Thursday, May 25, 2023

Labour lectures rather than acts

Yesterday EECA launched its usual winter energy-saving campaign. Normally this is aimed at reducing energy usage, to reduce the risk of a blackout. If successful, it also reduces spot-market prices, so also reducing whining at the government from big corporate users. But this year, someone had the brilliant idea of linking it to the cost-of-living, so we have a campaign to "find money in weird places", which even the government thinks is "a bit off".

No shit. It smacks of Jenny Shipley lecturing people about budgeting. And a Labour government basicly telling people to be cold and dirty, essentially to keep spot-prices low for big corporate users, is utterly tone-deaf. Especially when they have repeatedly refused opportunities to raise incomes so people can live in dignity, rather than having to huddle under a blanket at home.

EECA's campaign is all about saving $500 from your power bill. Another way of doing this of course would be to reduce the bills at source, by lowering power prices. And this is absolutely possible: according to its most recent annual report, Meridian Energy made $664 million last year from 365,000 customers - an average of over $1800 per customer. That's simply obscene. And there seems to be plenty of space there to lower power bills, while still making more than enough money to fund future investment. So rather than lecturing us about how we should all be having cold showers so Tiwai doesn't have to shut down a pot-line, and being miserable to save money, maybe the government could actually govern, regulate this industry's obscene profits down to something reasonable, so we don't have to pay so much in the first place?

Which illustrates a wider problem. The electricity market is dominated by an oligopoly of big players - Mercury, Contact, Genesis, and Meridian - and is not a competitive market. And its the same in virtually any other major sector of the economy you care to name: supermarkets, petrol, banks, building supplies. Our economy is infected with oligopolies, who use their anti-competitive power to screw us and rort us, and siphon our money to their foreign owners. And then we wonder why we're poor. Oligopolies are why. If the government wants to actually reduce the cost-of-living, it needs to smash those oligopolies: regulate them, break them up, restore (or create) competition in the market. Or, where that can't be done, nationalise them and run them at cost, putting any monopoly profits to public purposes.

But that would be change. It would upset the status quo. It would offend rich people. So Labour would rather lecture us about cold showers than do anything like that. Chickenshits.