The Green Budget

The Renewed Programme for Government may reflect the shifted balance of power. The document surely has a lot of green language. Italics are my comments.

We will revise our Capital Investment programme to take into account new budget realities and the need for us to meet our mandatory climate change emissions reduction targets.

Code for slash investment except in energy and public transport.

Introduce new targeted and efficient taxation policies which encourage sustainable enterprise development and the creation of sustainable employment in the Green and Smart Economy.

Code for tax breaks for companies that adhere to Green Dogma?

We will extend our system of Accelerated Capital Allowances to develop the Green Economy into areas such as renewables, waste disposal and water usage.

Sure. Tax breaks for companies that are friendly with greens.

Introduce Carbon Tax in Budget 2010. The principles underlying the carbon levy to be introduced in 2010 will be:

  • those most at risk of fuel poverty will be protected,
  • we improve the fuel efficiency of our current housing stock,
  • the relative tax burden on labour will be reduced.

I’m in favour of a carbon tax, and for using the revenue to cut labour costs and increasing benefits to compensate low-income households. Using the revenue to improve the housing stock is bad policy (double regulation).

Introduce charging for treated water use that is fair, significantly reduces waste and is easily applied. It will be based on a system where households are allocated a free basic allowance, with charging only for water use in excess of this allowance. In keeping with the allocation of greater responsibility to local government, Local Authorities will set their own rates for water use.

Water charges are clever, but require water meters. Bilinear taxes are a bad idea.

We will mandate the €200 million “Green Fund” established in AIB & BOI to prioritise the following activities:

  • Help existing mechanical/electrical engineering firms to become Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) providing managed energy services to public buildings by providing capital to install equipment on client sites;
  • Supplement the grants schemes run by Sustainable Energy Ireland (€50m Home Energy Scheme) by lending to homes and businesses that are retrofitting energy efficient equipment in their homes/businesses.

This is meddling in supposedly independent, commercial enterprises. It is also picking winners. Bad idea.

Participating institutions in NAMA will be obliged to offer a deposit account to consumers which will be ringfenced for lending to Green projects.

Tokenism.

We will put in place new public procurement procedures and guidelines to ensure that green criteria are at the centre of all state procurement.

Tokenism.

We will ensure that new public procurement guidelines for food include criteria based on giving greater weight to sustainable local produce, seasonal menus and organic production, building on good practice in other EU countries in this area.

More expensive food for civil servants.

We will prioritise research and technologies that offer strong development opportunities in the area of water management, leaks, measurement, metres etc.

This is mature technology. Little need for research.

We will work with the ESB and international motor companies to see a deployment of some 6,000 electric vehicles over the next three years.

Too much too soon. And isn’t ESB a commercial company?

We will present a plan for a high voltage off-shore electricity grid as part of the wider European electricity ‘Supergrid’ so that in the future we can become an energy-exporting nation.

Never mind that production costs of electricity in Ireland are higher than elsewhere.

We will introduce new energy demand reduction targets for energy utilities, thus allowing the customer to “save as they pay” through energy efficient measures.

Double regulation. A carbon tax will do just that.

Ensure the achievement of the target of 5% of land in organic agriculture and meet the growing demand for domestically produced organic produce by providing adequate resources and supports for the achievement of the target, with a focus on import substitution in areas where Ireland is under producing at present e.g. horticulture. Beginning in 2010, and rising in subsequent years, stepping up supports for the Organic Farming Scheme for conversion to organic production, Capital Grants for the Organic Sector and Non-Capital costs.

Interesting language. There is an apparent demand for organic produce, but supply needs to be supported nonetheless.

Declare the Republic of Ireland a GM-Free Zone, free from the cultivation of all GM plants.

Green Dogma.

We will overhaul and significantly enhance the current range of programmes and supports to facilitate the attainment of the target of 17% forestry cover by 2030 and contribute to meeting our climate change
commitments.

The Emerald Isle will be greener still, and will be renamed as the Emeralder Isle.

We will Continue the record levels of investment in water infrastructure, creating and supporting thousands of jobs in the provision of quality water and the prevention of pollution in rivers and groundwater.

This is hard needed for drinking water. Surface and groundwater quality are okay, and improvement can wait.

We will reduce water leakage from municipal systems in line with international best practice.

More investment in water infrastructure; less money for the rest.

We will place a cap on incineration capacity to prevent waste being drawn to incineration which could otherwise have gone to recycling, having regard tothe recommendations of the International Review of Waste Policy.

Green Dogma.

We will use producer responsibility to reduce levels of packaging waste generated and increase the target for recycling of such waste to 75% by 2013, in line with the recommendations of the international review of waste policy.

Higher costs for producers, higher prices for consumers.

We will introduce preferential parking/charging spaces for electric cars.

Micromanagement, double regulation, badly targeted regulation.

We will allocate a significant portion of the budget on road improvement projects to the provision of new footpaths to allow pedestrians to walk in greater safety and comfort.

Hoping that the commuter belt will walk to work?

We will reverse the CIE policy of excluding and limiting bicycle carrying capacity on interurban trains and buses and ensure all new train units have a more extensive bicycle carrying capacity.

Tokenism

We will develop a Bray to Balbriggan cycle and pedestrian route, and other similar routes such as Oranmore to Barna, as major tourism and commuter facilities.

Oh Ireland. One was thinking that one was reading the renewed programme for the NATIONAL government, but one mistakenly picked up the programme of the village council.

We will raise awareness of Building Energy Ratings (BER), by making it mandatory to display BERs wherever a property is advertised for sale or to let, including signage and printed/online advertising.

This is an interesting one. At present, one must have a BER if one wants to sell or let a house but one is under no obligation to show the BER to anyone, least of all the prospective buyer or renter. This is a good move.

121 replies on “The Green Budget”

@Richard,

Many thanks for this excellent demolition job. But I fear that this charter of tokenism and economic illiteracy is merely a symptom of a deeper malaise which I have attemted to highlight under Karl Whelan’s post on “New Programme for Govenrment”.

There’s a whole lot of pork-barrelling going on there.

Well, tofu-barrelling might be a more appropriate phrase.

@Richard

Welcome to ‘realpolitik’ Irish style and its ‘social construction’ of political power. On the big picture now time to focus on what they DO – as in upcoming Naa-Maa legislation and what economic expertise/opinion can contribute to discourse in taming this monster (where the Green Party now has some real influence) – as distinct from what Irish politicians SAY. Expand the ontologies if you wish to have any real influence ……… the main partner in present Gov is a past master at creating multiple perceptions of reality ……..

I think all this is a bit too cynical. Extreme cynicism seems to be becoming a hallmark of some posters on this site, although I trust it will never reach the levels on other sites. Even allowing for the fact that the Green Party has disappointed those, who wanted it to carry out the political equivalent of a suicide bomb attack on Fianna Fail yesterday, this is over the top. I have never been a supporter of the Green Party, but give credit where its due:

Richard Tol said:

“Code for slash investment except in energy and public transport.”

Later on, Richard says:

“More investment in water infrastructure; less money for the rest.”

I say:

So, that is a third one added to the list. There isn’t that much left that actually requires a lot of increased investment in the next couple of years. The national motorway network will be completed next year. This has allready brought Ireland’s road death rate down to one of the lowest in Europe. Once built, you don’t actually need to build it again. Similarily, thanks to the tremendous investment in housing in recent years, the national housing stock is now by far the most modern in Europe and is greater than the number of households, so Ireland is one of the few countries in the world where it is now physically possible to give every family in the country a decent high-quality home. This would not be possible in the UK or in many European countries, where recent low investment in housing has resulted in a massive shortage of houses. Obviously, it requires sensible policy decisions on the part of the relevant Minister (is it John Gormley?) to actually turn Ireland into the first country in the world with zero homelessness, but the houses are now there for him to do so.

Richard Tol said (referring to Green’s plan to develop a grid that could be used to export electricty):

“Never mind that production costs of electricity in Ireland are higher than elsewhere.”

I say:

Well, I assume the Greens don’t mean exporting electricity produced from oil or coal, but from wind power and wave power. I’m aware that there is disagreement among engineers as to whether these are economic at present, but most seem to agree that one day it will be cheaper to produce electricity from wind and wave than from oil and coal. When that happens, Ireland will certainly be an exporter of electricity.

Richard Tol said:

“This is hardly needed for drinking water. Surface and groundwater quality are okay, and improvement can wait.”

I say:

Actually, water quality south of the border is not that great. I come from Northern Ireland. Water quality in the north is higher, because there has been more investment in water infrastructure and quality control over the years. Its one of the few areas, where the north still has a lead over the south. Better water quality in the north was one of the reasons (not the sole one) that Coca Cola gave for moving their bottling plant from Kildare to Antrim.

Richard Tol said:

“More investment in water infrastructure; less money for the rest.”

I say.

An abundance of water is one of Ireland’s trump cards in the years to come. Its Ireland’s ‘North Sea Oil’. You only have to go to Australia or Spain (among many) to see how their economies are going to be held back by shortage of water. However, as I said above, the quality is a bit lacking. We definitely need investment in this area.

Richard Tol said (referring to the 17% forestry target):

“The Emerald Isle will be greener still, and will be renamed as the Emeralder Isle.”

I say:

When the Viceroy packed his bags and left Dublin Castle, the area of Ireland covered by forestry had fallen to 2%, the lowest in Europe. Starting around 1950, an aforestation program was begun and this has brought the area covered by forestry up to 10% or so (not sure of exact figure). Many areas in the less fertile parts of the country have benefitted tremendously. There is a similar afforestation program in operation north of the border, and the Gortin Glens Forest Park is now one of the most important tourist attractions in the north. However, I think that the afforestation program has stalled a bit in recent years. So, getting it going again and bringing the area covered by forestry up to 17% is very sensible.

Richard Tol said (referring to Bray to Balbriggan cycle and pedestrian route):

“Oh Ireland. One was thinking that one was reading the renewed programme for the NATIONAL government, but one mistakenly picked up the programme of the village council.”

I say:

Well, Bray may be a ‘village’, and ‘Balbriggan’ may be a ‘village’, but, unless they plan to route it via Athlone, I think it reasonable to assume that it will go through Dublin, which is certainly not a village. I think this could be a massive tourist attraction.

@David
True. The 2010 budget is much more important than the Renewed Programme. However, that budget is near in time, and presumably in substance to the Renewed Programme.

Hi Richard,
I find it odd you don’t make any reference to the risk of severe impacts to economic activty due to climate change / oil depletion / top-soil loss / etc etc.
I read a paper you wrote, which discounted the risks to ireland from climate change (making reference only to other papers you yourself published).
I find it disingenuous to adopt a can’t-prove-it-so-it’s-ignorable approach; perhaps you models neatly model the parts of the economy you pay attention to, but what of the wider question of the realism of the assumption that exponential growth is possible forever upon a finite world?
Can zero-growth not be a valid economic policy?

@John
At present, wind power is about twice as expensive as coal power, and technology progresses at the same rate. Wave power is about ten times as expensive as coal, but costs are coming down faster.

Ireland has better winds than many countries. Wind power is cheaper here than elsewhere. That said, long distance transmission is expensive. It is cheaper to build a windpark in the Netherlands than to build one in Ireland and wire the electrons across. If that issue is unexpectedly solved, then Scotland (which has pretty good winds too) will still be closer to the Continent.

There is a prospect for electricity export, but that comes about because the Brits seem to be unable to build anything at present.

@John
You misquote me. I wrote “investment is hard needed for drinking water quality”. You made this into “investment is hardly needed for drinking water quality”, and then vigorously disagreed.

Note that one of the companies getting tax breaks under your 3rd item will be NTR/Greenstar.

It’s left as an exercise for the reader to trace the Greenstar family tree all the way back to Cement Roadstone and ponder that the more things change in Ireland, the more they stay the same. Lemass would be proud.

Declaring Ireland a GM-free zone is pandering to ignorance.

Like neutrality, and nuclear-free declarations, it would of course provide comfort to those who are sustained on empty slogans.

The recently deceased Norman Borlaug, the “father of the Green Revolution” made the point that no current crops are as they were even 50 years ago, much less a millennium ago. Farmers and scientists have always experimented with ways of cross-breeding plants to make them more durable and able to produce more food and profits in shorter periods. That they used hybridisation techniques rather than gene splicing makes no difference to the safety of the finished product.

In a few years, Greens will be eating GM foods and Ireland will be importing nuclear generated electricity.

It’s all comfort food for the selfish who do not have to be concerned about the challenges of food production elsewhere.

@John,

“There isn’t that much left that actually requires a lot of increased investment in the next couple of years.”

Really? According to those lefty loonies in the OECD, Ireland’s infrastructure lags most OECD countries by a significant amount: http://www.oecd.org/document/18/0,3343,en_2649_33733_40420434_1_1_1_1,00.html#Contents

and in 2006:

http://www.oecd.org/document/21/0,3343,en_2649_34325_36173013_1_1_1_1,00.html

Those crazy sandal wearers writing the 2008 Global competitiveness index put us at 26/30 in terms of infrastructure: http://www.weforum.org/pdf/GCR09/GCR20092010fullreport.pdf

Off the top of my head, here are some areas that might just need a few quid in the next 5 years: public transport in the regions, efficient water provision for Dublin, world class port equipment, national broadband provision, and community initiatives like local clinics, refurbished schools, and levees near homes and businesses built on flood plains.

@John

“I think all this is a bit too cynical. Extreme cynicism seems to be becoming a hallmark of some posters on this site, although I trust it will never reach the levels on other sites.”

If you’re on the trail of extreme cynicism, look no further than the choreographed cliff-hanger in the negotiations, or the manipulated agenda for the votes yesterday.

Or how about John Gormley’s defense of the proposed cut in tax relief on pension contributions? Apparently its all in the interest of _equity_. This from a man who looks forward to a 100k pension courtesy of the tax-payer, assuming he loses his seat in 2012. At which point he will still be in his early fifties, and still have at least a decade of good earning potential back in the language school business.

If you could even buy a pension like that, it would have cost him many multiples of his entire salary. Yet he paid but a vanishingly small fraction of that notional cost himself. But still he sees it as being more equitable that people who actually pay for their entire pensions themselves should get a reduced tax-break. Because it would be fairer and all.

Cynicism indeed.

Isn’t one of the biggest problems with green economics that it is more expensive than its non green alternative?

Organic produce costs more than non organic.
Green produced power costs more than its fossil fuel alternative.

Obviously all laudable but timing seems off when we’re trying to reduce our cost base and become more competitive. None of the above strikes me as being what we need to kick start the economy. Quite the opposite , we are presumably going to discourage non green investments and ask them to go elsewhere.

Our strategy to save Ireland inc seems to be to turn Ireland into the “greenest” country on earth. All seems a bit aspirational to stake everything on.

@ Richard

I’ll just comment on the places where you are obviously wrong, rather than the places where I disagree (because that would take too long)

Introduce new targeted and efficient taxation policies which encourage sustainable enterprise development and the creation of sustainable employment in the Green and Smart Economy.

Code for tax breaks for companies that adhere to Green Dogma?

j.c: No.”targeted” = on areas where market failures exist, “sustainable” = areas which don’t rely on rapidly depleting resources

We will extend our system of Accelerated Capital Allowances to develop the Green Economy into areas such as renewables, waste disposal and water usage.

Sure. Tax breaks for companies that are friendly with greens.

j. c: Very cynical Richard.

Introduce Carbon Tax in Budget 2010. The principles underlying the carbon levy to be introduced in 2010 will be:

those most at risk of fuel poverty will be protected,
we improve the fuel efficiency of our current housing stock,
the relative tax burden on labour will be reduced.
I’m in favour of a carbon tax, and for using the revenue to cut labour costs and increasing benefits to compensate low-income households. Using the revenue to improve the housing stock is bad policy (double regulation).

J. c. You may want to take this point up with your colleagues in the ESRI who have rightly been questioning for years why the government would spend 400 million euro p/a on fuel poverty mitigation. Why not just upgrade the social housing stock? As for the general housing stock, there are, as I have argued (very convincingly:) on other threads, a proliferation of market failures in the area of housing energy efficiency which carbon tax will not address.

We will mandate the €200 million “Green Fund” established in AIB & BOI to prioritise the following activities:

Help existing mechanical/electrical engineering firms to become Energy Services Companies (ESCOs) providing managed energy services to public buildings by providing capital to install equipment on client sites;
Supplement the grants schemes run by Sustainable Energy Ireland (€50m Home Energy Scheme) by lending to homes and businesses that are retrofitting energy efficient equipment in their homes/businesses.
This is meddling in supposedly independent, commercial enterprises. It is also picking winners. Bad idea.

j.c. Very wrong. Will create 1000s of jobs. Your faith in the market is totally unfounded in reality.

We will put in place new public procurement procedures and guidelines to ensure that green criteria are at the centre of all state procurement.

Tokenism.

j.c. That is just silly. The public sector is hugely important market and can lead in adopting new and emerging technologies thereby, eg:Dublin Bus.

We will prioritise research and technologies that offer strong development opportunities in the area of water management, leaks, measurement, metres etc.

This is mature technology. Little need for research.

j. c. Sorry Richard that’s wrong. These technologies are a huge growth area and rapidly evolving.

We will work with the ESB and international motor companies to see a deployment of some 6,000 electric vehicles over the next three years.

Too much too soon. And isn’t ESB a commercial company?

j.c. Depends what type of EV.

We will present a plan for a high voltage off-shore electricity grid as part of the wider European electricity ‘Supergrid’ so that in the future we can become an energy-exporting nation.

Never mind that production costs of electricity in Ireland are higher than elsewhere.

j.c. bit of vision needed here.

We will introduce new energy demand reduction targets for energy utilities, thus allowing the customer to “save as they pay” through energy efficient measures.

Double regulation. A carbon tax will do just that.

j.c. No it won’t. This comment displays a lack of knowledge of the area. A carbon tax won’t even apply to the power gen sector!! and even if it did, it wouldn’t work because of the prevalent market failures.

Ensure the achievement of the target of 5% of land in organic agriculture and meet the growing demand for domestically produced organic produce by providing adequate resources and supports for the achievement of the target, with a focus on import substitution in areas where Ireland is under producing at present e.g. horticulture. Beginning in 2010, and rising in subsequent years, stepping up supports for the Organic Farming Scheme for conversion to organic production, Capital Grants for the Organic Sector and Non-Capital costs.

Interesting language. There is an apparent demand for organic produce, but supply needs to be supported nonetheless.

j.c. not a big fan of organics myself

We will overhaul and significantly enhance the current range of programmes and supports to facilitate the attainment of the target of 17% forestry cover by 2030 and contribute to meeting our climate change
commitments.

The Emerald Isle will be greener still, and will be renamed as the Emeralder Isle.

j.c. This is hugely desirable policy objective which will have big payoff

We will use producer responsibility to reduce levels of packaging waste generated and increase the target for recycling of such waste to 75% by 2013, in line with the recommendations of the international review of waste policy.

Higher costs for producers, higher prices for consumers.

j.c. reducing packaging will drive down costs

I despise the Greens as much as anyone, but could this post be any more smug and self-infatuated? Half the time, the author doesn’t even bother to offer rebuttals to some of the platform points beyond “I Richard Tol, decree that this is a bad idea.”

Not that I’m asking for further rebuttals, mind. This one is clearly meant to be a full-length mirror for the author.

Ah now, Ernie, some of the ideas in the PfG are so self-evidently lame that Richard would be insulting our intelligence by explaining from first principles why this is so.

But how about going ahead and explaining why you think those insufficiently rebutted ideas are in fact good ones?

“We will allocate a significant portion of the budget on road improvement projects to the provision of new footpaths to allow pedestrians to walk in greater safety and comfort.”

Surely you can’t be anti-pavement?! Isn’t walkability of communities a perfectly reasonable desideratum of public policy?

@Ernie
Sorry. Many of these things have been discussed at length elsewhere, and I occasionally assume that blogs have a memory. If you need more elaboration on any of the points, just identify them.

WAIT A SECOND!

There is a massive assumption here – that ANYTHING in the PfG apart from NAMA is likely to materialise. This is not just because FF will say anything to govern (how many promises to legislate for X Case to date?) but because random nonsense will be introduced outwith the PfG.

I’m pretty sure regulating mass cards and blasphemy was not in the original PfG (although I’m too lazy to actually check)

@James
One of the main issues in transport is that children are driven to school, rather than cycle or walk. Walking is an option only in urban areas. The problem there is not a lack of footpaths. The issue is badly maintained pavements and unsafe crossings. We need better footpaths, rather than more.

The word “new” in the RPG sentence could mean “improved”, of course. I read “new” as “additional”.

@Ozymandias
I have yet to see any evidence that climate change poses a serious risk to Ireland. Even if it does, emission reduction in Ireland between now and the next election does not substantially affect climate change.

@jc
You really need to go back and revise the textbooks that you claim you have studied so vigorously at LSE.

Market failure is a reason for very particular types of government intervention. You are using market failure as an excuse for any silly old policy.

These are very different things, and if you really want me to continue to believe that you really really got your MA with distinction, then perhaps you should consider to start talking sense.

With regard to the fuel allowances: I have argued that fuel allowances should be needs- and means-tested; the money thus saved should be used to upgrade insulation and home heating; this will in turn mean that fewer people need fuel allowances.

I do not need to check the work of the ESRI in this regard. If you had, you would have noted that my name is on some of these papers.

Electricity, as a form of energy resource. Very versatile, but … …

We may, (please correct if wrong), have run up against the infinite wall of the Second Law of Thermodynamics wrt generators and motors.

6000 new electric vehicles! WTF! My understanding is that in order to be ‘green’ we need to use LESS AND LESS electricity with each passing year – or at worst, maintain our existing load level. To use such a versatile resource for private (as opposed to public) transport is insane.

Forests: Very good idea. Would you all do our future a favour. Buy a walnut tree and plant it asap.

Water: Have concerns about the quality of potable. Could be major problem.

FWitsW: Using liquid fuel to power a vehicle is, (somewhat), like walking on a gentle, downward sloping surface. Not much effort is required. Substituting electricity for the liquid in the fuel tank is like walking up a slope: your lungs have to work harder, your heart rate increases, you begin to perspire. Think again, real carefully about the real cost, (the energy cost, that is), in using electricity.

Thanks RT, for taking the time to compose your post.

B Peter

@Ernie Ball
If Richard Tol, who knows more about energy/enviro economics than most, thinks that this is a load of hooey, then im happy that theres hooey in it and will work on that assumption while checking his views. Ditto if , say, oh, Ed Kane were to describe NAMA as a load of hooey then we would be obliged to take that seriously (note : he did).

The GP certainly has economic realists, and indeed has those who like capitalism. I’ve found quite a few of these people to be close to current leadership and influencing policy.

Something awful has happened and the GP has taken a lurch to the left, and not merely some form of “Justice left”… actually a left that requires lots of Central Control & Command Planning (USSR)

Even allowing for their goals, their solution methods are inelegant, in summary I’m disturbed that
1) These solutions are inelegant and often unworkable
2) They indicate a normative leftward drift in the GP

@Proposition Joe

Excellent comment on J Gormley’s pension and hitting those who have underfunded DC schemes.

@Cyberianpan

I suspect that command and control is the ultimate destination of Green fantasies. No one would do most of it willingly. As Michael Hennigan points out above the stuff on GM foods is beyond risible.

The Greens will be treated by the electorate as an expensive and vulgar Celtic Tiger aspiration – to be cast off in these difficult times.

Hello,
I agree with John above who says that the tone of the article is a bit too cynical, in common with a lot of commentary these days. And when you say tokenism – i presume you think the measures of are of no consequence or perhaps of no consequence given the huge financial mess we face. But allowing bikes on trains is good policy, I’ve heard a number of foreign visitors complain about this, it’ll be good for cyclists, good for tourism. I think small incremental improvements in policy are to be welcomed.

@Cyberianpan
I’m afraid you’re right, and not just any command & control, but command & control with moral certitude (what period of history comes to mind?).

A good example is the ban on incandescant lightbulbs. Never mind the costs. Never mind the mercury. Never mind that even energy gains are not guaranteed.

JC has a nice example of Green “thinking” here: http://www.irisheconomy.ie/index.php/2009/10/09/mccarthy-on-the-green-new-deal-tol-on-the-carbon-tax/

To summarise: People lack information, and therefore we must ban the bulb.

@Holbrook Fields
I have nothing against bikes on trains.

Ireland is in the middle of the deep recession, though, with the government finances in deep trouble. Is this really a priority?

Is it really wise that the Renewed Programme for Government promises that it will micromanage a nominally independent company?

@Richard

I do apologise for thinking that you said ‘hardly needed’, when (now that I look at it again) you clearly said ‘hard needed’.

Entirely my mistake. My eyesight must be going. So, my subsequent comment was inappropriate and I withdraw it.

Just out of curiosity and completely off-topic, what does ‘hard needed’ mean? I’ve never heard the expression.

@B P Wood
I can’t judge the engineering side of electric cars, but there do not seem to be fundamental objections to electric cars. The economics may work too, if we can get the bulk of cars to recharge at night.

My concern with electric cars is pragmatic. There are only a few models on the market. These serve particular niches, and are expensive.

The real spoiler is production, however. If I count correctly, planned global production of all-electric vehicles, suitable for EU roads, is about 3,000 units in 2010. (There are another 30,000 or so REVAs, but these do not pass our safety specs.)

If Ireland wants to buy 6,000 units over three years, but only 3,000 will be made worldwide next year …

Mind you, we want to have 200,000 electric vehicles on our roads by 2020.

The established car makers are in no position to radically change their production lines. Maybe a Chinese company will come along and deliver this. But betting a programme for government on a hypothetical company in a faraway land …

@John
No worries. We agree on the need for clean drinking water, and that this will take substantial investment.

“hard needed” is probably a Dutchism. “Badly needed” is what I meant.

“Something awful has happened and the GP has taken a lurch to the left’

Don’t you mean a lurch to populism?

I’m just trying to figure out if the Green leadership actually knows this is BS and can’t believe they got away with it, or if they’ve become like Tony Bliar and forced themselves to believe that they stand on the side of justice and truth.

Free fees, free minks and 3 more years of free mercs. And meanwhile the thousands of newbie developers who are too small for NAMA will slowly go bankrupt and taxpayers will keep shovelling in the money to fill the hole. But hey, once we’re GM free, then it’s SO worth it.

Not.

btw, does anyone know if the ban on corporate donations will cover SIPTU’s donations to the Labour party?

@ Richard

the ESB have an EV joint venture/allince with Renault Nissan to essentially use Ireland as a test site for an EV charger network. I would assume that Renault-Nissan will be making sure that there are enough cars supplied for this venture to make it a proper test project? Moreover, if done properly, having a broad charger network would i assume encourage more car makers to get involved in the project?

@ Richard

You are the one labeling the policies as “silly” with nothing more that a series of unsupported sweeping statements based and ideological assumptions, and a gaggle of gullible cheerleaders egging you on.

GET REAL.

“Never mind the costs” – you say. You mean the costs that are recouped IN ONE YEAR on bulb that lasts 8-15 times longer than an incandescent? ie: that costs the consumer a tiny fraction of the cost over the lifetime of the bulb?

Mercury..The Directive on the restriction of the use of certain hazardous substances in electrical and electronic equipment and the The Waste Electrical and Electronic Equipment Directive have taken care of these concerns for the most part. As I said if you have concerns for the safety of the product you should contact the NSAI.

Banning the bulb makes us (the EU) Stalinist? LOL. It’s hardly the gulag.

I find the extreme faith in price signals and objection to any form of regulation in the face of overwhelmingly blinding evidence to the contrary, and within the context of the recent collapse of the global financial system, almost overwhelming in its obtuseness. If reality doesn’t match the findings of your model, I’d say reality must be at fault. I actually don’t know whether to laugh or to cry.

As for use of carbon tax revenues, Sue Scott among others have indicated that compensating the less well off from the negative consequences of a carbon tax can be achieved through efficiency upgrades.

All benefits achieve in badly heated buildings is “heating the sky” to quote the title of one of her papers. Not that’s really “silly”.

@jc
CFLs last longer than incandescant light bulbs if in continous use. If you switch them on and off all the time, they break. That reverses your cost savings and your energy savings. The rational response to the mandatory use of CFLs is to leave the lights on all the time. That takes away a good chunk of your cost savings and your energy savings.

CFLs contain mercury. Not a lot, but a little. I know what to do when a CFL breaks so as to prevent harm. My daughter does not. I also know what the local supermarket should do when they drop a box of CFLs. I doubt they will.

In the paper you cite, Scott argues against fuel allowances and for insulation, exactly as I do.

Just wanted to add that to bring a cfl lifespan to the same as an ordinary incandescent you would need to switch it on and off every five minutes.

@Sarah Carey

The SIPTU payment to Labour could probably be dressed up as an aggregate of small donations from individual members, as these union brothers can opt-out if they wish and pay a reduced sub.

@Eoin & Richard

Renault alone has a target to sell between 20,000-40,000 electric vehicles in 2011. There will be a limited roll out in 2010. Renault is currently investing €4bn euro on four different models of electric cars. (http://tinyurl.com/yfgr5fy)

They are likley to sell for a price premium of up to €10,000. This will no doubt be reduced with some forms of tax incentives or subsidies. Whether the demand is there remains to be seen but I think a target of 6,000 vehicles in three years isn’t too outlandish! If anything, given the current rate of investment by car companies, there may be a risk of overcapacity if demand doesn’t materialise.

The 200,000 car target will require about 45,000 EVs sold in 2020 assuming linear growth. This would be about 25% of the market if car sales of 200k per year are assumed. That said, if you look at Simon Coveney, likely the next energy minister, he calls for (http://tinyurl.com/dcaknp):

100,000 by 2016
350,000 by 2020
No petrol or diesel cars sold in 2020

Certainly ambitious. The driveability of EVs is much better than petrol cars – excellent acceleration, no gear changes, no oil changes etc. 75% of work trips are less than 20km. Range is clearly an issue for longer trips but approximately 600,000 homes have more than one car so conceivably one of those could be reserved for driving in the locality.

The key issue is battery cost – batteries are by far the most expensive part of the car. Whether cost comes down with mass production remains to be seen. Battery cost is not subject to Moore’s law as much of the cost is in raw materials.

@Proposition Joe

I agree with you on tax relief for pensions. I’m not a Green Party voter or supporter. I recognise that on specific ‘green’ issues like water, walkways, integrated ticketing, afforestation, and potential development of wind/wave electricity (subject to technological improvement that makes it economic), they have some good ideas, and I’m pleased that the government is now going to implement them. Those were the ones I mentioned in my post, and which I criticised Richard for being over-cynical about. I don’t see those costing too much.

I don’t really have much time for their left-wing views on ‘non-green’ issues, like obsession with equity, anti-Americanism (abated since they went into government) and they are a bit too socially liberal for my liking. However, if there was an alternative government, it would most likely contain the Labour Party in far greater numbers than the Green Party are in this Government, and they would have the same views as the Green Party on these ‘non-green’ issues.

1. We have to CONSERVE the energy resources we have. Any proposal to spend additional is madness.

2. The build-out of EVs requires an significant EXTRA input of energy over an above that already input(ted) for vehicle production.

3.We do have enough raw materials for all ’em batteries??

Post ‘mysteriously’ vanished and appeared, half finished, in blog???

Contd:

You all have to try to get your heads around the concept of energy. It is not like money, hence bandying around the term ‘cost’ when you are discussing any type of energy programme can be very misleading.

Energy resources are subject to the immutable laws of chemistry and physics. You can certainly inter-convert various forms of energy, but you must ‘spend’ energy in order to do so. This is THE cost.

Also, in using energy to drive a productive economy, you have to take account of the ‘engineering leverage’ of whatever physical technology that your energy is driving. When you look at the output, it appears (falsely) that you have got more output than you expected, if you considered the energy input alone. The actual engineering technology is giving you some extra output.

Unless we can somehow, magically, improve our ‘engineering leverage’ of our use of energy (to grow our economies), then we are, as they say, at the Margin of Diminishing Return on Energy Input.

B Peter

@Eamon Keane
In fact, Renault is behind Nissan in realising its plans. Besides, their all-electric vehicles require battery-exchanges. These are being build in a few countries, but not in Ireland, so the Renaults are not relevant for Ireland.

@Garo
I just got into the habit of switching of the light whenever I leave the room. Now I have to think. Is there a chance that I will be back within 15 mins? Hmm, there probably is. I better leave the light on for sure. Don’t want to break that expensive lamp, do I? I heard on Joe Duffy last week that it might explode if I turn it off and on within 15 mins. Better not chance it. Mercury and stuff. Gives you cancer.

It is a safe bet that people will leave their CFLs on. They’ve done their bit for the environment. They’ve heard somewhere that they wear faster when turned on and off.

@ Richard

Have you the slightest bit of evidence for this:

“CFLs last longer than incandescant light bulbs if in continous use. If you switch them on and off all the time, they break. That reverses your cost savings and your energy savings”‘

You better report these findings to the US EPA/Department of Energy:

http://www.energystar.gov/index.cfm?c=cfls.pr_cfls

“An ENERGY STAR qualified compact fluorescent light bulb (CFL) will save about $30 over its lifetime and pay for itself in about 6 months. It uses 75 percent less energy and lasts about 10 times longer than an incandescent bulb.”

Joe Duffy is not a reliable source by the way.

I think it would be wise to take the Greens programme absolutely seriously. They have been waiting for 28 years, they are now familiar with the levers of power, and they have immense leverage. But they only have 2.5 years in an unstable government, so they are going to set a cracking pace. Gormley made a recent observation along the lines that other Green parties were devastated in elections after having been in office, so they might as well get as much done as they can. Normally, the senior centre party can force the more ideological junior to moderate their demands. But in this case there is no use in FF trying to threaten the Greens with an election. The Greens will just say we know we won’t survive but you will suffer huge damage too. FF have made a deal with them and barring a sudden collapse I would expect them to keep to it. The Greens also have the two ministries they want with what I would expect is ring-fenced funding.

You can compare them to an Israeli religious party, a secular religion or the early strong commitment to their ideals of socialist parties or nationalist parties, or the Pirate Bay party…Like Socialists, their goals may well be correct and at the time they started highly desirable. But also like socialists they have debated and agreed among themselves a set of policies to achieve them, which they will stick fairly rigidly to. Only experience of policy failure will teach them, and teach them slowly. Given that, it’s no wonder all the efforts made by the lead contributors to this blog regarding Nama failed. Nama just didn’t interest them. You might as well have been talking to the “Knights who say Ni”.
Or in their case, the knights who say “smart”, “green”, “sustainable” and “transform”. The best guide to what they will do and how much they will achieve is the performance in office of Green parties in other countries.

However, I have a semi-serious proposal for speeding up the Green party’s learning process. Academic economists should join up en masse. It’s the only way.

Is it just me or do CFL bulbs, electric cars, bicycles on trains, mink farms, foot paths et all all sound like a bit of a distraction.

We need something more substantial now to get this economy going again and some of it won’t be “green”.

I think the emperor just bought some new clothes.

@Stuart
Very true. This thread is supposed to be about the green parts of the budget, and whether they make sense. The Renewed Programme for Government is much broader and should be judged in its totality.

That said, the govt seems to believe that “a smart economy is a green economy” and that “smart” and “green” will get us out of the economic hole we’re in.

Instead, the green parts of the RPG will not stimulate the economy, often raise costs, and increase the influence of the state.

@School Marm and Richard Tol

If some of the points in the PfG are so ‘self-evidently lame’ and ‘have been discussed at length elsewhere’, then what is the point of even mentioning them to decree that they are ‘bad ideas’? Is this like the Baptist preacher who gets the congregation going by getting everybody to say ‘yeah’ before he starts his homily?

@Brian Lucey

Lemme see if I have this straight: Richard Tol is a big expert. Therefore he can dismiss others’ ideas with a wave of his hand and you’ll be content to admire his manicure?

And of course it’s out of the question that any expert could ever have an ideological agenda that his expertise is made to serve.

That said, given what the nation and the world have just been through (and continue to go through) you’d think economists would be just a tad more circumspect when making a show of their expertise.

@Eamonn76

“However, I have a semi-serious proposal for speeding up the Green party’s learning process. Academic economists should join up en masse. It’s the only way.”

It’ll get to the point soon where there the vast majority of Green party members have joined up _since_ the last election with the express purpose of influencing the wielding of power. Already 500 have left since June ’07 and 400 fresh members have signed up, including an organized bloc of 100 in the anti-fur lobby. Given the vote-manipulation that’s already going on, a handful of economists won’t tip the balance either way.

On a brighter note however, their changing membership profile practically guarantees that the Greens won’t survive the coming electoral meltdown. Without access to the levers of power, the Johnny-come-lately membership will melt away very quickly, leaving a rump well below critical mass. Their passing will be unlamented.

It makes sense to examine the green parts of the RPG because it is here (broadly energy and environment) that the Green Party ministers have some sway. The remainder of the RPG requires the buy-in of other ministers and it is probably safe to assume that their enthusiasm will be somewhat less than that of the Green ministers.

In addition to the filtering exercise that Richard has performed it probably would be useful to assess how this wish list would be implemented. It may be that some initiatives may be implemented using the existing powers of the ministers as set out in legislation (SIs, etc.), but it is likely that many of these initiatives will require new or amending legislation. With a programme of legislation already in place and with the Dail sitting just 3 days a week for less than half the year, it may prove difficult to enact the required legislation. However, I expect department officials will be encouraged (pressurised?) to be as innovative as possible in coming up with ways to engineer the implementation of some of these green wheezes using existing ministerial powers.

This is where the serious lack of transparency in policy formulation and the lack of scrutiny of policy proposals really manifest themselves. External informed critique or dissent simply bounces off this process without having any impact. But this is precisely when and where economic expertise if required.

Ernie Ball

Would you blame a meteorologist for a hurricane? Blaming economists for the recession is ridiculous.

Brian Lucey actually said he “will work on that assumption while checking [Richard Tol’s] views”. That’s not the same as accepting everything he says without question.

Ernie, if you disagree with actual statements in the original post, why not present evidence disproving them? You discredit yourself and your views when you go borderline ad hominem like this.

@Ernie Ball
“Lemme see if I have this straight: Richard Tol is a big expert. Therefore he can dismiss others’ ideas with a wave of his hand and you’ll be content to admire his manicure?”
Well, leaving his shapely mitts aside, yes, RT is THE expert in ireland. And as Marcus says, trust but verify. In the same way if Philip Lane were to start dissecting something on international macro, id be more inclined to take his views as a starting point than if say, Mandarin X in the DoF. We are lucky to have RT here in Ireland as a critical expert. Lets try to raise our intellectual aims and listen to these people?

@Marcus O

Ah yes, the retreat into descriptivism. Economists have no problem advising governments and prescribing all manner of policy. Then, when things go wrong their roles are suddenly and retrospectively entirely descriptive: ‘we don’t make policy; we just describe the functioning of the economy’. It’s nonsense.

If economists want to push this line, the price to be paid is this: no government or corporate consultancy work, ever. That might also have the fringe benefit of making them somewhat less willing to issue ever-so-timely reports supporting public sector pay cuts and the like.

As for disagreeing with actual statements in the original post, maybe I didn’t make my objections clear. Tol dismisses several planks of the PfG without so much as a rationale, let alone an argument. One-word replies like ‘tokenism’ or two-word ones like ‘Green dogma’ are not what I consider contributions to reasoned debate but do betoken a certain air of self-certainty. In any case, it is certainly not incumbent on me to try to defend what hasn’t yet been rationally attacked (as opposed to dismissed).

@ Marcus & Brian

Ernie Ball: “That might also have the fringe benefit of making them somewhat less willing to issue ever-so-timely reports supporting public sector pay cuts and the like.”

Fairly sure this is self explanatory in why he has his particular viewpoint on most of the economists on this site…Ernie is quite honestly and vehemently against such cuts…

@ Brian Luch

I’ll start to listen to Richard when he backs down from his extreme ideological position and refrain from making patently inaccurate and ill-informed statements.

– the government uses shadow price of €30 per-tonne of carbon
– carbon tax will somehow affect peoples use of electricity implied above
– Joe Duffy nonsense on CFLs

and clear contradictions:

proposition A from Richard:

“I’m in favour of a carbon tax, and for using the revenue to cut labour costs and increasing benefits to compensate low-income households. Using the revenue to improve the housing stock is bad policy (double regulation)”.

proposition B

“In the paper you cite, Scott argues against fuel allowances and for insulation, exactly as I do”

Now Brian I want you to be really honest with yourself – is that a clear contradiction or not?

The words Rome, fiddles, burns immediately spring to mind.

The true economic raitonal for water meters in Ireland is extremely week. Sahara yes, Ireland no. More politicly driven eoconmic dead loss.

All the rest more tofu-barrelling indeed. A wonderful phrase.

More tax increases, as expected to make the income tax system even more progressive. 51% effective maginal tax rates payable at median earnings clearly isn’t enough yet.

The only major issue on their plate, NAMA, voted through. Says it all.

@ jc

in fairness to Richard, i think the Joe Duffy reference was him somewhat jokingly suggesting what Joe Public might say given all the confusion, ie “i heard on the Joe Duffy Show…”. Its possible I’m actually the one misreading it, but that was what i thought he was getting at.

@JC
No contradiction. The revenue of the carbon tax should not be used for subsidising home insulation.

Fuel allowances (etc) should be means- and needs-tested. The savings should be used to subsidise insulation (etc).

@Ernie Ball
“If economists want to push this line, the price to be paid is this: no government or corporate consultancy work, ever. That might also have the fringe benefit of making them somewhat less willing to issue ever-so-timely reports supporting public sector pay cuts and the like.”

I think that I am the first (reasonably well known) commentator on this site to call for PS pay cuts , back, oh, nearly a year ago now. And I dont do much consultancy (too many hostages to fortune), and was “encouraged” to leave the last two govt posts I held.
So, as they say in the midlands, now for ya

@Ernie
“Participating institutions in NAMA will be obliged to offer a deposit account to consumers which will be ringfenced for lending to Green projects.”

I dismissed this as “tokenism” because I can’t see how this will do any significant harm or good. All Irish banks will be forced to offer a green savings account. This will entail some administrative costs, and perhaps some marketing costs as well. Bank customers are in no way incentivised to put money into such accounts, so the available funds will be minimal.

“We will put in place new public procurement procedures and guidelines to ensure that green criteria are at the centre of all state procurement.”

The government is a large consumer, and green procurement could have a big impact on certain markets at a notable cost to the exchequer. The RPG, however, only promised to look at these matters subject to resources. Chances are that current procedures and guidelines will be changed at the margin, and there is little evidence that the government follows such procedures and guidelines anyway. Tokenism, in short.

@Richard: If a smart guy like you can misrepresent and distort such simple information, even after I provided you with the facts, my guess is that there is no hope for the general public. Ah well, all in line with your general negative attitude towards everything green/environmental.

@Garo
According to your data, the rule of thumb is: “if you will switch the light back on within 15 minutes, you should not switch it off”. With four people walking around in a house, that easily becomes “leave the light on”.

“I’m in favour of a carbon tax, and for using the revenue to cut labour costs and increasing benefits to compensate low-income households. Using the revenue to improve the housing stock is bad policy (double regulation).”

This intigues me Richard. What is the marginal income elasticity of energy demand in Ireland?

Can you indicate where there is some published research on income and price elastice response of different income groups to changes in energy prices (of course the big ones being for cars and domestic light/heat).

I wouldn’t take it as self evident that a revenue neutral carbon tax would in fact reduce CO2 emissions (there is also the issue of factor subsitution in production here).

I can imagine both the nature of demand and the nature of production of energy under current technology an infrastructure might mean such a policy could INCREASE CO2 emissions – quite a contrary outcome.

@ Richard

Not a contradiction, just an exception to the rule, eh?

Insulation is better than benefits, except when the revenue comes from a carbon tax?

Ok how about this one:

“CFLs last longer than incandescant light bulbs if in continous use. If you switch them on and off all the time, they break. That reverses your cost savings and your energy savings”‘

and

“CFLs cannot explode as far as I know”

LOL

Again I ask: any evidence for this assertion?

An aside….

There was an article on Leszek Kołakowski By Tony Judt in the Sept 24 edn of the New York Review. In it Judt referre to Kołakowski’s view that whereas marxism and communism had lead to terrible evils, the socialist ideas and principles that led to communism had to be taken account of by the rest of the political spectrum and that the Social Democratic parties and Christian Democratic parties represent politics influenced by socialism. [I would quote it but I don’t subscribe to the online version].

I think that Green politics can be seen in the same way. The rest of the power wielding classes could ignore the approaching environmental disaster if ti were not for Green activists, crusties and other members of the public calling for all aspects of social, political and economic life to be directed to towards saving the environment.

For that reason, from a Green perspective, it makes some sense to try to double up on Green measures to penetrate to all economic activities. I suggest that the propogation of awareness of green issues by imposing taxes and laws is a political measure to generate momentum and awareness as well as an economic measure to save the environment.

The Bay of Pigs, the efforts to save Lehman Brothers, the Great Crash of 1929, the Rise of Nazism and the present Credit Crunch demonstrate that the smartest minds on Earth have long since proven their ability to fail to understand serious problems and to miss deadlines which can lead to catastrophic consequences. For this reason I do not get annoyed by extreme environmentalism.

@Richard: I generally agree with most of your criticisms of the Green program. A lot of the fundies have lost sight of common sense. But your strident dismissive tone makes me suspect that the anti-green thing has become an ideological belief. I may be wrong.

Back to CFLs, my conclusion from the studies is that even if you switched CFLs on and off just like ordinary bulbs, given that the average cycle time is 32 minutes, you will still save a lot of electricity even if they break well before their stated life. So please go ahead and switch them on/off like usual. Just don’t use them as strobe lights. I switched to CFLs three years ago and with 8-10 bulbs in the house and switching them off every time I leave the room, I have not had a single one “break” on me yet.

Here is a summary and edited version of my views on the Greens and NAMA / PfG…

NAMA for the Greens and other left-wingers who support it is a way of faking ‘hard-headed’ realism. It checks that box which the Greens have always felt uncomfortable leaving unchecked. The box that says ‘economically literate’. Like an uncultured millionaire who hopes that stuffing his library with great books, that he can’t understand, will nonetheless make him socially acceptable, the Greens who support NAMA are indulging in a cathartic compensation for insecurity. It’s a hell of a path to adulthood.

The trouble with it is that, as with much of the left, for the Green Party’s entire history it has been conditioned to treat the concept of ‘economic realism’ as a nasty ‘neo-liberal’ euphemism for anti-social ‘right-wing’ ideas like cutting social welfare or spending on education. They’ve never understood it as a valid concept but have remained in perpetual childhood where such things are the talk of grownups.

Now, like an 18-year old who has prematurely inherited a family fortune and must grow up fast, the Greens have been asked to sign a complicated and difficult document about transferring assets and liabilities. It’s sooooo boring and yet the responsibility brings with it twinge of excitement. ‘Daddy always said I was no good. Well now I can stand on my own two feet’. It even requires them to use words like ‘economic realism’ but in a way that means something serious and grownup.

As to whether the document they have signed is fraudulent or not they have no clue. The nice man with the suit and tie (not very cool really) said we can spend lots more money on animals and the environment. Not only do they not have the financial / fiscal expertise to understand what they have done, their entire morality is grounded in the view that people who do understand this kind of stuff are morally suspect.

The irony is that the Greens who support NAMA have built careers and even personal identities out of attacking ‘corporate greed’. Almost always ‘corporate greed’ is an ideologically-driven figment of the leftist imagination. But on the one occasion – like now – when an exceptionally rare and huge example comes along, they choose not to see it for what it is but instead act like Pantomime heroes behind whose back the villain has appeared. We are like kids in the audience shouting ‘CORPORATE GREED IS BEHIND YOU’. Feigning not to see it they insist – a little more confident now – that they don’t need protecting because WE HAVE TO BE ECONOMICALLY REALISTIC. There is no danger, they say. Now can we get back to doing what we we’re all here for: banning GM crops and protecting ‘our friends’ the lovely stags.

They have spent their entire lives in Sherwood Forest with Robin Hood (wealth transfers and all) and the friendly animals. They think they can remain morally pure whilst treating with NAMA. The trouble is this is not Robin Hood but a horror movie.

There is nothing remarkable about the Green Party’s promotion of its vacuous, gratuitous, tokenist, arrogant, feckless cocktail of government waste. But in their endorsement of NAMA they are like a drug-addled paranoid hippy who, having decided that everyone is trying to kill them, have stepped outside their secure garden and befriended the only person in the entire world who really is trying to kill them.

Turn off your mobile phones. No smoking. Enjoy the movie.

@ Richard

Commission for Taxation Report 2009

http://www.commissionontaxation.ie/downloads/Part%201.pdf

“The
overall effects of our proposed carbon tax on vulnerable households should be appraised to ensure that
such households (urban and rural) are cushioned from the effects of the tax. We also suggest that the
recycling of carbon tax revenues to fund energy efficiency incentives for business and households would
be appropriate”

There go those crazy greens again, eh, attempting to implement the findings of expert bodies!!

@Garo
Con’s link has decent data. The actual lifetime can be 60% of the stated lifetime. That changes the balance of fixed and variable costs, and the balance of fixed and variable energy use.

That in turn means that, if you want to minimise energy use or if you want to minimise costs, you want to use a mix of CFLs and incandescant bulbs. A blanket ban is a corner solution, and the optimum is in the interior.

Oh I agree that a blanket ban is silly. I think people should be encouraged to use CFLs in the appropriate setting and it might be useful to introduce a ban in settings such as offices where cycle time is very large. BTW, even with a 60% of stated lifetime, it still is more economical in a household setting. I did the numbers back in 2006 and the subsequent increases in electricity prices have only made CFLs more attractive from a cost perspective. Now if the ESB were to stop rent-seeking, the numbers might change 🙂

@Paul McDonnell
All true. Regarding Nama, they remind me of the British Labour government in the twenties which defended the Gold Standard. As a socialist government they wanted to prove that the economy was safe in their hands. Then they split, to be replaced by a conservative dominated national government. Which then left the Gold Standard.

@zhou
It would be interesting to see how the the Greens would react if Global Warming was disproved/ resolved and abundant sources of cheap clean energy were discovered. I’d say many would be disappointed – “now we’ll never get them to live in harmony with the planet”.

My own view:
It might be useful to distinguish between economist greens and green economists:

A green economist would be someone who wants to resolve environmental problems by using standard economic theory.

An economist green has the same goals but he believes in the policy approach devised by his party: regulation, government investment, recycling. He will use his economic knowledge and skills to devise similar policies with the same approach in ever more areas. The green economist will then throw up his hands and talk about efficency and double regulation and the preferability of incentivising the private sector. The economist green likes double regulation – it gets the job done at twice the speed. He likes recycling and government investment – he doesn’t care if he is told they are inefficent solutions. He has decided on his methods. Judging by many socialist parties, if his methods fail he is not likely to abandon them. Instead he will say they failed because they did not go far enough and come up with something even more interventionist.

Over time, as the costs of the Greens interventions become clear, and they face a more sceptical public, they will become more cautious. Also, we will be devoting so many existing resources to the Green budget that they will be faced with political opposition to cut-backs in other areas. Indeed, that might yet impact in this government’s life.

The Greens were left on their own for too long, indulged, unquestioned, ignored and not taken seriously. Isolated, their party evolved a very regulationist, interventionist set of policies. Only repeated failure, resource constraints and public opposition will stop them. The next election will be difficult, but if they can create a big enough constituency for themselves they may well recover surprisingly quickly. At the moment they view green economists as wrong and mainstream economists as enemies.
Over time this will change.

In the mean time please take all their policy proposals very seriously.
Dismissal won’t work. Only repeated critical analysis.

Oh I’ve just found the clincher of the whole deal. (page 12)

“We will develop the potential for “Food Tourism”, starting with “food trails” and
the provision of food in public houses particularly in rural areas”

Sweet divine. Pubs serving food!!!! Yes! That’s it! If ONLY someone had thought of it sooner. Yes, definitely worth it.

I CANNOT BELIEVE THEY SAT DOWN AND WROTE THIS DRIVEL.

It might be worth pointing out that the Greens weren’t the only people with interesting priorities in the PFG negotiations.

From yesterday’s Sunday Business Post:
http://www.thepost.ie/newsfeatures/green-gamble-pays-off-44938.html

“The Greens had got several landmark concessions – stag hunting, third-level fees, a green investment fund – but they had to realise that while Fianna Fáil was desperate to stay in office, it had red lines, too. Hare-coursing wouldn’t be abolished.”

Ok then, why exactly is hare-coursing a red line issue for FF? What did the hares ever do to the Soldiers of Destiny?

@Garo
A 3 pack of energy saving bulbs in Woodies is €6.99 i.e €2.33 each
A pack of 2 standard bulbs is €1.79 or 0.90c each.

Now you have to sell the cost saving story and this is where Joe Duffy comes in. I’ve been watching the argument here back and forth. I’m an intelligent guy, an accountant and would like to save money but

1. I hear CFLs don’t work on dimmers.(ESB site confirms this) Most of the main lights we use in the house are dimmers. Are dimmers effectively going to be banned?
2. You have to turn the cfl on a few minutes before you can actually see anything properly. We have a couple of ordinary bulbs in the shed and garage which literally go on and off for a few minutes not even once a week.
3. How does it work with all these specialist bulbs that light fittings seem to need.
4. Now you’re suggesting leaving lights on for 15 minutes after leaving the room. I’ve 2 teenagers, I’m trying to get them to turn off lights!!!

I don’t know how much of the above is true or scare stories. Anyway my main ESB cost problem is the emersion, the tumble dryer, dishwasher, ghd….

I decided to try and get some way of calculating the saving and found an 11 watt cfl will save me €11.30 per year assuming the light is on 4 hours per day. I reckon about 7 bulbs (excluding the dimmers) in my house would be on for 4 hours per day max but only in the autumn/winter. Let’s say savings of (11.3*7/2) and that’s €40 per annum. The 7 bulbs will cost me €10 extra. I’m underwhelmed but when the next bulb goes I’ll try a cfl.

The site I found did suggest a €600 per annum saving on a large house but you had to have 45 bulbs on for 4 hours per day average to save this.

@Stuart
Your 4) is wrong. CFLs wear when you switch them on. It is cheaper to leave them on for 15 min than to switch them off and turn them on again 15 min later.

The decision whether to leave them on or off thus requires that you predict where your kids will be between now and t+15.

In sheds, garages, bathrooms, incandescent bulbs are cheaper and use less energy (over the life cycle).

@ Richard

“Indeed. The Commission on Taxation got it quite wrong in this case.”

It appears that the ESRI may have got this one too. Professor Eakins who co-wrote ESRI paper with Sue Scott with in 2002 noted in relation to carbon tax that “compensation is not the only policy measure to hand” and that energy efficiency programmes could also have positive spin-offs.

I note also from paper you co-authored, Working Paper 262, that “Improvements to the housing stock are a sine qua non for sensible policy on fuel poverty, and even more so with high energy prices prevailing in the foreseeable future” p32, November 2008. Yet we should use revenues to increase allowances?

Anyway you can take it up with Professor Eakins – he will be launching Carbon Energy Taxation: The European Experience in the IIEA, Wednesday 12:45.

http://www.iiea.com/events/carbon-energy-taxation–the-european-experience

This thread is a revelation – I now understand why my 6th CFL in two years blew yesterday evening!

@KW

The dogs are muzzled in hare coursing for 10+ years since. Contrary to the coffee table talk in Dublin boudoirs the supporters of hare coursing are likely to be homely elderly rural people rather than blood-lust crazed demons intent on torturing bunnies. Given how comfortable those people are with the lack of cruelty in coursing they will react negatively to being painted as animal hating scum by any party and likely never vote for them again. This would likely cost FF a number of marginal seats and number of party members. The same is true for FG.

Most of Labour and the Greens, as urban parties, would not recognise these people unless they appeared as those urbanites imagine them, i.e., with a wild look in their eyes, blood dribbling from their mouths and various dead baby animals hanging from their baling twine belts. [A bit OTT I know, but seeing as it is the season for going over the top in our criticisms of all things Green..]

Well, I’m calling my mother in law to apologise for judging her when she started stock piling ordinary light bulbs last year. Between the eye strain from the crappy light and the anxiety of working out if I’ll be back in the room within 15 minutes I am so over CFLs and hoping she’ll share her rations with me.

@jc
You mixing up John Eakins and Paul Ekins.

I’m not sure how often I need to write this: I advocate reducing current spending on fuel allowances to finance capital spending on home insulation.

@Stuart

As I said in a previous post, I oppose a blanket ban on CFLs.

1) True. If using CFLs, don’t use dimmers.

2) As Richard said, don’t use them in garages, sheds etc. The bit about taking a few minutes depends on the quality of the CFL. I have several bulbs that require no warming and one or two that are dark at the beginning. But it does not take a few minutes. More like 30 seconds in my experience.

3) Special light fittings? Why on earth would you need those 🙂

4) Again I defer to Richard.

I agree that the saving is underwhelming but it does make a difference. But the vast majority of energy saving will have to come from heating in the home. Irish houses are amongst the worst in terms of emergy efficiency and I have lived in four countries. Simple things like installing a thermostat/timer switch on your immersion and a bit of foil/padding behind radiators attached to external walls will save more than changing your whole house to CFL. In that respect, I find this focus on CFLs a bit nonsensical and counter-productive.

@Sarah: Crappy light? I’d just get the CFL with the next higher rating and ignore what the box says. Also, just ignore the 15 minute rule and switch them on/off as you please. but do get good quality CFLs. Philips has worked well for me.

BTW, instead of CFLs why don’t we think about a switch to FLs?

@Richard & Sarah
Spending some of our tourism budget on food trails sounds like a good idea. John O’Donoghue has been on a food trail abroad for years. It’s obviously quite addictive. Other initiatives sound fine. Taxing carbon great.
But I suppose in this time of economic crisis non-Greens want the government to focus on cost minimisation. The Greens introduction of environmental procurement, investment, incentives etc sounds like something that our establishment cannot afford to waste it’s limited capabilities on. But for greens this is the green moment. They’ve been waiting 28 years. Gormley sounds as giddy as a schoolgirl. I believe that everything they’ve announced they are going to try to do. Well, at least our carbon budget is going to be in surplus.

@ KW,

I can provide some cultural info on why the Sodiers support hare coursing and are prepared to let stag hunting go by the wayside. hare coursing is a past-time of the plain people of Ireland (who have their dinner in the middle of the day) and who used vote FF. Stag hunting is the past-time of large farmers (and Protestants) who primarily vote FG. Simple rally. Mink coats are worn by the nouveau riche wives and mistreses of property developers but they are all bust now, so who cares. Simple politics really.

@ Richard Tol,

The ‘Fuel Allowance’ in the Irish social welfare system is a top-up of €20 per week for 32 weeks from September 1st (€23.90 in cities and towns where coal is banned). It is paid to all recipients of long-term social transfers who meet certain additional qualification rules.

There is no requirement that it be spent on fuel.

@Colm
Indeed. The fuel allowance and the gas/electricity allowance are the main instruments to combat fuel poverty. Total exchequer cost is €400 million. The fuel allowance is not means-tested. Neither allowance is needs-tested. People who have a well-insulated house and a modern heating do not need the full allowances. People who had their house insulated with government money should have their fuel allowance cut. The money saved should be spend on insulating other houses.

@ Richard

More on this house retrofitting, sorry! There was a rather excellent report put out today by the Committee on Climate Change in the UK which you may have seen. It’s here (from page 9 onward):

http://hmccc.s3.amazonaws.com/docs/21667%20CCC%20Report%20Chapter%205.pdf

It contains lots of useful figures and a few MACC curves. I imagine much of the analysis is applicable to Ireland also. One figure that surprised me was the £650-£1350/tCO2 of solar thermal!

The report offers evidence that 30-50% of people would not even take completely FREE efficiency measures. They’re just not bothered.

Anyway, one of the ideas presented that I’d like to run by you is the idea that:

-Houses are given a complete house audit (BER I guess)
-Presented with a package of measures and offered finance
-The finance is placed on the house and set against their electricity/gas bills at a level equal to the amount they should save
-It is rolled out community by community with show houses to encourage takeup and vault over those nasty indifference barriers.

Does that sound palatable to you?
Also, do you support the idea that houses being offered for rent or put on the market should have a minimum BER which is gradually increased or is this double regulation?

Thanks,
Eamon

@Eamon
Here’s the nub. I live in a near 30 year old 4 bed semi d. ESB costs me €750 a year (inc VAT), oil costs me about €1200. So €2k per annum.

What is a typical cost to bring the house up to a minimum BER and how much would it save? The windows are old so I know I could put in PVC but these would be €20k to €30k. I suspect the payback is not there.

Our next door neighbour when having an extension done looked at solar and it was just too expensive for the savings.

@Stuart
A friend of mine used to sell heat pumps (which cool in summer and store the energy to heat in winter). He’s the honest type of guy so he always told prospective buyers that the payback time is 40 years (undiscounted). The majority responded with a “40 years! that’s great, let’s get one!” and they did.

@Eamonn
There is more to energy efficiency than costs. The hassle of having builders around the house is a big deterrent.

As to your proposal, you’re turning utilities into banks.

A mandatory BER on sale or lease is fine. BERs are cheap (relative to the price of the house) and there is clear information asymmetry between buyer and seller.

I do not see any environmental justification in a minimum BER. If people want to live in a drafty house and pay a huge carbon tax, that’s their business.

There is a health justification in a minimum BER. Cold and damp make you ill. As long as health care is heavily subsidised, there is a case for a public policy to prevent people from falling ill.

@Richard
“The majority responded with a “40 years! that’s great, let’s get one!” and they did.”

I suspect the reality is very few of these projects would give a positive return on investment unless you make not doing it very expensive.

The problem is not just the builders being around but doing the job properly. Our heating system works – if it ain’t broke don’t fix it. We had work done on the emersion and it hasn’t worked properly since despite numerous calls to and by the workman who did it.

The only way to get a big takeup on making people acting more “green” is to charge them. Take recycling. When we started paying for waste then we took action. It still costs more than it used to but we’ve got it to about one third of what it might have been.

Not the best time at the moment to hit people with higher bills.

@Richard

“In fact, Renault is behind Nissan in realising its plans. Besides, their all-electric vehicles require battery-exchanges. These are being build in a few countries, but not in Ireland, so the Renaults are not relevant for Ireland.”

Not quite true on two counts:

(1) Given that they are pretty much the same company and share technology (in this case battery and drive train but not platform).
(2) The Renault vehicles don’t *require* battery swap out, as they can be charged overnight on single phase or on three phase.

The Nissan Leaf will be close in size to the Renault Zoe but uses a different rapid charging technology. As ‘@eamonn’ indicated above, volumes have been set and the French manufacturing plant has been selected. There is nothing running at a higher priority in Renault at the moment than their current EV projects.

Great article by the way

@John
My understanding is that Nissan has applied for planning permission, while Renault is still undecided where to manufacture. I may be wrong, though.

The Renault batteries can of course be recharged, but only slowly.

@Richard

The 400kg 70Kw/H battery in the Renault Zoe (think Clio size-ish) can be charged in 6 hours over single phase (off peak would be nice) and can be charged by 3 phase in less than 30 minutes (need to check this but it is pretty fast). Basically all Renaults will have single phase, 3 phase and battery swap out options (thus keeping them in the Project Better Place world).

Also, the French plant has already been selected and the Nissan Sunderland plant will have some role in the production of batteries.

Mules of the actual car platform with the major drive train components are ‘driving’ now.

@John
I cannot find any evidence of what you say, but that may be because I did not look hard enough. Do you have a source?

30 min is slow. I can refilll my petrol tank in a fraction of that time.

@Richard

Your point is very well made. 30mins is slow for a charge but you need to get your head around the model for pure EV motors. The ‘industry’ views the future market something like this:

Short commute (school/shopping/work) = Pure EV car like Zoe or Leaf. This will be about 20-30% of the market supported by 3phase urban recharging points (http://m.guardian.co.uk/ms/p/gmg/op/view.m?id=193255&tid=120787&cat=Transport). Your car would be charged while you are at work or shopping or some such lazing about.

Long distance = Series or Parallel petrol or diesel hybrids or HCCI petrol or EVs with battery swap out

Future = fuel cell.

Maybe I should have included ‘sources close to the industry’ in my posting – but my points are supported by an interview with Thierry Koskas, head of Renault’s electric vehicle project (http://www.renault.com/en/capeco2/vehicule-electrique/pages/entretien-thierry-koskas.aspx).

From Renault: Standard battery charge (at home): 4 to 8 hours; recharge at rapid station: 20 minutes; battery exchange at “quick drop”: 3 minutes

My source is not Thierry by the way.

@John
I’ll take your word for it.

Most people have one car only. Although I, for one, typically drive short distances, I occasionally want to drive to the other end of the country and back in a day. All-electric is not for me so. I would not be surprised if this were true for many people.

The current emphasis on all-electric in Ireland’s political classes is misguided, I fear.

@Richard

A valid commentary of this model would be that the EV is the car for the weekday commute and that the ‘family’ also have a diesel/range extender hybrid (or have access to rent/hire one) for the weekend or ‘road trips’. With your domain knowledge I think you are best positioned to fit this ‘transport solution’ into the appropriate demographic.

Implementation wise – It will work well in France where they will EV commute to and from their RER/TGV/Light rail stations.

@ jc

Cool, it appears the government is already on it.

@ John

I can’t imagine fuel cells ever being the future – hydrogen is a distracting joke. That’s why the US DoE dropped funding for it. I can’t speak to why some car companies still believe in it.

@ Richard

In that situation you could rent a car for the day. It’s not terribly imposing but some behavioural changes will be required in the energy future. Even if all new cars were electric from now on it would take about 15 years to change the car fleet. Starting now with modest introduction is a sensible option to prepare for future oil scenarios. It’s not that we want to change, it’s that we’re being forced to.

@Richard
Yes on car pooling. Combine private car usage with something like Avego’s Shared Transport Solution (http://www.avego.com/st/overview.php) which I saw a presentation of recently and you might have something *modern*. Only 36M iphone users so far and it probably needs to be in the 100M before critical mass (and lets avoid an iPhone bun fight here). But using this technology or similar, you can create a public opt-in transport system from the ground up – at little or no cost to the government. Not sure if CIE would be too happy about it but hey..

@Eamon
Sorry I disagree with you. My ‘sources close to the industry’ tell me that its is THE future. Parallel and Series hybrids may still exist but with fuel cells rather than internal combustion engines.

BTW Avego is based in Kinsale, Co. Cork by the way.. the s/w is written there as well..

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