The company said it ordered the Orient Explorer to abandon testing for the day because it was too dangerous after demonstrators from a flotilla of five protest boats swam in front of the ship.
Naturally John Key came out swinging for Big Business. “Key slams Greenpeace anti-oil protests” was the original headline of this piece, which has since been toned down slightly in an update:
Prime Minister John Key said this afternoon that the Government was considering providing naval protection to Brazilian company Petrobras so it can carry out its oil exploration work off the East Cape.
Earlier, Mr Key said the environmental campaigners disrupting oil exploration off the East Cape were standing in the way of “better jobs and better incomes” for New Zealanders.
No surprise that Key is keen to leap straight to the brute force option, and turn the navy loose on a few swimmers with protest flags. But would an oil find lead to “better jobs and better incomes”? An anonymous (naturally) Herald editorial thinks it will:
New Zealand needs a big oil discovery to show it has proven large reserves. That, combined with its attractive exploration regime, would entice other major explorers to come here. The potential benefit in tax and royalty income, jobs and regional development is enormous. If there is, as with virtually any activity, a risk, there is also the prospect of huge reward. It is not a possibility the country, including those protesting against Petrobras’ presence, can afford to pass up.
The benefits to New Zealand are pure speculation, and would depend on the size of any find. But whether a find is made or not, it would be wrong in principle to mine oil in the Raukumara Basin. Wrong for two reasons.
First, because of the risk of an immediate, short term environmental disaster if there is an oil spill. Key assures us that the risk can be “managed”. It is a meaningless promise. What does “managed” mean? How, specifically, would New Zealand cope in the case of a spill like the recent Deepwater Horizon fiasco? Answer – we wouldn’t. We don’t have the infrastructure or the expertise. Key doesn’t have even the remotest idea what he is talking about. According to Greenpeace, Key has even the most basic facts wrong:
John Key claimed that the Raukūmara Basin where Petrobras is currently conducting seismic testing for oil drilling, is not as deep as the location of last year’s Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in the US Gulf of Mexico: “I don’t think it’s in nearly as deep as water as what we saw in The Gulf”, he said (1).
“In fact it is up to twice the depth”, said Steve Abel, Greenpeace New Zealand’s Climate Campaigner, “The big oil companies are hunting in increasingly more extreme places because the days of easily accessible oil are over. This is why we must begin to wean ourselves off oil and onto renewable fuel sources. The costs of exploration and extraction will continue to increase and with them the risks of environmental disasters”.
John Key also claimed that we had adequate safety measures, high environmental standards and this proved the Government had good risk management – but this both contradicts his own ministers and even the oil industry itself. There is only one full time inspector devoted to oil rigs within the New Zealand EEZ (3).
The second reason that it would be wrong to mine in the Basin is the certainty of the medium term environmental catastrophe of climate change. We need to stop converting fossil hydrocarbons into the greenhouse gasses that are irrevocably damaging the environment that supports human life and civilisation. The world must give up fossil fuels. New Zealand should be leading the way, not making meaningless commitments to reduce greenhouse emissions, and all the while exporting products that make the problem worse.
New Zealand shouldn’t be drilling for oil. We shouldn’t be mining and exporting coal. Yes it makes money, but no it is wrong anyway. Like a Big Tobacco company or your friendly neighbourhood pusher, we are selling a product that is slowly killing the user. Only in this case the user is the human race, and the planet that we live on.