Some random thoughts on Sales, Marketing and Fair Trading.

Commentary, Trade, Owen McShane

While Dairy products are fetching ever higher prices, wool prices are languishing.

Worse, the leaders of the industry seem resigned to their fate.

This is surely remarkable. At a time when everyone from Dictators to ditch-diggers is
besotted by things “natural” surely wool should be riding on the sheep’s back.

Sheep are “natural”; they gambol freely on the range, they’re “polar bear cute”. Their fleece is
renewable –clip it and it grows back immediately. Wool is a “heritage” cloth – people wove
wool in truly ancient times.

Surely, this is a marketer’s dream. Yet cotton, which is a monocultural crop, and has to be
irrigated, fertilized and sprayed, gets all the publicity. Anti-GM protestors wear T- shirts
emblazoned with anti-GM slogans printed on GM-cotton grown in China.

I try to think of the last time I saw an advertisement promoting wool as a natural product – or
indeed as any kind of product at all.

Memory fails me.


Promoting Solar Water Heating

Solar water heating is normally promoted by appeals to our sense of virtue. Enthusiasts claim
that if we all had solar water-heaters we would not need any more electricity generation. They
overlook the fact that generation capacity has to be sufficient to meet peak demand, and at
times of peak demand the sun frequently chooses not to shine.

So people are often surprised to find that all the houses I have recently designed or renovated
have solar heating. Indeed, a solar heating gang are presently installing solar heating for the
cottage we moved into last week.

My recent houses have targeted the holiday or weekender market. Solar heating delivers real
benefits to this market because the owners can flip off the electric booster when they go back
home for a week or so, knowing that, when they return, the water will still be warm, or even
hot, without having churned through the power in their absence.

Even on a winter’s day, when they return, it takes only twenty minutes or so for the booster to
heat the warm water up to shower temperature. That’s a real plus. But the main reason we are
going solar in our current dwelling is that we can dump the existing hot water cylinder and
gain room for a massive pantry in what is otherwise an impossibly small kitchen. People
frequently overlook the value of the “saved floor space” gained from replacing a cylinder in
the house with one on the roof.

Forget about “energy conservation” though. In my experience most people, myself included,
seize on the “solar saving” to justify a nice hot electrically heated spa pool, or some other

People seem to have an “energy budget” just as we have a “travel budget” and what we save
in one area, we use in another.

Just to discourage us, we now have to pay hundreds of dollars for a building consent to install
a solar system. Why not just license installers the way we license plumbers and electricians?

Where is the Fair Trading Act?

Ensis, a joint venture between Crown Research Institute Scion in Rotorua, and Australia’s
CSIRO, is trying to find out if native trees are adding to New Zealand’s carbon emissions.

Scientist Dr Peter Beets is leading the programme to develop tools to compare the amount of
carbon being absorbed by living trees with the amount of carbon released when trees die and
decay. The group hopes to find out if native trees actually reduce the country’s overall
emissions at all, or if the final emissions cancel out any benefit.

“The idea is that we don’t want vast amounts of money spent on trying to measure forest sinks
and emissions, so instead we are coming up with tools that make an accurate prediction,” Dr
Beets says.

Now just a minute. Dr Beets of Ensis is admitting that we cannot actually measure the forest
sinks and emissions. But Landcare is happily offering forest sinks as a means of claiming
“carbon neutrality” and also offering the “currency” of forest sinks in cap-and-trade regimes.

I suspect that if I offered to sell produce worth millions of dollars while admitting I had no
idea of the quantity “in the bags” I would be on Fair Go in no time flat.

However, we seem determined to follow in Enron’s shoes.

Clean, Green and Scheme – that’s our game.

The Impossible Dream?

Tourism New Zealand’s promotional slogan “100% pure New Zealand” has surely made a
rod for our own back.

We do seem to take delight in self-flagellation and this slogan provides lashings of
opportunities. First, it is meaningless in scientific terms. After all, a handful of topsoil
contains trillions of bacteria. Does that make it impure?

And what is pure air, or pure water? All natural material contains some level of contaminant.
Dirt is natural.

We can only hope no visitors come here believing that all New Zealanders are 100% pure in
every thought and action.

While the slogan may have no real meaning, it carries enough linguistic baggage to provide
endless opportunities for “purists” to keep reminding us that our reputation for being green
and clean – and pure – is a fraud and that our promotions are based on false claims.

Guilt, shame and failure are becoming our national attribute and reshaping our national
character. “Purity” has always been a dangerous concept and pedagogues have always made
the most of it.

Purity of thought, purity of race, purity of life, and purity of belief, have long been used to
advance repression and terror.

When Karl Popper reminded us that “holistic thinking” is the handmaiden of fascism he
might well have added that “purity” is fascism’s best weapon.

I am not suggesting we change the slogan to “95% pure”, or “Slightly dirty – really”.
We should just drop it altogether – and get real.

An Alternative to Cap-and-Trade.

While the government argues the case for a cap-and-trade scheme in carbon emissions, and
while economists and others argue that a carbon tax is more efficient and less prone to abuse,
Ross McKitrick – the one who straightened out the infamous Hockey Stick – has come up
with an ingenious tax proposal which should charm both the skeptics and the alarmists.

He proposes a carbon tax, pegged to actual levels of warming as measured by satellite – rather
than to alarmist theories based on unproven computer models.

All the revenues from the tax would be recycled into domestic income tax cuts to maintain
fiscal neutrality and there would be no cap on total emissions.

Global-warming skeptics and opponents of greenhouse-abatement policy should like such a
scheme, because no warming would mean no increase in the tax.

But global-warming alarmists should like it too, because if they are right, the tax will climb
rapidly in the years ahead.

But some solar scientists expect pronounced cooling in the near future. If they are right, the
pegged carbon tax will fall below zero within two decades, and the tax would become a

At this point horrified global-warming alarmists would surely slam the proposal. But the
carbon tax would become a carbon subsidy only if all the climate models are wrong, if
greenhouse gases are not warming the atmosphere, and if the sun actually controls the
climate. Alarmists can hardly reject the policy because their own beliefs have been disproved.

Under McKintrick’s tax, the regulator would call everyone’s bluff at once, without gambling
in advance on who is right.

If the tax goes up, it should have.

If it doesn’t go up, it shouldn’t have.

It’s a tax that calls everybody’s bluff.

If our politicians are determined to be “world leaders” this would seem to be the least harmful
way to exercise their conceits.