The cost of “Drill baby drill!”


There is a mantra in the oil and natural gas industry that one must drill simply because it is good for the industry. It is best summed up in a defiant message from former Alaskan Governor and 2008 Republican Vice Presidential nominee Sarah Palin to the industry, “Drill baby, drill!!” Mrs Palin’s message might have been to obvious supporters, but it highlights fundamental problems with an oil obssessed economy. A problem that not only manifests in Alaska, but also elsewhere, including New Zealand.

The problem is cost.

Cost is more – much more – than just purely monetary figures. In this world monetary figures seem to matter much more than the cost to the ecosystem, which might now take decades to recover from a disaster. It is much more than simply having a smaller G.D.P. come the end of the financial year. The same ecosystem that supports “plenty of other fish in New Zealand waters” also supports a wealth of tourism, fishing, and other economic ventures intended to enable their operators to earn an income. It is also to educate people about the absolute importance of protecting the marine ecosystem. .

I accept that oil will never die as a source of energy. It is far too developed to do so even if the environmental brigade and the economic brigades somehow agreed to sheath the knives and look at ways together of reducing the impact on small businesses, the local environment and communities. Oil is essential for vehicles. Without  oil people doing very essential services such as transporting dirty linen from hospitals for cleaning as well as cleaning important facilities such as hospitals would not be able to do their job. Nor I imagine do we have large enough stocks of oil to realistically justify calling it a reserve.

But is it worth a Deep Horizon type oil spill or worse? Mr Bridges says that New Zealand has world class means to protect itself from an oil spill. He ignores the fact that in the United States, hundreds of vessels were needed to contain the Deep Horizon event, which went on for weeks and cost the Gulf of Mexico states billions. He also ignores the fact that there are only three – yes, 3 – oil spill craft in the country.  And how much training do the crews have for these ships? He further ignores the likelihood of a significant earthquake and/or tsunami event damaging coastal communities, damaging pipes and/or infrastructure.

Some of the proposed areas for drilling are atop very active seismic zones where the onshore Alpine Fault, which is considered to be locked by geologists. As the interface between the Pacific Plate and the Australian plate, it has numerous large faults branching off in north Canterbury and going into the sea not far from where these platforms would be sighted. Those same drilling projects would affect the sperm whales off the Kaikoura coastline, be a visual eye sore from the coast and harm the award winning Kaikoura whale watch operation.

Finally, how many Regional Coastal Plans has this ignored? Each Regional Council with a coastline is responsible for writing one, and I would expect them to be operative plans by now – i.e. legally binding. Did it also ignore the National Policy Statement on coasts? Without the legal weight of these plans who would enforce the rules?

So, if someone would mind tell me how this is supposed to be beneifcial to myself and New Zealanders, I would be keen to know.

One thought on “The cost of “Drill baby drill!”

  1. This post was not actually aimed at renewables. That is a completely different topic, though I totally agree with your drift. This was aimed at Simon Bridges for the phenomenally daft idea that we have world class protection from oil spills. Just saying.

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