this basis. But the benefits are huge: money to spend on building homes to replace carparks throughout the isthmus, lower vkt, safer roads for vulnerable road users, better environmental outcomes.

            Choosing to turn from soil erosion-causing agricultural and horticultural practices can be made on the basis of lower carbon emissions too. But the benefits, again, are huge: cleaner waterways, better biodiversity on farm and downstream, better marine environment, and if the mechanism used to bring about the change involves a tax gain, it can be spent on other environmental projects.

            Choosing to charge for the full cost of impacts from moving freight around can be made on the basis of lower carbon emissions. And again, the benefits are huge: local products and produce become relatively cheaper, leading to better local economies and employment opportunities. Plus the tax take can allow a shift in tax burden allocation, meaning a lower income tax. Then people who live locally and support local businesses are better off. People who keep on top of the status game by replacing their cheap tat constantly pay more, as they should.

            Choosing to reduce our plastic waste by requiring products to have minimal packaging as they did in Germany over 20 years ago, and choosing to recycle our own plastic waste, can be done on the basis of lower carbon emissions. And again, the benefits are huge, not just to the S-E Asian communities receiving, and being polluted by, our waste, but to us too: we don’t have to deal with so much waste in our houses, and we’ll end up with less going to landfill too, which means less environmental damage.

          3. Heidi if there was money to be made people would already be doing it. The reason things are not the way you want them to be is because the costs outweigh the returns. We live in a country where our economy is built on burning fossil fuels and generating green house gases. Dairy, meat and very long distance tourism. Nobody is going to change that any time soon because people don’t want to be poor. Our governments will pay lip service to the cause but find ways to never actually do anything about it. Again there are no votes in making people poor. People will stop burning fossil fuels when they get more expensive than an alternative and we are a hell of a long way from that happening. The next government will try to restart the local oil industry on the grounds that it is better to get it locally than to ban the industry and import that same amount of fuel. Sorry but game theory is against you as is human nature. People don’t cooperate if there is an incentive not to.

          4. The question is what we can do to offset. If we still want tourism. The how to offset that cost.

            Give meat eating will reduce. Can the farming sector transition?

          5. Miffy, somewhat cynical but nevertheless very true evaluation of human nature. Explains why govt will never initiate petrol price reduction and probably why it will be a single term govt.

          6. Watching the National Party over the last couple of weeks I’d be surprised if this is a one term government.

          7. miffy, I’m a bit more cynical than that.

            “The reason things are not the way you want them to be is because the costs outweigh the returns.” It’s more about knowledge – when the full costs are hidden, people can’t make the right decisions. And that’s why the full costs are hidden, so that the industry can make the short term profits.

            Human nature is complex, but it involves all of greed, hatred, empathy and cooperation.

            Do you think the snails breeding happily in refrigerators in Hokitika would be there, with nowhere to go, if the public had known that Solid Energy would wreck the environment and never restore it? There is no way that small amount of coal was worth the damage done for it, but I don’t believe people decided to proceed based on money; they decided to proceed because they didn’t know the full story. As one example of many. And then there’s Adani…

    2. NZ sinking under the ocean, more/less wind and rain is the least of my concerns. Even if NZ went to zero carbon overnight at enormous cost, we will still pay all the costs of global warming for many years to come because every other country will continue as usual. Tragedy of the commons and what not.

      Practically no-one in NZ lives a sustainable lifestyle. We all consume and expend too much fossil fuel energy to live. Next to no-one wants to discomfort themselves to save the planet. They just want a hashtag to stick up on the interwebs to share with all their friends, while not doing anything.

      1. You’re assuming these debates are only happening in NZ. These debates are also happening elsewhere, if the population of Montreal also chose to take climate change seriously it would have the same impact as NZ taking it seriously. Start adding this up over other blocks of 5 million people and suddenly there starts to be change.

  7. The elephant in the room here is the situation of working people with large families, who live in one outer suburb and work in one outer suburb (or the city), at anti-social hours, and thus MUST use a car – and, as Efeso Collins pointed out in the Spinoff, can generally only afford an older, gas-guzzling model.

    I agree that higher fuel prices in general would be good. But there must be compensation for the working people hardest hit, at least until such time as PT is good enough for them.

    https://fightback.org.nz/2018/09/25/is-aucklands-public-transport-becoming-more-or-less-accessible/

    1. Agree. The Government has significantly increased financial assistance for low income families with their families package that came into effect on 1 July this year. I’m not sure why the Government isn’t pointing that out more often in the debate around high petrol prices.

      The worst thing the Government could do in terms of incentives to move away from fossil fuels would be to reduce fuel taxes or put off future tax increases.

    2. These people would be better served by moving to dense inner suburbs where PT is more widely available (both in coverage area and operating hours). I’m sure they’d do this of their own accord if living in such areas was affordable.

      1. The issue is that “these people”, or at least their parents, were forcibly moved out of the inner city by motorway building and gentrification from the 60s to the 80s. I do support intensified urban living but we have to get past the idea that people need to be moved to suit planning goals, rather than vice versa. Repopulate Newton, sure, but also improve Otara. https://fightback.org.nz/2017/03/20/economic-apartheid-the-ongoing-ethnic-cleansing-of-central-auckland/

        1. What annoys me is populist backlash against improvements to areas, calling it ‘gentrification’, and not giving the context that you’ve given here: the inequity created by the loss of the trams, and by the ‘sanitation ‘ of the working class suburbs by turning them into motorways. If areas become gentrified because the mode share there is improved, making a more liveable suburb, that’s simply an indication of the latent demand for the improvement.

          I agree with you – it needs to come to the poor areas first. The network benefits of starting in the middle of the city are probably overruled by the equity benefits of starting in the poorer areas, and the strength of bringing many more socially-minded people on board to the mode-shift movement are worth any inefficiencies of starting further out.

          1. I strongly agree with you Heidi and Daphne.

            Outer suburbs pay more than wealthy inner suburbs for access to centrally-based services such as jobs and education, and also suffer from much poorer public transport frequency to everywhere. It’s just not ethical in my view. In thee years’ time I don’t want to still be seeing these huge public transport black spots where people have these half-hour waits for a bus/train/ferry.

            Something worthwhile that we could change next month – equality of fares for every public transport user.

      2. Need to build affordable housing in the inner city. Suburbs like Grey Lynn need to convert from SHZ to THABZ.

        Can only build a compact city if: 1. there is land in the center to build, and 2. it’s done to improve transport equity.

        1. Yes if you want more affordable housing this is really obvious.

          But I don’t think the people building the Unitary Plan somehow ‘missed’ that. Instead, a common argument against intensification is that we have to ‘keep the wrong element out’.

          Excluding people is the planning goal.

          1. I call this “NZ’s crisis of entitlement”. :/

            Should provide a rates rebate for land that is used for new affordable housing in the inner city.

    3. One thing to remember, Daphne, is that there are also lots of poor people on less than minimum wage jobs who do walk and use public transport, often taking long hours to do so. This is the highest priority place for any subsidy. The solo mum whose health condition means she can’t drive and who takes three buses to get to her job, and who has no choice other than have the children walk to school by themselves, on the dangerous roads with substandard pedestrian amenity that the poorer suburbs have.

      First, we must invest to improve the lot for the most vulnerable. They are the ones who don’t drive. They are, disproportionately, the women and the children, and those whose mental or physical health is not good.

    4. Agree, however increased petrol prices generally result in an often greater reduction in the price of older fuel guzzling cars, mainly due to our wonderful human trait of overreacting. The total cost of owning and running a vehicle doesn’t necessarily change in line with petrol prices.

  8. Almost certainly the answer is not for the government to give people more money for people to drive the same amount, or more. Progress to a carbon zero economy will not allow that.
    It would make more sense for the government to raise the subsidy on PT so that Auckland no longer has the third most expensive public transport in the world. I suspect that this will cause many to relocate to live on PT corridors.
    One good thing is that AT is land banking a reasonable amount of space near transport hubs to allow future development – currently we use that land for the economically inefficient park and rides.

    1. Snort! Yes, THAT’s why my local shopping centre’s carpark is a “strategic land holding” and can’t be changed. They obviously don’t want it to be turned into low-rise, they’re just waiting for the right opportunity to turn it into a really good medium density, eco development. Thanks for pointing this out, Taka-ite.

      Um, but why won’t they even price the parking… could go towards some architect’s renderings one day… 🙂

      1. Heidi
        AT won’t price the parking for two reasons: they have a reluctance to correctly apply their Parking Strategy; and if they did it is not fit for purpose. This is part of the reason that Auckland transport is in the mess that it is. As the Productivity Commission says, because the externalities to driving have not been fully priced it has caused driving to be more popular at the expense of other forms of transport. Now that this is imbedded it is difficult to reverse. It may take the onslaught of more adverse weather events and more regular flooding of places like Tamaki Drive and the approach to the Harbour Bridge to swell the momentum for change in Auckland away from ghg emitting vehicles.

    1. Diesel is so cheap that one company can send 100 trucks to a protest so insignificant that no-one will remember it tomorrow.

    2. Rob Ryan was on newshub tonight saying people weren’t interested in rail and the next scene in that item showed Newmarket station with around 100 people getting on and off a south bound train go figure , and he wanted the motorways widened so more vehicles can sit in more que’s ging nowhere fast or slow as per usual

  9. Our transport carbon emissions went up because our vkt went up, despite the SCIENCE improving vehicle fuel efficiency.

    People will reduce their vkt if other modes are more attractive. Reducing speed limits to 30 km/hr has a proven record of mode shift to walking and cycling. Reducing road capacity has a proven record of reducing vkt. Improving PT at the same time increases people’s access, so lower carbon emissions are accompanied by higher satisfaction.

    Science is useful. It shows us what we’re doing wrong. It also gives us options. But it is decision-making that offers the solution, not science.

    1. You are missing the point. People in developing nations are going to increase private vehicle ownership and growing economies mean higher fuel consumption.
      India as an example consumed 83 million metric tonnes of diesel last year and this year it will be 86m mt. Do you really think NZ has a right to tell India to curb its hydrocarbon use?
      Reducing speed limits is often counter productive to fuel efficiency and driving at 30kph (in a lower gear) will certainly produce more exhaust emissions. Traffic calming measures are shocking for increasing pollution.
      Also – you have to concede that the majority of people like their cars. There will be no forcing them out of cars because the people will rather force the politicians out of Government.
      So the solution is to find a way to continue vehicle use and address climate change. Hello science!

      1. I believe you’re assuming that the direction of increased vkt is not something we have control over. This is incorrect. With the right policies in place, vkt decreases. Even with population growth. Even with increased economic wellbeing. And certainly with increased access and better living outcomes.

        NZ can’t tell India what to do. But it can and is part of international discussions, agreements and research. If we curb our own carbon emissions, we have a far higher chance of being listened to.

        The earlier we start taking this stuff seriously, the better the outcomes will be. The cost of minimising climate change is so much lower than coping with the damage it causes.

        Cars idling at congestion spots waste fuel. Cars driving for trips that could be done on foot or bikes waste fuel. Making a large part of the city 30 km/hr would create massive mode shift, reducing carbon emissions from both these effects.

        You have to concede that the majority of people hate sitting in congestion. Let’s give them options not to.

        1. 1/ I’m not trying to force people out of their cars through increasing congestion with the suggestion of 30 km/hr speeds. These speeds assist consistent traffic flow. Being able to go at 50 km/hr just so you can join the congestion at the next bottleneck sooner is no advantage to anyone. Slowing people between bottlenecks down doesn’t add to that congestion. Instead, it makes walking and cycling more attractive, and thereby increases the share of these active modes. And that works to reduce congestion.

          2/ We hear time and again that people would use PT but that it doesn’t work for them where they are. We also see the success of the NEX, the improved bus network, and the electric trains. Some people are shifting in their mode share. We had two phenomena going on side-by-side in Auckland. Increased vkt due to increased road capacity – for some people this is major. They are seriously car dependent. And increased mode share for those for whom it works. They are seriously getting into PT and loving it.

          Where people don’t have a choice, they’re driving more and more. Where PT and cycling infrastructure is improved, people are lapping it up. People may not want to give up their cars, but they certainly don’t want to have to use them all the time. The way forward is clear – provide people options, which means walkability, safe cycling, and good PT. Then we can start talking about what people prefer.

        2. Yes, choices are a big part of the solution. We haven’t had much choice. A lot of it comes down to land use patterns. Bio fuels have to be scrutinised as part of land use analysis (they don’t come up particularly well). While I don’t like cars, I do very much care for the people driving them, and wish to give them options to avoid the emotional strain that results from long commutes from poor land use planning.

          Each city is unique, but we can certainly look at patterns, consider the research, and be bold in our solutions. What gets up my nose are the “people will never change” arguments, when the research shows otherwise. This doesn’t mean the dominant mode shouldn’t get any funding, but it does mean the ignored modes need the bulk of the investment until a better balance has been reached.

        3. I agree with you Heidi on land uses.
          New generation Bio Fuels are quite an improvement on how they were 15 years ago.
          Renewable diesel is made from a variety of feedstocks – animal fats (traditionally tallow went into making soap and candles), fish oil fats, used cooking oil, PFAD (a by product of Palm Oil already used in the food industry. It’s a very sustainable product.
          There is also a company that hopes to use waste plastics as a substitute for some crude oil. Apparently this can be part of the refining process, reducing fossil fuel burn, while at the same time solving some of the worlds used plastics problems.
          Science is amazing – we really need to invest more into RND.

  10. It’s still much more efficient to generate electricity at a large coal fired station, than burn fossil fuels in each individual car, where a large proportion of the energy is wasted through heat and noise.

  11. Those engine sizes are still horribly high. The average in Europe is about 1600 cc and the average in Japan about 1400cc.
    Far too many dangerous and fuel guzzling big cars. We love our big macho beasts, maaaaaate

  12. I consider that my family (4 of us) and I live a relatively low carbon lifestyle. However we do this as much if not more for economic reasons as ecological reasons.
    Things like having just one 1500cc car (and walking and training a lot) and eating meat only twice a week is great for the wallet, especially given how expensive Auckland is. So lots of benefits – for health, the wallet and the environment.

    1. Yes, so long as the cost of that choice is born by the owner of the car and not society at large, I see no reason not to. For example; in the UK, where you live, the total cost of early deaths due to pollution is £88m per year, 40% of this is attributable to motor vehicles, and there are about 37m vehicles in the UK. VED should be an average of £800 per vehicle just to cover early deaths caused by pollution. The cost related to pollution related poor health and loss of quality of life as well as the impacts on the climate would of course add to this cost.

      For someone with your level of earning, that choice is probably still worthwhile. For most it won’t be, and they will demand that the public realm matches their transport choices.

  13. +1, the government could (and should) be selling what they are doing! We are passive takers of the global oil price and foreign exchange rates, we have no control over most of the fuel price. The government are investigating price rigging in the fuel market and making a big song and dance about it. They need to make a song and dance about building alternatives so that we don’t have to take the price we are given and ride the waves of fiat currency speculation.

    1. Sure, for large markets, that is a major concern. New Zealand has no control over global oil prices and a relatively volatile currency by developed world standards. Reducing New Zealand’s dependence on fossil fuels won’t crash world demand, so in this context, raising that spectre is concern trolling. However….

      There is an alternative to kerosene for air travel. It’s electrons for train travel. Most air travel is less than 1,000 miles and high speed trains are an entirely viable alternative. Further, my understanding of shipping fuel is that they use the least desirable part of the mixture because it is cheap, not because it is ideal. If diesel use for land transport plummeted then ships would use diesel. Electric ships already exist as well, and like other electric vehicles, will benefit from ongoing advancements in battery lifespan, capacity, and cost. Worst comes to worst, we could make biodiesel for ships fairly easily as it is a minute fraction of liquid fuel demand.

      With regards to use of other parts of oil in industry, they are largely used because they are waste products of liquid fuel production, for many, there are alternatives that are only 2-5 times more expensive. If oil became more expensive these alternatives would be more widely used resulting in efficiencies of scale. Over the last three decades environmental and mining regulation increased the cost of running coal or nuclear powered plants to the extent that solar became viable in niche sectors. This drove economies in production of solar power generation hardware, which increased the range of conditions in which solar was viable, and so on. This is a virtuous cycle where regulations drove innovation. The exact same would happen with oil if liquid fuel use was discouraged.

      As you said, only science will save us, but we can use regulation and taxation to motivate scientific advancement.

      1. Thanks for the discussion about the challenges on this field.

        One thing you didn’t touch on was whether there is a reason that diesel or petrol couldn’t be used for ships?

        While it is true that “Train vs plane does not work over water.” , most air travel isn’t over water. It is within the US or EU and the bridges or tunnels either already exist, or are entirely feasible. While HS2 has some of the countryside up in arms, the residents of west London are hardly thrilled about Heathrow and expanding Luton has been about as popular as cold sick.

        China is already cutting back on Hydrocarbons due to pollution. If the EU, US, and China all heavily discouraged use of liquid hydrocarbons, that would be about 2/3 of the market and would drive a serious look at alternatives. If the alternatives are developed in the developed world, they are still available to the developing world. Coal was still viable in China in the 80s and 90s, but innovation during that time primarily in the US has led to China becoming the worlds largest solar generator pretty quickly. Cellphones are the other obvious example where developing countries don’t even bother installing wired networks anymore.

        We should be regulating against hydrocarbon use to drive innovation, not waiting for innovation to replace hydrocarbon use. Make incremental innovations profitable and let capitalism fix the problem it created.

  14. Local resident – I agree with your comments. What NZ needs to do, instead of moaning about petrol increases and the government stopping of future oil exploration licences, to start researching and developing renewable fuel alternatives with other global partners under the R&D tax initiatives.

    There is no reason for NZ starting building suburban (as in Christchurch) and regional train services using 160 seater hydrogen power 2 carriage train sets that have a range up to 800kms on a ‘tank’ of hydrogen.

    Beside hydrogen fueled suburban and regional train services, look at hydrogen buses for PT and cars.

    The problem is, most NZer’s have short term thinking and band aid planning mentality instead of looking at the future planning and development.

    1. To get that tank of hydrogen it will likely be generated from electrolysis of water. Using much electricity which could, in NZ, come from burning coal.

  15. I know that NZ is a dumping ground for old cars so has a crazy average fleet age of 15 years. Given that other developed counties, like my native UK have an average fleet age of 6 years. What should the NZ government do to encourage faster turnover? In a very few years the majority of Europe’s cars will be EVs yet I can’t see that happening in NZ.

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