No defence for industry cowboys | The Jackal

9 May 2012

No defence for industry cowboys

Today, the increasingly rightwing Dominion Post reported:

There is no doubt the oil and gas industry has been a topic of great discussion in New Zealand in recent months.

Protests, Facebook pages, Twitter updates, websites – opposing deepsea oil drilling, hydraulic fracturing and even seismic testing.

As a representative of the oil and gas industry I have heard it all. So first I want dispel a few mistruths.

  • The oil and gas industry isn't anti-environment, pro-oil spills, earthquakes or water pollution.
  • We're not faceless foreigners and in fact are either Kiwi by birth or by choice.
  • You won't wake up tomorrow morning to find oil rigs drilling off the coast of Wellington.
  • And finally, we don't have a secret underground vault filled with electric cars, nor do we burn crops of biofuel to ensure the price of oil remains high.

That's funny, because fracking has been irrefutably linked to earthquakes, there has been a number of documented cases of water contamination already in New Zealand* and it's usually the industries negligence that allows accidents to occur. Of course people don't choose to be negligent, but unfortunately they still are.

The other point that Chief Executive of PEPANZ David Robinson raises is that all oil and gas workers here are New Zealanders, when this is clearly not the case. New Zealand is part of a worldwide bidding war for imported skilled oil and gas workers. The industry conveniently doesn't release information about where the workers come from though, because that would mean they couldn't promote their propaganda.

It's also amusing that Robinson believes people aren't going to wake up to an oil rig in their back yard, when recently reported:

Drilling of deep-sea oil wells off Wellington's southeast coast is poised to go ahead with little consultation, despite concerns over the potential for environmental disaster.

The Government is close to calling for competitive tenders for oil and gas exploration in 25 blocks, including 14 offshore, nationwide.

Environmentalists and local politicians are outraged they were not consulted about two blocks in the Pegasus Basin, south of Wairarapa.

Exploration permits would allow for deep-sea drilling of up to 2750 metres in places – Deepwater Horizon in the Gulf of Mexico was 1500 metres and the deepest well off the Taranaki coast was 120 metres.

Neither Wellington City Council nor Greater Wellington regional council were consulted and no public meetings were held or advocate groups spoken to. Iwi groups, however, were consulted.

Kaikoura District Council battled to be heard and residents there started a petition against the exploration.

So clearly the industry is trying to bypass public scrutiny into their expansion into people's back yards. They simply don't want the public to know what they're up to.

Robinsons straw-man argument that the oil and gas industry doesn't have an underground vault filled with electric cars and burning biofuel crops is simply pathetic! Is this guy on planet earth?

What he is alluding to is the suppression of alternatively fuelled vehicles, which was well documented in the 2006 movie Who Killed the Electric Car.

Robinson finally comes to the point of the article:

It seems as if opposition to the industry wants Kiwis to believe they can either have a country with a clean-green image or one that supports hydrocarbon exploration. But we don't need to choose. We can have both.

Every one of us that makes up the oil and gas industry wants to ensure we don't risk the pristine environment we are so proud of.

We understand that after incidents such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico, New Zealanders are concerned that if we experience an event like an oil spill, we will not be in a position to deal with it.

To say oil and gas exploration is 100 per cent risk-free would be untrue. Like many other industries we cannot responsibly provide foolproof guarantees.

So the question must be does the benefit to New Zealand outweigh the risks involved?

While those who are pro-drilling and mining can rattle off a number of figures like $3 billion dollars income from oil and gas... however they conveniently ignore that this amount is the TOTAL return since exploration began in New Zealand including all profits that go off-shore.

They fail to acknowledge that the return to the New Zealand government is the forth lowest in the world at barely 5% for oil and 1% for gas. If that's not bad enough, the government also pays for most of the initial exploration and gives the cowboys a tax holiday. They effectively pay no taxes at all.

People like David Robinson wont dare talk about there being only one inspector overseeing safety or the many documented cases of oil spills in New Zealand. Instead they promote a falsehood that the industry here is safe and there have been no instances of environmental pollution. What a bunch of liars!

Personally it's not just an image I'm interested in, I actually want a clean environment where people can swim in the rivers and oceans without toxic oil and chemicals adversely affecting their health. That's the New Zealand I grew up in and want to ensure is there for future generations.

Robinson then goes on about people flying in planes even though they crash.

New Zealanders travel on planes every day. The pilots and mechanics triple check the engines; ground staff prepare each plane for flight over and over again. But there are no 100 per cent guarantees the flight will proceed without incident. We see some horrific stories about plane crashes. But because the odds of a plane crash are so small, we continue to board planes every day to get from A to B.

A better comparison is to ask what our clean and green image, extensive fisheries and profitable tourism industry is actually worth to New Zealand? Then compare that to the minuscule return New Zealand gains from our oil and gas industry... because it is a choice between those industries. It's not a case of if a large-scale accident occurs; it is a case of when.

We have a choice between following a carbon-based future or promoting clean energies that New Zealand has an abundance of. It's a choice between ignoring the effects of climate change and letting our mineral wealth go offshore while taking all the risk instead of promoting readily available alternatives. It's a choice between an oily polluted beach or a clean one.

As we've seen from the Rena disaster, New Zealand is ill prepared to deal with even a comparatively small oil spill in shallow waters. So why should we trust an industry with a proven track record of gung-ho operations to drill in twice the depth as the deepwater horizon and put our other productive industries at risk?

The rest of Robinson's article is pure propaganda without an iota of truth to it.

*A few documented cases of oil and fracking spills in New Zealand:
Origin Energy NZ Ltd Rimu Pipeline Leak, October 2010 (PDF).
Shell Todd Oil Services Ltd Maui and Kapuni Production Stations Joint Monitoring Programme Annual Report 2007-2008 (PDF).
C Boyd – Drilling Waste Disposal Monitoring Programmes Annual Report 2009-2010 (PDF).