Monday, November 25, 2013

The drilling has begun on NZ's West Coast. Where to from here?

We can assume that the start of drilling on New Zealand’s West coast will be a divisive action. In the lead up to ‘spudding in,’ we saw all the usual players, ranging from Government support and its big business partners, who claim that any success will benefit NZ. Whilst there is no doubt that the Government (read, tax payer) will garner some royalty revenue, I wonder if it is all worth it. Even if the Sate reaped all the gains, there are still risks that need to be balanced against filling Government coffers.
On the other side of the ledger, we have Greenpeace and those who would like to see the ocean locked up for ever against ‘greedy capitalists’ who care only about profit. They managed to gather people to the shores of NZ, numbering in a few thousands, while the rest of the population went about their normal activities. That is not to say that there is little opposition out there; it’s just that it is not obvious. Are we fatigued by the continuing saga or are we too busy struggling to get on with other aspects of our lives? That we don’t all see the bigger pictures, is worrying to say the least.
Yes, I have heard those inane statements about protesters using the very product they are concerned about, to get themselves to the venues for showing their anger, but what choice do they have? There is little in the way of affordable alternate energy to utilize as a more eco-friendly option.
Just how dangerous is it to drill in the Tasman Sea? We have seen oil rigs off the Taranaki coast for many years and to the best of my knowledge there have been no ‘reported’ accidents. How different is the latest venture? Is it in deeper and more dangerous waters? The arguments will go backwards and forward and we the public will have to make up our own minds. One thing we can be sure if, even if there were to be a referendum on the subject, the Government would ignore it just like they will do the one on asset sales, so the public is going to have little say on the matter.
The ‘bigger picture’ is far more complex. It would be far better for NZ (and the world) to depend on safer, more eco-friendly options, like wind, solar, geothermal, hydro, (although there are concerns around the use of rivers) tidal and other forms of energy yet to be utilized, than to continue to exploit oil and coal based forms, but until they are affordable, that is not going to happen on a scale that will eliminate the need for those we depend on now (including nuclear). Until those who could financially back the ‘greener’ options, nothing much will change. The profit driven underlying bedrock beliefs behind energy production will continue to dominate, until such ‘forces’ are either directed to back new directions or they themselves see something to gain. That is a cynical statement, because most big business is not driven by unselfish motives. Unless there is a profit, why would they? Calls for the ‘State’ to bring about changes, does not take into account the actual weakness of many Governments when lined up against the huge energy conglomerates, nor the influence that such bodies have on Governments, some of it crossing the line between ‘influence and corruption.’
If for some reason a large energy company really invested into alternate energy forms to the pint that a ‘tip point’ is reached, I strongly suspect that we would see the same old power structures in place, just as we have them for oil now. Those who have the money are not about to give it away or the power that goes with it. They would merely transfer their focus to the new forms, retaining the same control they have now. This does not lead one to feeling that the ‘greening’ of the world will result in more open and shared options for the rest of us. Nothing has or will change under the present set-up! The vast majority have never had control of resources, even in so-called socialist or communist nations. Control of resources is just that---control by one elite or another.
So, drilling will go ahead, despite our protestations and the money will go offshore, possibly leaving behind a mess that will not be easily cleaned up—if ever!