Friday, June 30, 2006



Policy hints

Climate change minister David Parker has dropped a policy hint in the leadup to the announcement of the government's new climate change policy, suggesting that imported vehicles could be subjected to fuel efficiency standards. This is good news if its true; according to the latest inventory report [PDF], transport contributes 18.6% of our greenhouse gas emissions, and its rising. Improving the fuel efficiency of our vehicle fleet is an obvious way of couteractign that rise (so obvious, in fact, that you wonder why it wasn't done a decade ago). Parker points out that care will have to be taken to avoid perverse incentives (such as encouraging people to keep shitty vehicles on the road longer), but I think that such a policy can work, and would be one of the most effective long-term strategies we could persue to lower emissions.

This will likely provoke squeals of outrage from market darwinists about growing regulation and "more red tape", but the simple fact is that with the lack of support for economic instruments, this sort of regulation is all the government has available. If they didn't want regulation, then they should have supported a carbon tax...

15 comments:

Neh. I'm going to keep driving 700 to 1000 dollar second hand vehicles until they stop me at gunpoint. At which time I'll probably start a revolution.

I've never understood why anyone with half a brain would spend more than five grand on personal transport, anyway. Maybe on heavy truck transport and earthmoving machinery, but on something just to shift your arse around, geeze. Pass the number eight wire.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 6/30/2006 02:35:00 PM

WV: That's fine; the more efficient imports will eventually hit the second-hand market, and the greater average efficiency will eventually feed through the system.

We will need to find a way of taking less efficient vehicles off the road. Peter Dunne suggested paying people, and its probably worth a go, though there's obviously no point until after you have proper import controls in place.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/30/2006 03:35:00 PM

No, really. As the more modern cars come online, I _actively_ avoid them (and so does much of the rest of my family, and many of my other rural neighbours) because they are often overly complex, difficult to maintain, and break easily under NZ working conditions. I _like_ old cars and tractors because I can maintain them myself without needing to pay as much as the car is worth.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 6/30/2006 03:38:00 PM

WV: Bloody country folk. Fortunately, there's not to many of you.

Posted by Idiot/Savant : 6/30/2006 03:45:00 PM

What definitely needs to happen is to put the driving age up to 18 and make third party insurance compulsory. That would lessen demand for inefficient (but cheap imported) cars by getting young and poor people on their bicycle or the bus - with the attendant improvement of their physique and decreasing obesity.
Singapore has a ban on cars older than a certain number of years, which is ok with me too. The resulting increase in demand for public transport would make it more efficient and affordable.

Posted by Uroskin : 6/30/2006 03:49:00 PM

If they try and do what the Australians have done, which is to place unreasonable mileage and driving restrictions on classic cars, circumstances may require that I drive a '40's era R-series D-8 Caterpillar through parliament.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 6/30/2006 03:50:00 PM

What I can't understand is that we had/have natural gas which could have been used in cars and domestically (reducing electricty demand) but what do we do we burn it as quickly as we can in inefficient power stations and convert it into methanol. Our CNG capability is being exported to India, and other places where it is credited with solving pollution and of course it produces much less greenhouse gas. Well I can understand it. Gas field/oil field operators demand the maximum rate of return so the gas is extracted quickly as it can be for the highest price.

Posted by Anonymous : 6/30/2006 05:32:00 PM

Bans on cars older than a certain number of years have nothing to do with affordability and encouragement of public transport, and everything to do with subsidising and forcing markets for car manufacturers.

Posted by Weekend_Viking : 6/30/2006 06:13:00 PM

Why does it matter to anyone else whether a person drives a more fuel efficient vehicle, anymore than it matters whether you buy 10 books a month instead of 1, or 10 pairs of shoes instead of 1?

The environmental argument is different, fuel efficiency is just about a kind of wartime frugality and is driven by what people want anyway. People trade off fuel efficiency, safety, comfort, performance, capacity, reliability and price when buying a car - restricting vehicles on one grounds may have perverse effects on others.

The diversity of car ownership has had an enormous liberating effect on women in particular, who can now afford at a young age, to be independent. This gives opportunities for work and social life that are difficult without a car, unless you have the public transport and density of London or Paris.

Posted by libertyscott : 6/30/2006 09:14:00 PM

Oh and if you want to really address road transport emissions, introduce road pricing. The least efficient fuel use and most unproductive vehicle use is with congestion - start pricing that down and you'll do far more than any tinkering with imports.

Posted by libertyscott : 6/30/2006 09:18:00 PM

Im agree with WV, I think cheep second hand cars are good (particularly small ones).

Posted by Genius : 6/30/2006 11:33:00 PM

So if I drove an electric or hydrogen car, I would be exempt from road price charges in LibertyScottland?
Taxing emissions is best and most efficiently done at the pump, methinks. No need to Confuse emission taxaes with road pricing.
On the other hand, road pricing is a way to keep the poor and young off the road too, it's mobility policy by pricing people off the streets.

Posted by Uroskin : 7/01/2006 09:47:00 AM

WV, what mileage restrictions does Australia supposedly place on classic cars? I'm driving around in a '74 Citroen and the only problem I've had is that most insurance companies won't insure a car more than 30 years old. You may be thinking of the "Club plates" system, which is a limited rego scheme that's a whole lot cheaper than normal rego, and aimed at people who only use their cars for events anyway.

I think your point about the difficulty of maintaining more complex cars is an important one though, and something that's generally overlooked. In Oz, for instance, there are fairly tough rules about emissions and so forth, but they never get checked. Catalytic converters get replaced when they rust out and fall on the ground, for instance. You can frequently smell unburnt fuel coming out of late-model cars in parking building. It doesn't take much of that attitude to make an "efficient" car into a bit of a dog.

If you're going to put in place regulations about how efficient cars can be, they need to be tested pretty much yearly, presumably with a grandfather-type clause for existing vehicles.

Posted by Chris : 7/01/2006 03:21:00 PM

libertyscott,

I agree with you that road pricing is the way to go to handle congestion.

But the main reasons we don't do road pricing are:

(1) the transaction costs are very high - collecting tolls costs a lot, and the last thing you want is to slow traffic down to pay.

(2) shifting instead of fixing congestion - you really don't want to push people off motorways onto small city back streets.

(3) public outrage at being charged to use public property (insert TV image of Grey Power spokesman saying "we paid to build these roads, why are we being asked to pay again?")

Despite your views on 3 (and and this issue I'd say the hell with them) 1 and 2 are tricky. Technology may save us on that in a decade or two by providing cheap, comprehensive monitoring of who is using which road when (which doesn't sound like a libertarian paradise to me) but at the moment that high-tech monitoring and billing is expensive.

Posted by Icehawk : 7/02/2006 10:05:00 PM

Icehawk, the main reason we don't do road pricing is politics pure and simple. The transaction costs are NOT high, around 10-15% if you look at Singapore and the traffic does NOT slow down, it is fully electronic. You can charge an entire network, perfectly technologically feasible, which means you do shift travel times, demand and modes, and people are already charged to use the roads. Road pricing would replace fuel tax, which is exactly what is being studied in Oregon at the moment (and the UK).

The only thing difficult about road pricing is the political will - the economic and environmental effects are enormously positive IF done right. The privacy issue is easily resolved too - Singapore's system is anonymous, you have a stored value card in your in vehicle device and money is deducted from it, like a phonecard. If you have insufficient credit your number plate is recorded for a fine.

Most of the myths about road pricing are perpetuated by reporters who report other people's myths and unsubstantiated allegations.

Posted by libertyscott : 7/03/2006 11:50:00 PM