'Gamble Big' rather than 'Think Big' should be this National Government's mantra. Opening up huge areas of our land and territorial waters for open slather oil and gas exploration is a gamble on so many levels. When many countries like Denmark are actively chasing a sustainable, clean energy future, this government is throwing all its hopes on a big strike of fossil fuel.
It is a gamble that in the twenty years or so before any worthwhile production will occur, that there will still be a high level of demand for the polluting fuel (given the growing urgency around climate change). It is a gamble that during the most dangerous exploration phase that the Government has limited public scrutiny and involvement in initial consents. It is a gamble to drill at depth of over 1,000 metres - the deeper the drill the greater the risks. It is a gamble that the Government sees no benefit in ensuring that Maritime New Zealand is capable of managing a serious spill and Anadarko's own response plan reveals it would take up to 115 days to get a relief rig on site. We are also gambling with our clean green brand that 75% of our exporters are reliant on, one spill could tip the balance of our already shaky image.
While the Government is prepared to gamble on a fossil fueled future, there are readily available sources of cleaner more sustainable energy under our noses. If the same amount of money that is being spent subsidising oil corporates ($46 million a year) was directed into research and technology to tap into these opportunities we could be self sufficient in energy in the same time it would take for deep sea oil to become productive.
Rather than hoping for a large single source of energy from an oil or gas strike (that we will still have to pay commercial rates for) we should spread our attention to the smaller scale opportunities that could collectively be quite substantial:
- The bio-waste on farms is a largely untapped energy source that could enable most of our dairy farms to be self sufficient in energy and capturing waste before it enters our water systems and atmosphere. I like the description of letting this waste run off the farm without being properly utilized as 'energy leakage'.
- Our timber industry produces a large amount of unused waste as trees are harvested and logs prepared for export. Converting waste wood into bio-fuel is a logical way of managing a generally discarded material.
- Rather than seeing our sewage ponds as an ongoing municipal cost, the algae found in them could produce an income through the production of bio-diesel.
- Many of our landfill sites are burning off methane into the atmosphere that could easily be captured as a source of natural gas for local use.
While John Key and his mates may enjoy gambling big with New Zealand's future, I would rather take smaller risks and invest in longer term, sustainable options.