It’s easy being green

Steen Videbeck
Insights Newsletter
23 July, 2021

Two cars pull up to a traffic light.

One is a farmer in his trusty ute. It is covered in mud and wouldn’t look out of place in those classic ‘bugger’ TV ads.

The other is a new Tesla EV. Self-driving of course, allowing the driver to eat their organic smashed avocado on toast comfortably on the way to yoga.

So, which one is greener? The one belching smoke or the one that sounds like a futuristic sewing machine.

It is obvious, right? So obvious that you might even be tempted to slap a subsidy on one and put a tax, sorry ‘levy’, on the other.

But it turns out the answer is a bit counterintuitive.

They are the same. Yes, there is no difference in their contribution to New Zealand’s net emissions. Nada. Zilch.

But wait, how can that be?

And no, it’s not because the EV is plugged into the Huntly coal power station. You can plug it in anywhere you like.

It is because petrol is included in the Emissions Trading Scheme (ETS). So, the ute owner is paying their dues every time they fill up at the pump. As New Zealand’s emissions are capped, every unit of carbon they emit is one less unit that can be used somewhere else. The ute is as green as the EV.

So, no more looking down on the Westie Commodore (or Falcon) owners or the illegitimate Remuera Range Rover drivers. We are all in this together. No one is better. Yes, not even the person playing Candy Crush on the bus or the high-viz clad cyclist on their e-bike.

The beauty about the ETS is it allows people to make choices, rather than the powers that be imposing their preferences by banning things, ‘feebating’ things or levying things.

If your farm dog is struggling to balance on the roof of a Nissan Leaf, buy a ute. If you love the deep growl of a V8, buy one. Or alternatively, upgrade your EV with the optional synthetic soundscape recording of a V8 engine. It is your choice – completely guilt-free either way.

But what is the harm in the Government throwing other people’s money at EV subsidies? Simple, it’s unfair to penalise people who are already paying their fair share. And it won’t reduce emissions. Oh, and it is also regressive - taking from the poor and giving to the rich. In fact, it is hard to think of a more regressive policy. Well, maybe spending $685 million on a cycle harbour bridge to one of Auckland’s wealthiest neighbourhoods.

Wait, I am starting to see a pattern.

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