Espiner on oil

December 2nd, 2013 at 7:11 am by David Farrar

writes at Stuff:

I think the Green Party is, overall, a force for good in New Zealand politics and provided it sticks to its core environmental principles rather than social activism it’s likely to do very well again at the next election.

But every now and again the Green Party requires calling out. And its implacable opposition to exploratory drilling by Texan oil company Anadarko off the west coast of the North Island is one of these times.

The hyperbole and rhetoric spewed by the Greens and other assorted opponents of deep-sea drilling for oil and gas is out of all proportion to the risks involved in this venture, and has been driven far more by emotion than it has by logic or science.

A campaign of fear and loathing.

It’s true that deep-sea oil drilling has risk. It’s true there have been accidents – most of them during the 1970s and 1980s, when the technology was still relatively primitive and safety and environmental standards lax by today’s measure.

The notable exception, of course, was Deepwater Horizon, which exploded and sank in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010, killing 11 people and spilling more than 600,000 tonnes of oil into the sea.

A report into that disaster found a litany of safety breaches, poor decisions and cut corners, which sparked a wave of regulation- tightening at other deep-sea oil rigs around the world. Both the energy sector and governmental environment watchdogs agree the industry is far safer now than it was even three years ago.

Those risks will never be completely extinguished, of course. But the same goes for flying in a plane. The chances of your flight crashing are extremely low. Every possible safety precaution is taken. It remains possible you will crash. But you still fly, because the benefits outweigh the risks by such a large margin that most people agree it’s worth it.

No human activity can be made risk free.

The benefits to our economy from deep-sea oil drilling are similarly huge. The Government has estimated the potential returns at $12 billion a year if even one new offshore oil field is found.

In the context of our economy, that’s about the relative size of the worth of Australia’s mineral deposit trade with China. It has the potential to transform New Zealand into a wealthy nation with a high standard of living and first-class social services.

Other nations have become rich from deep-sea oil, most notably Norway, which has managed to keep its reputation as a clean and green nation while pocketing $122 billion, which it uses to fund the world’s most generous welfare system.

Greens and Labour have huge spending plans, but consistently oppose economic development which would help fund that spending.

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23 Responses to “Espiner on oil”

  1. northern (44 comments) says:

    I completely agree the Green Party could be advised to “stick to its core environmental principles rather than social activism”. It would gain so much more respect (& votes!) from wishy-washy white liberals. But I also think our National Govt is missing a trick here: their record on environmental issues is actually pretty good but it gets very little publicity. A Nat PR campaign could well be very helpful to us in the next election!

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  2. rouppe (967 comments) says:

    I think the Green Party is, overall, a force for good in New Zealand politics and provided it sticks to its core environmental principles rather than social activism it’s likely to do very well again at the next election.

    When have the Greens “stuck to its core environmental principles rather than social activism”? They are primarily about social activism under the cloak of environmental principles.

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  3. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    The benefits to our economy from deep-sea oil drilling are similarly huge.

    So, we can expect a significant increase in the minimum wage and no more asset sales? Didn’t think so.

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  4. ross69 (3,652 comments) says:

    Other nations have become rich from deep-sea oil, most notably Norway

    Actually oil production in Norway has steadily declined since 2000. It’s fair to say that this bubble will burst with dire consequences. The Norwegian PM recently said:

    “We have to prepare Norway for an economy that is less oil income, directly, and less oil activity”.

    Espiner should apply for a job in Anadarko’s PR team.

    http://www.naturalgaseurope.com/norway-reduced-reliance-hydrocarbons

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  5. Fentex (936 comments) says:

    These two comments contradict each others points in the context of Guy’s post…

    A report into that disaster found a litany of safety breaches, poor decisions and cut corners, which sparked a wave of regulation- tightening at other deep-sea oil rigs around the world

    Those risks will never be completely extinguished, of course. But the same goes for flying in a plane

    Recognizing that corner cutting and failure to be careful occurs in an industry does not leave room for being careless and claiming it’s just part of a normal calculated risk – such as taking a commercial flight.

    Arguing that the Greens and other opponents are just being knee jerk reactionaries would be a stronger argument if they hadn’t apparently demonstrated that the regulatory bodies and drilling company are failing to comply to minimal regulatory requirements.

    Claims that we can live with an acceptable risk of careful exploration are made irrelevant by evidence of avoidance of precautions intended to make the risk acceptable.

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  6. gump (1,634 comments) says:

    @Espiner

    “It has the potential to transform New Zealand into a wealthy nation with a high standard of living and first-class social services.”

    ——————————

    The inevitable foreign exchange appreciation that will result from selling vast quantities of oil also has the potential to destroy the competitiveness of our agricultural and manufacturing sectors.

    AKA the dreaded “Dutch Disease”.

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  7. F E Smith (3,305 comments) says:

    Greens and Labour have huge spending plans, but consistently oppose economic development which would help fund that spending.

    Of course.  The Greens think that the rich (by which they mean everybody not on a benefit, apart from themselves) will go out to their money tree and harvest more cash, thus allowing and justifying more taxes.  Or something like that, because their ideas sure aren’t rooted in reality.

    ross69,

    your 9.24am comment does not disprove what Espiner said.

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  8. wat dabney (3,724 comments) says:

    we can expect a significant increase in the minimum wage and no more asset sales? Didn’t think so.

    Why would you not expect a significant increase in the minimum wage?

    It’s exactly what I would expect, for large numbers of people.

    As for asset sales, they are entirely unrelated so hopefully you’re right on that one.

    Actually oil production in Norway has steadily declined since 2000. It’s fair to say that this bubble will burst with dire consequences.

    Norway has accumulated an US$800 billion sovereign wealth fund from its oil.

    If that’s “dire” then bring it on.

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  9. Nick R (506 comments) says:

    I’m not a Green and I support oil exploration and extraction. I think the risks have been blown out of proportion, particularly as we have had off-shore gas extraction in Taranaki for decades without any significant problems, AFAIK.

    My only concern about the new off shore oil exploration is that the Crown has a really poor record when it comes to enforcing regulation of risky or environmentally harmful activities. They have already shown that they will not or can not enforce the law on protesting around off-shore drilling rigs. Does anyone really think that enforcement of oil industry regulation is going to be better than we had for Pike River, or in the forestry industry? I think the Govt really ought to be working a lot harder to convince people that it has both the resources and the will to ensure that regulations are enforced, risks are minimised, and that there are plans in place in the event of a spill or other disaster. Right now they don’t seem too bothered about any of that.

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  10. Than (462 comments) says:

    provided it sticks to its core environmental principles rather than social activism it’s likely to do very well again at the next election.

    Having been the only “far left” party in parliament for many years the Greens have attracted a lot of supporters (as voters, party members, and MPs) to whom the social activist policies are at least as important as the environmental policies . If they tried to dump them now it would split the party; even downplaying them would face strong resistance.

    Anybody wishing for a party focused purely on environmental issues would need to start afresh. The Greens are too thoroughly mixed with red.

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  11. Dennis Horne (2,388 comments) says:

    If the Greens were a lobby group, I would agree with Espiner: stuck to your cause. But we have no use for a single-issue political party. Unless of course it’s a working party, which the Greens most certainly are not.

    I suspect the Greens in NZ are a camouflaged communist party.

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  12. KevinH (1,217 comments) says:

    Today the Greens have filed papers at the High Court in Wellington seeking a judicial review of the process the EPA followed in granting Anadarko permission to drill in the Taranaki Basin.
    While some observers such as Colin Espiner label this legal challenge as hyperbole and rhetoric what he has failed to notice is that sound business practice that mitigates the potential for disaster, i.e.: a disaster management plan, is missing from the application.
    New Zealanders now have first hand experience with an oil spill through the grounding of the Rena on the Astrolabe Reef which has raised the ante as to what processes and plans oil companies have in place to mitigate any environmental damage that may result as a consequence of an oil spill.
    The action taken by Greenpeace in the High Court seeks to obtain and reveal that information which has curiously slipped under the radar of Government agencies.
    It would be extremely naïve in a business sense not to have ticked the box on this issue and reveals New Zealand’s inexperience
    in doing business with international oil companies.
    We have to smarten up here, sure every one wants the revenue, but at what cost.

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  13. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    I dont know if it is me or Mr Espiner, but this is the latest of several of his columns that I thought made pretty good sense.

    It would only take one “giant” oilfield (Maui is a “giant” in oilfield parlance, but it is a gas field) to turn us into a nett exporter of oil. That would make a massive difference to our economy.

    Dennis H: The Greens are not a “camouflaged communist party” they ARE a communist party, masquerading – in accordance with Leninist theory and practice – as a party which is primarily concerned with the environment. Any of their members who don’t know that are what Lenin would call “useful idiots”.

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  14. flipper (3,979 comments) says:

    KevinH…

    Take your idiotic red melon view and shove it.

    There is not a single green scum list MP worthy of the $200,000+ that you each cost taxpayers every year.
    My concerns Haque, are for my children, and grandchildren.

    But then you have, and will not, by natural means, ever have any of either will you Haque?????

    The only crock at the end of the rainbow is the BS that you and other red melons preach.

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  15. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    flipper: I very much doubt “KevinH” is Green MP Kevin Hague…and even if he is, IMO his comment at 11.46 did deserve quite that degree of vitriol…

    The “real” Kevin Hague would think the potential revenue from a significant discovery to be entirely irrelevant: burning the proceeds of any such find upsets the climate and Gaia herself, which is why the Green Party oppose any oil and gas exploration anywhere.

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  16. flipper (3,979 comments) says:

    OK DG….
    May be you are correct on that point.

    But they and theirs perpetuate so many lies that one reaches a point where the appropriate response is vitriol……..or worse.
    It was once bad enough having to listen to the ravings of the likes of Cracknell and Beetham. But the scum list red melon greens owe allegiance only to a foreign, nay obscene, ideology.

    BTW…Rodney had an excellent debunk of the “clean green” Fitzsimons, did he not?

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  17. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    flipper: Yes…Rodney’s column on Fitzsimmons was a doozey…if those shameless bastards were capable of embarrassment she would look like a cooked betroot..

    for all that, I fear there is a very good chance the bastards will be part of the next government…

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  18. MikeG (425 comments) says:

    If you’re going to talk about Norway and oil then you also need to discuss the royalties they get from oil – significantly higher % than NZ does.

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  19. David Garrett (7,110 comments) says:

    MikeG: Put very simply, Norway is – or at least was – a highly prospective country, i.e one where the usual 10-1 against odds of any well being a significant find are much reduced. New Zealand is not a highly prospective country. Explorers need a good reason to come here, way down at the bottom of the world, 10’s of thousands of km’s away from major markets.

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  20. Fisiani (1,031 comments) says:

    In 2011 and 2008 National effectively ignored the Greens and allowed the gullible to make an impulsive decision to cast a vote “for the environment”. I suspect that the importance of party vote in MMP is still not fully understood. So many voters in Wellington Central made the stupid decision of voting Paul Foster-Bell with their electorate vote and Greens with their party vote. In fact the Greens did so well with party votes that they pushed Labour into Third place in Wellington Central. I suspect the National campaign team in 2014 will once again ignore the Greens preferring to fight a battle on just one front and not two. I reckon that since Labour and Greens are effectively joined at the hip that National have to attack them as a Coalition. In other words Labour have to be saddled with responsibility for all the Green Communism proposals. Red and Green combined make a nasty brown colour which is thus quite appropriate for their policies.
    I can see an election voiceover “If you make the mistake of choosing a Red and add in Green or choosing a Green and add in Red. Well we all end up……. in the brown stuff.”

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  21. kowtow (8,315 comments) says:

    Espiner makes no sense at all.

    First he says the Greens should stick to the environment and off social activism ,then he says

    drill for oil in order to fund the welfare state.

    So Espiner thinks business exists only for socialist spendthrift ideology?

    Espiner should stick to journalism rather than social activism.

    To the poster who thinks Norway is running out of oil money. Fear not! They are investing big time in Canadian tar sands,in order to future proof their “investments”.

    If I had a few spare sheckles i’d be doing the same. Think about it,Canada a western ,civilised ,democracy on the border of the biggest oil consumer with all that oil!
    Who needs the fucken Arabs?

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  22. srylands (408 comments) says:

    My guess is that the Greens have about 7-8% solid support. These people either (a) understand the policies, and like them, or (b) don’t understand the policies but are too thick to reason with.

    That leaves 4-5% of prospective Green voters who can be reasoned with. These are the people the Government should target. Skillfully portray the total effects of all Green polcies – if you read all their policies it is sobering reading. I don’t think many of their soft supporters have a clue what they are voting for – a country that would look like a mixture of Greece/Samoa/Zimbabwe.

    As I have said before R Norman gets a free ride from the media and too often, from the Government.

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  23. Colville (2,261 comments) says:
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