Monday, September 28, 2020

One way or another, we're paying for this

Back in July, when foreign polluters (and archaeological criminals) Rio Tinto announced they planned to close Tiwai Point, I was dancing on its grave. Why? Because the carbon subsidies alone were more than enough to fund alternative jobs - or even just to pay everyone dependent on it a reasonable wage to do something else with their lives. Plus of course there's the flow-on effect of releasing 13% of the country's electricity supply, meaning lower prices and an easy push to shift South Island industry off coal. So naturally, political parties lined up to insist this would not happen - and now Labour has joined them:

Labour would negotiate to extend the life of the Tiwai Point Aluminium smelter by three to five years if elected, it says.

Party leader Jacinda Ardern and energy spokesperson Megan Woods announced the plan today, with negotiations focused on establishing a fair price for the transmission costs paid to Transpower by the smelter.

The party said it would require work on remediation, maintaining employment, and working with the government on future use of the site as conditions for the pricing, and would maintain the government's stance - in place since 2013 - of not directly subsidising the smelter's owner Rio Tinto.

And no doubt there will be a free pony too. Which we will all pay for. Because while the government is ruling out direct subsidies, they're very carefully not ruling out indirect ones. Like picking up the tab for their waste in Mataura. Or giving them more free carbon credits. Or just by subsidising Transpower instead (since they've promised that lower costs for Tiwai won't mean higher costs for everyone else). But we'll be giving them money one way or another, which is exactly what Rio Tinto wanted when they threatened closure in an election year. And meanwhile, the promises of a transition away from their dirty, rent-seeking business model will be forgotten in the interim, nothing will be done, so when they stick their hand out again in three years time, the government will have no option but to give them more.

But I guess its just another example of Labour's real underlying philosophy: the time is never right for change.