Shell NZ, it's all a gas

Ron Jager, Chairman of Shell New Zealand had a lengthy opinion piece in today's Southland Times (no link), where he claimed that natural gas has a bright future in New Zealand. Jager talks about his love for the New Zealand environment and the need to halve our green house gas emissions so that we can "avoid the impact of climate change". He explains how natural gas burns more cleanly than other fossil fuel and there is such an abundance of the stuff that we have around 250 years of supply (based on current consumption). Of course the Maui A platform, off the coast of Taranaki, has been operating without incident since 1979 and it is easy to think that continuing to extract gas from other sites won't be an issue either.

There may be an abundance of natural gas but the process of extracting it will no longer be as straight forward as Maui A. The next generation of gas extraction in New Zealand won't be from shallow sea platforms, but deep sea drilling in the Great South basin (over 1,300 metres rather than 100 metres) and fracking.  Research has shown that fracking is not as clean as it's promoted to be and the proceess leads to a high level of methane leakage.

Rather than follow the lead of countries like Germany and make serious steps at cutting emissions, our Government has decided to follow the worlds largest polluters and welcome the fossil fuel industry with open arms and our GHG emissions are increasing alarmingly. Despite all the green talk or green wash, the fossil fuel industry is going all out to extract a prehistoric energy source to feed their profits and shareholders in increasingly desperate situations. The resulting environmental damage is best seen in images:

Canada's tar sands reserves cover an area the size of France (around 140,000 km2) and is the most polluting source of fuel. 

Coal mining in the Hunter Valley, Australia, is doing irreparable damage to some of the best arable land in the country.

Fracking in the US and Australia is having a serious impact on farming and livestock and Australian farmers formed the "Lock the Gate" movement in a attempt to keep frackers off their properties.

Accidents through serious oil leaks are having a devastating effect on natural environments. While Shell lays on the greenwash here, their reputation in Nigeria isn't that great. 

A Chevron drilling accident off the coast of Brazil that released the equivalent of 2,400 barrels of oil into the sea, an event that will become more common as deep sea drilling grows.

Coal-fired power stations are still being built around the world

Many cities in developing nations have massive air pollution problems because of coal power stations and fossil fueled industries that are having to produce products to meet the consumer demand in the Western world.  

According to Naomi Klein in her latest book 'This Changes Everything' the lobbying power of oil and gas companies is immense. It is not that there is a lack of alternatives to fossil fuel, it is the dominance of oil companies (6 out of the ten highest earning companies are in the oil industry) that is able to block any attempts to curb their activities.  We need to stop these real threats to our future on this planet and New Zealand, as one of the highest emitters per capita in the world, needs to take a leading role. The alternatives to fossil fuel exist and the technology is improving dramatically:

Wind Lens turbines.

Germany now produces more electricity than it needs partly due to the increase in domestic photovoltaic installations.

A number of self sufficient, zero emission skyscrapers are being built around the world and super efficient houses are now easy to construct.

All we need is the determination and the will! 


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