Miscanthus – Political lack of interest

When we were first working to get Miscanthus approved for import into New Zealand, the Environmental Risk Management Authority (ERMA) waived the fee for their work because they thought that having Miscanthus in New Zealand was so very much in the interests of New Zealand. A little earlier, a staff member of the Energy Efficiency and Conservation Authority remarked that it should be the government bringing Miscanthus into New Zealand rather than a private business and that if ERMA did charge a fee then the government should pay it. Since then, Miscanthus New Zealand Limited (MNZ) has been striving to get some sort of official recognition of the value of Miscanthus to New Zealand but so far it has been like trying to communicate with a black hole. Everything goes in and nothing comes out. My frustration will therefore be clearly evident in this article.

This article therefore contains very little information and is mostly an indirect appeal to the politicians and officials to wake up. You can help to achieve that.

Would you think that the Minister for Climate Change might be interested in an energy crop – Miscanthus of course – that to the point of being on-truck at farm-gate is better than zero carbon? The answer is apparently “No” judging by the complete lack of response to information personally handed to the Minister as well as being emailed.

I had thought that the Minister of Energy should be interested in a biomass based, renewable, direct replacement for fossil fuel diesel that is much better than zero carbon? Apparently she is not interested because she had not replied to any communication about this until late July when she effectively said that her officials dismissed having any interest in renewable diesel.

Might the Minister for the Environment possibly be interested in a crop that can significantly reduce nitrogen leaching from farmland? Again judging by the lack of response the answer is “No”.

Would you expect that the Minister for Primary Industries (MPI) might be interested in a crop that not only reduces nitrogen leaching but also provides many farmers with a reliable annual income that is not influenced by the NZD:USD conversion rate or by the oil price or by dairy, sheep and beef prices? It seems that MPI is not interested at all.

We expect to soon be contracting to produce renewable diesel fuel (RDF) in New Zealand from cellulosic biomass – Miscanthus and forest industry residues. So would you not expect that the Minister of Finance or some part of government might be interested in encouraging production of this. We are talking here about a fuel that is based on New Zealand biomass and that allows direct import substitution – hence improving New Zealand’s fuel security and reducing NZ’s international fuel bill. But sadly, there seems to be so little interest from officialdom that it is very likely that the renewable diesel that does get produced may well be exported. It will go to California where they will pick up the benefits of using an environmentally friendly and carbon negative fuel. Once again New Zealand will miss out because of lack of interest from the politicians.

How about the Minister for Regional Development? Surely he would be interested in a new crop, and also in fact a new fuel production system, that can be based regionally and will reliably boost regional income? So far there has been no sign of serious interest at all.

Surely it is reasonable to have also thought that the Minister for Climate Change and Minister for the Environment might also be just a tiny bit interested in a liquid fuel production system that could be based not only on Miscanthus, but also on forest industry processing residues. Very importantly, it could accept up to 20% waste plastic in the feedstock for the fuel production system. We have provided them with the relevant information and there has been absolutely no response from them at all.

The point is that all of these ministers, and the Prime Minister, have been informed repeatedly about the positive benefits of both Miscanthus and RDF but none has shown the slightest bit of interest. It seems that they and their officials are not interested in anything that has not already been done in NZ, even if it is something that will greatly assist in reducing New Zealand’s net greenhouse gas emissions.

Miscanthus New Zealand Limited (MNZ) has told them about this and has provided them with information. Bioenergy Association of New Zealand has also done so. Dr Rocky Renquist of Bioenergy Cropping Solutions has done so too. But it seems to us that the apparent intention of these ministers and their officials is to remain completely uninformed.

Even the Productivity Commission was informed in some detail about Miscanthus and RDF for their Low Emissions Economy report. To find out more about Miscanthus they consulted with Scion who know almost nothing about Miscanthus and apparently nothing at all about RDF. At no point did they make any attempt to contact MNZ to get some real information. The prevailing attitude of such officialdom seems to be a very strong determination to remain completely ignorant of any opportunities that they have not come up with themselves. In addition, the politicians seem to be completely unaware that Scion has a huge conflict of interest because their primary focus – perhaps their entire focus – is on trees and forest.

Is this really the way government works? There have been big announcements made about major government funds to promote renewable energy and regional development. But in the case of the NZ Green Investment Fund that was announced by the Prime Minister and the Minister for the Environment last year, enquiries immediately after the announcement revealed that there was no procedure available to apply for any of this government funding. Months later, there still was not. Can people who are working to promote environmental protection, regional development and fuel security for New Zealand get government encouragement only if they have an existing relationship with relevant ministers or officials?

Perhaps everybody who reads this article should individually contact the relevant ministers along with their local MPs to ask why the government is not showing serious interest – in fact any interest – in assisting New Zealand to develop a crop like Miscanthus. This crop is commercially viable, carbon negative, environmentally friendly and regionally beneficial. It is also backed by technology that will produce RDF from locally grown Miscanthus – while clearing New Zealand’s mountain of waste plastic!

If we all did that and everyone who reads this on the website or on Scoop did it also, it would surely get some sort of response from the government, even if there is no ministerial or governmental reaction to this particular article. As was said earlier, these articles are already being sent to the Prime Minister and a series of other ministers and MPs who should be interested in these topics. But so far no interest at all is evident. We are left with the feeling that either the ministers are not interested in anything useful to do with their portfolio, or perhaps their staff – who probably are the people who actually receive and read the emails – are not alerting them to the fact that these possibilities exist.

Suggestions on how to wake up politicians and officialdom will be warmly welcomed.

Email: peter@miscanthus.co.nz
Phone: 027 498 4241

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