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It could never happen here

Written By: - Date published: 7:47 am, June 3rd, 2010 - 39 comments
Categories: Environment, greens, International, Mining - Tags: , ,

Fresh from a stinging rebuke from the public over mining, Gerry must have hoped he was on to a winner this time:

Global oil giant Petrobras to explore in NZ

Energy Minister Gerry Brownlee today announced that one of the world’s largest oil companies, Petrobras, has been awarded exploration rights for oil and gas in the previously unexplored Raukumara Basin on the east coast of the North Island.

Snaring Petrobras is arguably Brownlee’s biggest coup since emphatically putting the “welcome” mat out for oil and gas explorers over the last 18 months, and wooing oil majors at a global petroleum conference in Mexico earlier in the year. The five year permit, covering 12,333sq km, is the first in the Raukumara Basin area.

Problem is of course, that the timing of this announcement could hardly have been worse for the government. The whole world is watching as every minute of every day more and more of the Gulf of Mexico and costal regions of Louisiana die in a hellish brew of suffocating oil and toxic dispersants.

The Nats want to rely on our Kiwi “she’ll be right” attitude. That feeling we all have that when it comes to disasters, it could never happen here. Don’t worry, The Government will take care of us:

Govt will do all to prevent oil spill here

The government will do “all it can” to ensure there is adequate environmental protection before future deep-sea drilling in New Zealand following the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee says.

Yeah right. Where the combined might of BP and the American government have comprehensively failed to protect America, the Nats are going to keep our country safe? This from the crew that can’t organise a cycleway to save themselves? What will they do – send Gerry with a mop and bucket?

Because the sad fact is that it can happen here. New Zealand is not magically immune from disaster. And we have far too much at risk to trust it to the bland empty assurances of the likes of Brownlee. How much risk? I know it’s hard to get a sense of the Gulf spill in an NZ context, but this Stuff graphic of the current spill superimposed on NZ is extremely helpful. That’s how much of our waters and our beaches would have been poisoned – so far (and the gulf leak will be flowing for many weeks yet).

This remarkable clip (hat tip yeshe) showing reporting of a similar spill in 1979 shows how little the oil industry has learned about managing leaks in the last 30 years. Nothing. It isn’t good enough. We can’t risk that here. I would rather stop drilling for oil and transition to alternatives as soon as possible, but if we must drill the only sensible way forward is the one outlined by the Greens:

The Greens and Greenpeace want all deep water drilling put on hold until the cause of the Deepwater Horizon explosion is identified and the industry can demonstrate an ability to control the sort of leak that is being described as the worst environmental disaster to hit the United States.

Simple really. Before we do any more drilling around New Zealand, we need to be demonstrably sure that we can stop any leak. Why would we settle for anything less? Because it could happen here. And because that would be a disaster for all of us.

39 comments on “It could never happen here ”

  1. kriswgtn 1

    and we will stop you and your mates from drilling Brownlee,,The hippies as you call them are ready to rock

  2. Tigger 2

    Smellie must have been sniffing petrol when he wrote that snaring them was a ‘coup’. It’s more like an albatross now…

  3. toad 3

    What will be Gerry’s next brainwave?

    A nuclear power plant?

    Oops, better shut up in case I’m giving him ideas.

  4. vto 4

    school teacher to politician.. what do you expect?

    • Galeandra 4.1

      as in, from the sublime to the ridiculous? I resent the implication otherwise, even he was ‘only’ a woodwork teacher 😉

      • vto 4.1.1

        Galeandra, it was just a wee dig about people sticking, or not, to their talents whatever they may be.

        I mean, why were so many in the labour govt from school teacher ranks? What is going on there?

        • Mac1 4.1.1.1

          Easy. Something about a caring profession, concern for education and truth, belief in intellectual honesty, ability to deal with the whole range of humanity, interest in society and its well being, looking to the future?

          Hearing the scoffing at teachers by the Right, last year I looked at the background of the National Party candidates and how many connected to the teaching profession did I find? Funnily enough, not the Minister of Education.

          Their profiles are available for your research, VTO. My first reaction to your dig at teachers was Verb Transitive Off, btw.

          • vto 4.1.1.1.1

            Fair enough. You may have a point with para 1. Teachers do get a hard time too often. Mind you, there ainto many professions / industries that don’t suffer from such, including my own.

  5. gingercrush 5

    The Greens are just being silly. This is oil exploration not fucking oil production. There is a huge difference. And if it pays off for Petrobas then the New Zealand will reap the rewards. Labour may well oppose mining on Scheduled 4 Land. But I don’t think they’re opposed to Oil production. Its already our third largest exporting sector. During their time in office oil exploration increased significantly.

    Lets face it. The Greens are allowed their position but this is nothing but political opportunism. They oppose any oil exploration. Oil exploration is a good thing for this country which is why thankfully we won’t be seeing stupid comments the Greens made by Labour.

    • r0b 5.1

      This is oil exploration not fucking oil production.

      Learn to read GC. The Greens are proposing a ban on deep drilling. The post is about drilling. No one talked about a ban on other exploration methods. But I for one don’t see the point of exploration until it is demonstrated that production can be done safely.

      The Greens are allowed their position

      How very kind of you GC.

      • insider 5.1.1

        Well we may as well ban everything then as people seem so keen to overreact to this event.

        It can never be made 100% safe. It’s always going to be a balance, as with anything in life. That’s why we travel in metal containers through the sky and on land, which occassionally don’t work out as they should. You are forgetting about the nearly 50,000 other wells currently operating in the world that aren’t doing this. Austraalia drills about 100 wells a year. Maui has been chugging away for 30 years – should we close that too just in case?

        • r0b 5.1.1.1

          Well we may as well ban everything then

          Learn to read insider. What is being proposed is not a ban on “everything” but a ban on drilling (indeed the Greens only say deep drilling) until the industry has demonstrated the capacity to stop a leak. Is that really so unreasonable?

          as people seem so keen to overreact to this event.

          How do you “overreact” to an event of this magnitude. Look at the map in the post, if it was happening in NZ, how could we possibly “overreact”?

          It can never be made 100% safe. It’s always going to be a balance,

          Of course. But at the moment if a leak does occur it is 0% safe. They can’t fix it. We need to do much much better than 0%.

          • insider 5.1.1.1.1

            I understand your point rob. Mine was htat we would never do anyhting if we needed a 100% safe guarantee. ANd just because this leak is proving hard to stop does not mean all leaks would be similar, in terms of what might go wrong and consequences.

            The overreaction is to ban all similar such work everywhere based on a single event.

            I agree with GC that this is just being used as a wedge to drive other issues.

            • A post with me in it 5.1.1.1.1.1

              Then you and GC are both so very, very wrong.

              I don’t expect to change either of your minds, but just to point out why for others:

              – By your own admission your point was a complete straw man. NOTHING is 100% safe and no one ever suggested it had to be.
              – No one suggested everything should get banned. Another straw man.

              It is not a wedge. It is being used as an EXAMPLE of what happens when safety is ignored and we just think greedily about how much money we can make in the short term. This oil slick and the subsequent failure to clear it up was not “just an accident” or “unforeseeable”. They knew there were problems and they knew if there were it may get away on them. They just did not care.

              Why should they when most of the public are just greedy and/or ignorant?

              • insider

                “By your own admission your point was a complete straw man. NOTHING is 100% safe and no one ever suggested it had to be.”

                No it wasn’t a straw man it was pointing out the ludicrousness of a blanket ban on all deepwater drilling. rob’s map is just as much of straw man, in that sense, because it tries to overlay a map onto NZ that has little relevance. QUite how oil could migrate from offshore to contaminate Palmerston North is a process I fail to understand.

                “No one suggested everything should get banned. Another straw man.”

                No, the suggestion was that all deepwater drilling be stopped, no matter what type or why it is being done until we are “demonstrably sure that we can stop any leak”. Why stop exploratory drilling which is very different due to a production well accident?

                rob’s wanting a level of certainty that we can never have because the conditions are unusual and the event unusual that there are not necessarily precedents. The safeguards that have worked well previously failed here for some reason.

                So we can never be demonstrably sure we could stop something because we, fortunately, have limited opportunity to practice the techniques. Just like in space exploration when things go wrong they have to learn on the job because not every chain effect is predictable.

                “It is not a wedge.”

                I think it is because in effect the Greens are actually asking for a timeless ban, and it doesn’t take much working through of the consequences to understand that. My conclusion is that it’s opportunism and a cahnce for them to push their anti mining/anti development agenda rahter than address any issues the accident raises.

                “It is being used as an EXAMPLE of what happens when safety is ignored and we just think greedily about how much money we can make in the short term.”

                None of us know that. I just don’t believe for a second that the people running this rig were counting the dollars and balancing them against the lives – would you? Rigs and wells are a long term busienss so short term is not the way to approach it. It may be more that a chain of events occurred, each single one of them not necessarily that unusual but combined…

                “This oil slick and the subsequent failure to clear it up was not “just an accident’ or “unforeseeable’. They knew there were problems and they knew if there were it may get away on them. They just did not care.”

                I dunno about you but I see tens of millions being spent on clean up not a failure. the failure was in the accident. But you can’t just magick the results away becuase you really really want to.

                • Armchair Critic

                  I just don’t believe for a second that the people running this rig were counting the dollars and balancing them against the lives would you?
                  You should believe it, it is common practice. Surely you have heard of the Ford Pinto. Multi-national companies will save a few dollars per unit if they think they can get away with it, even if it does kill a couple of their customers.

                • A post with me in it

                  We do know that because the reports from BP itself predicted this could happen and that they did not meet the US regulations. I don’t know where you are getting your information from but it is pretty weak.
                  Here is a brief sample. And remember that the investigation into the current one has only started.
                  http://abcnews.go.com/WN/bps-dismal-safety-record/story?id=10763042
                  http://www.businessweek.com/news/2010-05-27/-fundamental-mistake-made-before-bp-spill-memo-says-correct-.html
                  http://www.thedailybeast.com/blogs-and-stories/2010-05-25/shocking-bp-memo-and-the-oil-spill-in-the-gulf/

                  And one of those links is related to cutting costs and losing lives in mexico BTW….so wrong again.

                  Deep sea drilling IS dangerous and we can see the results first hand. And you think that a NZ site would be much different and everything would just be all ok?

                  “I dunno about you but I see tens of millions being spent on clean up not a failure. ”

                  Don’t you mean 10’s of BILLIONS!? Are we really prepared for that here?

                  • insider

                    You’re exactly right that the investigation has only just started. From what you ahve posted it seems like a chain of errors – nothing sinister or linked to . I can’t see anything in there about mexican lives or cutting costs.

                    As for the trhee little pigs “memo”, it’s evidence of what exactly? That BP teaches its staff about c/b analysis. Big deal… it looks like a training module that is entirely irrelevant.

                    “And you think that a NZ site would be much different and everything would just be all ok?”

                    It wouldn’t be ok but it could be incredibly different. Weather and water conditions as well as oil type, landing zones all make a big difference. The Braer was twice as big as the Exxon Valdez, but which was worse?

                    You claimed “the subsequent failure to clear it up”. WOrk is ongoing. It’s not over and so there is no “subsequent failure”. I don’t know what cleanup will cost – no-one does. But based on history I doubt it will be tens of billions. Valdez cost hundreds of millions plus compensation.

                    • A post with me in it

                      This is going to be my last post on this because it is obvious I was right intially and I am talking to a brick wall.
                      http://www.reuters.com/article/idUSTRE65267920100603?type=domesticNews

                      So wrong again matey. The smallest estimate is 5 billion going up to over 50 billion.

                      And that may not factor in the destruction of the local fishing industries, long term health effects etc.

                      Of course I doubt you will let a ‘little’ evidence stand in the way of arrogant ignorance and your own personal opinions!

                    • insider

                      If you had carefully read what I wrote you would see that I was talking about “clean up” meaning removal of oil and remediation of affected environment. THat does not include compensation, damages and fines – which in my humble opnion are not clean up costs. But whaddya know, in the same article the BP CEO says it could be $3b…but that’s probably just another example of arrogant ignorance and personal opinions.

                      Compensation is an unknown – in Valdez $6b was claimed and only $1b paid.

                      Run away any time you like.

                    • A post with me in it

                      Not that anyone is reading this old thread, but the final info took a while to come out.
                      Article:
                      BP to raise $73b to pay for Gulf spill
                      http://www.stuff.co.nz/world/americas/3834040/BP-to-raise-73b-to-pay-for-Gulf-spill

                      So yeah. You are wrong again. And pretty much a fool.

    • A post with me in it 5.2

      ‘political opportunism’ would be if they spun a new line based on this one event. They have not. They have ALWAYS talked about sustainability and environmental protection.

      Just because they have been proved right (again) for pointing out what should have been obvious does not make them opportunists. This is only one of many oil spills and the industry is filthy and completely unapologetic.
      The greens are constantly bashed for their opinions on this when there is no spill. Now there IS (yet another) spill and it is ‘political opportunism’?!

      I assume the next level up from ‘political opportunism’ is to be called “smug”.

      Bah…why am I even bothering??

      • gingercrush 5.2.1

        Its political opportunism because Brownlee was talking about exploration and its potential and then here comes the Greens and Greenpeace screaming no deep-sea drilling and taking advantage of the situation in the US.

        And both Green co-leaders are smug. They’re embarrassing compared to the previous co-leaders both of whom displayed humility.

        • Tigger 5.2.1.1

          Exploration has no potential unless you drill…it’s not like they’re going to find reserves and then leave it there. They want to extract it. And they can’t in a safe way yet.

        • A post with me in it 5.2.1.2

          In your opinion. Which considering everything is not worth that much.

          The green’s on the other hand have a ecological disaster of Godzilla proportions to point to.

        • Pascal's bookie 5.2.1.3

          Yeah, them damn greens should shut up and show proper humility like Brownlee who is assuring us that nothing could possibly go wrong, and we don’t need a thorough look at what could happen and what we will do if it does turn to shit, just trust us, just because, that’s why, everything’s ok, I already told you that! So shut up, stupid greens. Worrying over something that couldn’t ever happen because it’s already happened somewhere else, how arrogant!

  6. zimmer 6

    You dweebs at this site would rather us not gain any wealth at all, always an environmental issue associated with mining, dairy, oil. If you had your way there will be no wealth creation in NZ. But still would demand the services you moan & bitch about plus things like WFF, dole etc. In economic reality which contributors to this site do not acknowledge is really simple:
    1. Want services – you need wealth to pay fr these.
    2. Want no mining, dairy etc – don’t expect services.
    All pine for the days of mother Russia I suspect.

    • vto 6.1

      I suspect zimmer that you and I vote similarly. However there is a disconnect going on within that ‘right’ group at the moment which we sit either side of.

      You see wealth creation through extraction. Take from the environment and add straight to the dinner table no matter the effect. Nineteenth century thinking – take all the Kauri forests…

      That is no longer sustainable (it never was). The Greens have the approximate philosophy / concept right. The environment must come first. Wealth creation second. Otherwise we die.

      Surely the business people out there are smart enough to think of other ways of creating wealth other than extraction… do you think?

      • r0b 6.1.1

        And vto nails it. Slam dunk.

        • Tigger 6.1.1.1

          I suspect that zimmer is the one who can’t live without services. The rest of us would be more than happy to alter our behaviour if need be…

    • Armchair Critic 6.2

      If you truly believe that, then I have a bridge to sell you.

  7. JonL 7

    Should be OK, as long as we don\’t have BP in charge of emergencies – they work on the principle, \”it is better to spend the odd billion on clean up, every now and then, rather than spend more on having everything in place in case of an emergency.\” Even better if you can get someone else to carry the can, like Exxon, in the Alaska disaster……

    • insider 7.1

      just not true. Their internal culture would just not accept it. Exxon is the top safety performer because of the valdez. It was a tragic way to achieve a culture change and i expect bp and the other two companies involved will be having a hard look at themselves

      You forget that companies are run by people. Don’t judge their beliefs by your own low standards.

  8. Herodotus 8

    From another post yeshe on this site
    Yes I am on suspension but this is good, I will then revert back to the dugout where you sit out your suspension !!

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