National's oily mates love burning coal | The Jackal

6 Aug 2021

National's oily mates love burning coal

You’ve probably noticed the National Party criticising the Labour and Green Coalition Government recently about the amount of coal that’s being imported into New Zealand.

In fact they’ve been incessantly repeating their disapproval about imported coal for well over a year now, which is getting a bit tedious to say the least.

There is however a major problem with National’s recurring coal condemnation, and that is the Government doesn’t actually control the power companies anymore.

That’s because the industry was deregulated and most of the power companies privatised (contrary to what voters wanted) under John Key’s neoliberal Government. So any say the current Government has about what power companies use as fuel is somewhat limited.

It’s no secret that the oil industry prefers there to be a National Party in power, obviously because the right wing is more conducive to facilitating a carbon dependent future. And as I’m sure you’re aware, one of the best ways to initiate a change of Government is to hit voters in the pocket.

There are a number of ways to achieve this, one of them being to manipulate the energy market by limiting the supply of natural gas, which would cause higher generating costs and therefore increased electricity bills for consumers.

In December of last year, RNZ reported:

Problems at offshore fields lead to reduced natural gas production

Gas supplies are set to be reduced because of problems at several of the country's biggest fields.

Contact Energy has been told its allocation of gas from the offshore Maui and Pohokura fields will be cut by 3.7 petajoules (PJ) to 10.6 PJ for next year, down about a quarter on its supply for 2020.

The primary issue appears to be with the Pohokura field where there has been an unexpected and unexplained fall in production.

The field's operator, Austrian-owned OMV, has been investigating why Pohokura's output has fallen as much as 15 percent after maintenance work on several wells earlier in the year.

It’s almost as if someone just turned the gas off for some reason.

In September, the company brought into operation a large compressor to increase production from the field which supplies 40 percent of the country's natural gas.

OMV said it was still looking into the fall in production from offshore wells, but expected tests might provide some causes and possible remedies.

"The production outlook for 2021 remains uncertain and it is too early to indicate the impact of the ongoing well interventions or any future work that may be undertaken in 2021," the company said in a posting on a gas industry website.

OMV said it expected production from Pohokura for next year to be around 39 PJ, which compared with 67.7 PJ produced in the 2019 calendar year.

Unexpected outages of the field in 2019, which reduced gas supplies, were a factor in a major spike in wholesale electricity prices which affected thousands of consumers.

Since then, OMV hasn’t bothered to provide any valid reasons for such a significant drop in production. The Government and public are simply meant to accept these huge reductions from numerous producing natural gas fields without any proper explanation at all.

There’s no question that National is the preferred party of the oil and gas industry, not only because they’re climate change deniers, but also because National would once again allow ocean exploration permits to try and find new oil and gas deposits.

Being that National are close allies with the petrochemical industry, you’ve got to wonder if the unexplained gas shortages are intentional in order to increase power prices and therefore provide the opposition with ammunition against the Government?

It’s certainly a shoe that appears to fit both National and their oily mates perfectly.