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Fools rush in

Written By: - Date published: 1:55 pm, October 14th, 2011 - 55 comments
Categories: climate change, Conservation, disaster, Mining, sustainability - Tags: ,

Labour has announced it will put a moratorium on deepsea oil drilling until it’s proven safe. Good. Basic precautionary principle. Clearly necessary given the piss-poor handling of a relatively small spill.

Besides, there’s no rush to dig this stuff up. It’s not going anywhere and we can only extract it once. The oil, if it’s there, will only become more valuable as a source of petroleum products (fuel and non-fuel) over time.

Have to ask if we should be digging it up to burn anyway in the age of climate change.

The Nats, however, are determined to push ahead. Just stupid. All they can come up with are snide remarks and silly comments like ‘a ship running aground isn’t like a oil well blowout’. No, it’s not. The second involves a hell of a lot more oil and is a hell of a lot harder to fix.

Btw, I should acknowledge the Greens were way out in front on this issue. Like always.

55 comments on “Fools rush in”

  1. tsmithfield 1

    “…until it’s proven safe.”

    Define “safe”.

    • felix 1.1

      A bit late to try to frame this as a hypothetical semantic argument ts.

    • bbfloyd 1.2

      t.s..look it up in any dictionary moron… then think about trying not to waste peoples time with childish “why” games…

      • tsmithfield 1.2.1

        Concepts such as “safe” have to have some definitional parameters that are practicable to impliment. If “safe” means there is to be absolutely no possibility of anything going wrong under any imaginable or theoretical circumstances then we need to close up our current operations at Taranaki and shut down all our shipping, and probably shut down most industry in NZ.

        So, again I ask you. Define “safe” in operational terms. Until that is done Labour’s policy is meaningless.

        • bbfloyd

          only to you insider…. but we aren;t the ones playing”why” are we… that’s your new clever game…

        • felix

          I don’t think Kiwis are going to have the same problem you are in understanding what is reasonably meant by “safe” in this context.

          Actually I think you’ll find that in the eyes of Kiwis the onus will be very much on National to demonstrate that they aren’t going to completely fucking destroy our beaches, our food sources, and our very way of life.

          I know you want it to be a semantic argument but if you’ll excuse the pun, that ship has sailed.

          • tsmithfield

            Its not a semantic argument at all. Any activity has an inherent degree of risk no matter how “safe” we try to make it. We need to decide the degree of risk we are willing to carry versus the probability of the risk ever occuring.

            In the case of oil wells, should we never build them if there is the possibility they may not contain an oil spill after a meteor strike for example? I think most NZers would consider that sort of risk was OK to carry considering, that to the best of my knowledge, we have never had anything damaged by a meteor strike. However, the risk is still there although incredibly small.

            • insider

              We also need to define ‘deep’ – that’s going to be tricky for some round here 🙂

              • Bob

                Any thing from 1500 to more than 3000 mts on a fault line , sounds perfectly safe

              • Blighty

                there’s a technical definition of deepsea drilling.

                Safe is not causing risk outside of acceptable limits. We could all agree, for example, that the result with the Rena has been unacceptable due to inadequate capacity and poor execution.

                Before toying with a whole lot more oil, we need the ability to contain large spills and plug deepsea wells. If we have that capacity, then it will be safe.

                • Colonial Viper

                  Safe is not causing risk outside of acceptable limits

                  Except that for oil company shareholders in Russia, US, or the UK, New Zealand suffering from an oil spill fuck up might be considered quite acceptable to them. Why would they care?

                  Same with the major shareholders of Pike River. They applied pressure to maximise profits ahead of other priorities. And since they considered the risks “acceptable” (to themselves) they never thought that their bet with other peoples lives might not pay off.

        • Ed

          You are correct that safety is subjective. No-one has suggested absolute zero safety – defining acceptable safety is part of any assessment.  Acceptability itself must always be subjective – do you ever take the risk of walking across a road?
          This is a sensible response – it is hard to see why National do not think a reassessment of preparedness for oil spills is desirable.

    • insider 1.3

      Can we put a moratorium on air travel until that is safe too. And on ships travelling in our waters, because they are obviously not safe. Oh and bungee jumping too. That’s not safe either.

      • felix 1.3.1

        Yes you can. Get your boss to put those ideas in your election manifesto and campaign hard on them.

        Let me know how it goes.

        • insider

          Much as my boss thinks his power is unlimited and the sun shines out of his most effective organ, I don’t think he is going to be able to do much about these issues outside the workplace.

      • Puddleglum 1.3.2

        “That’s not safe either.”

        And Mississippi steamboat boilers were ‘safe’ in the 19th century too? Or should steamboat travel have been banned?

        Andrew Feenberg in his book ‘Questioning Technology’* points out that what happened with steamboat boiler construction was that regulations for thicker steel and better methods of riveting simply became part of the code so that the rate of explosions became ‘acceptable’ to the population.

        The interesting thing, as he puts it, was that the code for how to construct a boiler came to internalise what it meant to build a boiler – i.e., if you didn’t build it that way then, in an important sense, you were not building a steamboat boiler.

        In the same way, what is found to be ‘safe’ in terms of oil exploration will be what becomes codified. Hence, ‘safe’ is what emerges from the perfectly real and normal processes of political debate.

        *Read the editorial reviews on the Amazon site for the book – better still, read the book.

    • RJL 1.4

      You are right that it is hard to prove something is “safe”.

      However, it easy to demonstrate that NZs capacity to handle oil spills is currently “unsafe”.

      • Reality Bytes 1.4.1

        Yeah exactly, we humans can’t rule out the possibility of industrial or transportation accidents, due to so many factors, both human and technological. But the real issue is when accidents occur, are there adequate countermeasures in place to limit and contain the damage to an acceptable level, to make it ‘safe enough’ to be worthwhile. That’s why things like seat-belts, life-jackets, paramedics, fire-fighters and oil-booms exist, to limit damage when accidents do occur, to bring things into an acceptable window of safety.

        What the Rena illustrates is that we do not have the capacity to adequately deal with the aftermath of a tiny oil spill.

        What the Deepwater Horizon oil spill demonstrates, is that even the most powerful nation on Earth did not have the capacity to deal with the aftermath of a deepwater oil well blow-out.

        Considering New Zealand is not the most powerful nation on earth by a considerable margin, and considering that New Zealand cannot deal effectively with a tiny oil spill:

        We can quite easily draw the conclusion that an even riskier, deeper oil-well than the Deepwater horizon, could be the ruin of our small ocean dependent nation if a similar event occurred.

        Sure you can argue the chances are tiny, there are so many oil wells around the world, it doesn’t happen often etc… But it really is playing Russian roulette with our entire nation, even if it’s a 1 in 1000 chance of it occurring.
        Just like when you go for a drive in your car, there is less than 1 in 1000 chance of being in a bad car crash, but if you value your life you still wear a seat belt.
        If our government truly values our nation, we would have foolproof counter-measures in place before embarking on such a potentially catastrophic venture.

  2. bbfloyd 2

    don’t forget key attempting to paint phil goff’s getting his hands dirty helping out on the beach as an attempt to fix the whole problem…

    that surely gets the award for the “wasting our time pointing out the bleeding obvious” when he gad an opportunity to akshully show some sort of leddershup……(‘nother coupla shardonny should get me into tha sone for a beeauddy speesh… that’ll impress im!!!)

  3. insider 3

    “Clearly necessary given the piss-poor handling of a relatively small spill”

    Given your obvious expertise, can you please tell me what should have been done and when, how you would have done it with what equipment and people, how you would have sourced them? It seems like you have a lot to teach us.

    • bbfloyd 3.1

      if only you could be taught insider…. if only you could be taught….. then there might be a point in trying to teach you… so your still playing “why” it seems… you know, don’t you?, that most of us have grown out of that phase by the time they get to school….

    • felix 3.2

      You haven’t listened to anything anyone’s had to say on the matter for the past 9 days, despite spending an enormous amount of that time spinning like a top “discussing” the issue.

      Why should anyone take your questions seriously now?

      • insider 3.2.1

        Point out the answers Felix -you’ve obviously been reading them. There’s been a lot of hand waving and foot stamping but no answers

        • McFlock

          Actually a number of folk have put forward options like actually buying the ship they put on the backburner a year ago, in addition to improving the logistical management, communicating and coordinating with volunteers more effectively, oh and not waiting several days past the first high tide, when it was obvious it was up shit creek.

  4. tsmithfield 4

    The big difference between an oil well and a ship is that oil wells tend to be located in one spot. Therefore, it is much easier to come up with safety and mitigation plans than with a ship that could come to grief anywhere.

    Labour’s “plan” is straight political opportunism as there are no deep sea wells at present and no proposals for any. Obviously safety will be a major consideration that will have to be satisfied if any ever are proposed.

    • felix 4.1

      Then vote for the party that best represents your interests, tsmithfield.

      • tsmithfield 4.1.1

        So how long should we wait to determine that deep sea drilling is “safe”, considering that accidents are very rare events?

        What Labour is effectively signalling to overseas prospectors is that we will never undertake deep sea drilling, making us all the poorer. A much more sensible approach is to treat each installation as a separate case as the specifics of each situation will be so different.

        • KTY

          making us all poorer, so we will see some return after the overseas mogals have taken there huge slice eh!

        • McFlock

          Tell that to the Tauranga fishing industry.
          It makes sense to take a step back and re-evaluate the cost/benefit, given that we seem to be unable to handle the eventuality of a vessel grounding and breaking up/sinking. The possibility of a well leaking 100 or 1000 times the current problem, or a tanker pulling an Exxon Valdez, warrants a second look.

          • insider

            We have get some pretty large tankers pulling into NZ with or without wells – 100kt of oil or more. Are we going to stop them?

            • Colonial Viper

              Hey dork

              It just means we should have been ready for a much bigger spill, say up to 10kT, instead of playing maritime russian roulette every day.

              the Rena grounding should have been a piece of piss

              • McFlock

                We might also want to look at marine traffic control radar, or a few more lighthouses.

                • lprent

                  Or insist that everything on the water carries AIS and that all of the reefs and wrecks carry AIS notifier offsets. In these days of GPS, chart software, and whatever else it is pretty hard to see how a vessel could run full tilt into a known reef. But AIS would pretty damn unambiguous and hard for even the dumbest software and wetware to deal with.

        • Colonial Viper

          So how long should we wait to determine that deep sea drilling is “safe”, considering that accidents are very rare events?

          Contracting HIV is a rare event, doesn’t mean you don’t put on a rubber.

          Don’t confuse scale of probability with scale of consequence mate.

    • Blighty 4.2

      “The big difference between an oil well and a ship is that oil wells tend to be located in one spot. Therefore, it is much easier to come up with safety and mitigation plans than with a ship that could come to grief anywhere.”

      I remember how well that worked with deepwater horizon. Obviously no risk from deepsea drilling then

    • Reality Bytes 4.3

      “The big difference between an oil well and a ship is that oil wells tend to be located in one spot. Therefore, it is much easier to come up with safety and mitigation plans than with a ship that could come to grief anywhere.”

      Are you serious? Are you forgetting how tiny our nation is? And the fact we have modern transportation and don’t rely on sail-ships and horses?! For crying out loud, what a pathetic argument.

      How hard is it to load some equipment onto a truck, ship or plane and drive/fly it 2-8 hours (add 2 on either side for loading and offloading) to where it is needed. There equipment anywhere it’s needed in 12 hours or less.

      And considering Tauranga is our busiest port, it would also be logical to have counter-measure equipment located THERE since it one of the areas most likely to have an incident.

      Have equipment located at Auckland, Tauranga, Wellington, Christchurch and Invercargil. Now you have equipment near all the busy centers strategically located around the country ready for quick deployment.

      There done, that wasn’t very hard now was it.

  5. tsmithfield 5

    So lets stop all shipping while we “have another look”. After all, we do have ships. We don’t have deep sea wells.

    • Blighty 5.1

      how about ‘let’s get adequate capacity to handle oil spills as quickly as possible’.

      Stopping shipping obviously isn’t viable but that doesn’t mean we should just cruise on like nothing’s gone wrong. That would be fucken moronic.

      • Colonial Viper 5.1.1

        but that doesn’t mean we should just cruise on like nothing’s gone wrong. That would be fucken moronic.

        Well, its exactly what we are doing with energy depletion, climate change, private fractional reserve banking and dark pool derivatives.

        Why change now.

  6. Simple fact – no deep sea drilling is imminent so no urgent policy is necessary.

    That makes it campaign opportunism.

  7. One Anonymous Bloke 7

    Oh no! Campaign opportunism! Circumstances conspire to show exactly how fucked the National party’s vision of the future is (no mine inspection program – look how well that turned out, the invisible hand of the market will protect our coastlines, miserable failure) and it’s campaign opportunism to point and say “look kids, they’re completely screwed and so is everything they believe in.” Have another Tui.

  8. Afewknowthetruth 8

    The problem with Labour is its inconsistency. The last Labour government was all for looting the last of NZs fossil fuel resources and burning them as quickly as possible in the name of economic growth. Hence, the environmental criminal Harry Duynhoven was falling over himself to get deals done with multinational corporations for the looting of resources that should be left in the ground (or under the sea) if the next generation is to have a planet to live on.


    Whoever gets through the peak oil bottleneck and the collaspe of western civilisation bottleneck is almost certain to have to contend with an Earth that is largely uninhabitable by mid-century, due to very much higher temperatures, acidification of the oceans and loss of biodiversity that are mostly a consequence of extracting oil and using it..

    One consistemnt theme I detect amongst many of those who comment on TS is that they could not care lass about the future of society, the future of the Earth, or even ther own progeney’s future. Just as long as they can have a plastic waka, some beers and a some Chinese -made flags to wave they seem to be happy.

    • fmacskasy 8.1

      “One consistemnt theme I detect amongst many of those who comment on TS is that they could not care lass about the future of society, the future of the Earth, or even ther own progeney’s future. Just as long as they can have a plastic waka, some beers and a some Chinese -made flags to wave they seem to be happy.”

      Yeah… except, none of it’s true.

      • Afewknowthetruth 8.1.1

        Oh, so you mean:

        1. The Earth makes oil as fast as we use it. We have to use up the oil otherwise oil volcanoes will burst forth across the landscape.

        2. Debts and deficits don’t matter. If you can’t repay a loan you can always borrow more money from somewhere else.

        3. The oceans are not being stripped of the last of the fish. In fact, far from being exterminated, most large fish species are breeding prolifically and clogging up the oceans. Coral reefs are not dying: they are growing rapidly.

        4. There is no such thing as acidification. Adding acidic substances to water causes no change in pH. All of chemistry is hogwash.

        5. We are headed into a new ice age and all the photgraphs of melting glaceirs and collapsing icesheets are fakes.

        6. The sea level is going down, not rising: all the data showing a rise is fabricated.

        7. The Earth climate systems are becoming more stable as time goes on. Torrential rain, droughts, whirlwinds etc. are all just figments of people’s imaginations. When we see photos of environmental destruction and homes that have been ripped apart, they are just faked photos. The people are really still living there, happily watching television.

        8. There is a serious shortage of humans and we need to chop down the last of the Amazon to make room for new cities full of people.

        9. Although the world is full of uninformed fuckwits there are not enough.

        • fmacskasy


          I just meant this bit is not true: ““One consistemnt theme I detect amongst many of those who comment on TS is that they could not care lass about the future of society, the future of the Earth, or even ther own progeney’s future. Just as long as they can have a plastic waka, some beers and a some Chinese -made flags to wave they seem to be happy.”

          It was a gross generalisation – which I’m sure you’re aware of.

          Points 1 through to 9 – make more sense.

        • fmacskasy

          Although the thought occurs to me – are we at cross-purposes here?!

        • Vicky32

          AFKTT, you’re preaching to the choir, my friend. Let go of your rage!

        • John D

          . We are headed into a new ice age and all the photgraphs of melting glaceirs and collapsing icesheets are fakes.

          – The BBC say the UK may be heading for a new “Little Ice Age” due to the solar minimum

          6. The sea level is going down, not rising: all the data showing a rise is fabricated.

          – There is evidence that sea level rise is decelerating and may actually drop in some parts of the world this year. In any case, there is no evidence that sea levels have changed as a result of human influence- the trend is fairly steady for the last 100 years. Look at the SEAFRAME data

  9. felix 9

    Oh tsmith and insider you are so lol.

    The NZ people will decide what they reckon “safe” means.

    ps Explaining is losing. Keep it up.

  10. Afewknowthetruth 10


    What I am saying is that anyone who preaches the ‘need for economic growth’, the ‘need for mining’, the ‘need to create jobs’, the ‘need to raise GDP’, the ‘merit of tourism’, NZ ‘exporting its way out of financial difficulty’, the ‘merits of RWC’ etc effectively has a death wish for the next generation, since all those (plus plenty of other mainstream ideas) are what are killing the planet we live on.

    Almost all activities in an industrialised society are depndent on converting fossilised carbon compunds into climate-destroying CO2. That is one reason why there is so little hope for coming generations. Like the monkey who has his hand around the food in the bottle trap, the human ‘monkey’ won’t let go.

    Not that action in NZ would make much difference to the global economic and envronmental disaster which occurs ona daily basis. However, steps in the right direction would reduce the suffering for NZers to some extent.

    Vicky 32.

    Yes, some people get it. But an awful lot of people who comment on TS don’t. They cannot (or will not) see that industrial civilisation is THE problem and that there are no ‘fixes’ that will allow present arrangements to continue.

    • John D 10.1

      Yes, some people get it. But an awful lot of people who comment on TS don’t. They cannot (or will not) see that industrial civilisation is THE problem and that there are no ‘fixes’ that will allow present arrangements to continue.

      Are you using a computer to type this? Was it woven out of flax?

      • Colonial Viper 10.1.1

        John D.

        Where is your logic?

        AFKTT says that present economic and financial arrangements cannot continue, and that there are no fixes. (That’s not a choice by the way its a fact).

        What tech he typed his comment on is irrelevant to that.

    • fmacskasy 10.2

      Afewknowthetruth 10
      15 October 2011 at 10:25 am

      Ok, I think we not too dis-similar in some areas…

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    4 days ago
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    7 days ago
  • Budget 2020 date announced
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