Dr Rob Whitney and Conflicts of Interest
In a recent ODT article on the mining of Southland's lignite Dr Rob Whitney, New Zealand's representative on the World Energy Council, was quoted as very supportive of accessing this resource. It appears that Dr Rob Whitney is an influential man in the world of energy production as he heads the WEC's project looking into energy development through to 2050.
If Dr Whitney has influence at an international and local level it is important that we are also aware of his background and any potential bias he may have regarding energy production. One of his key roles in New Zealand is as the CEO of CRL Energy which is owned by the New Zealand coal industry. CRL Energy specializes in research, testing and consulting in all aspects of energy production and in particular focusses on fossil fuel energy and most particularly "coal related research".
Given Dr Whitney's background, his enthusiastic support for lignite and coal appears to come out of his strong connections to the coal industry, therefore any public statements he makes need to be regarded in this context. I would put much greater weight on the comments and reports from our Parliamentary Commissioner for the Environment, Dr Jan Wright, as she has no conflicts of interest and her real concerns around the mining of lignite should not be lightly dismissed.