Wednesday, October 23, 2013

What happens if National's oil gamble goes wrong?

At the moment, National is gambling for an economic recovery, rolling the dice in a desperate hope of striking oil. As part of this, they are allowing foreign companies - Anadarko, Petrobras - to explore for oil offshore. while currently in the seismic stage, ultimately, this process will result in drilling wells - in deeper water and worse conditions than anything done before in New Zealand.

What happens if something goes wrong, as it did in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010? Greenpeace got some scientists to model the effects, using a monte carlo simulation to produce probability maps of where the oil would go. The results are graphic and horrifying:

The full map and a walkthrough on what is affected is here. A North Island spill will close beaches from Auckland to the Kawhia Harbour and clog the habitat of the critically endangered Maui's Dolphin (which will probably mean extinction). It will mean iconic beaches such as Piha will be covered in black sludge. A South Island spill will mostly stay offshore, but will severely affect Kaikoura's whales, as well as fishing. It could extend all the way to the Chatham islands.

While the chances of an accident are low, the impact of one would be absolutely devastating on our environment, on our endangered species, and our way of life. What's National doing to stop one? Nothing. They won't even require these wells to have blowout protectors (which so spectacularly failed to work on Deepwater Horizon) installed. They're gambling with our future, with no safety net. And their response to public concerns about this is to make protest illegal and remove consultation rights.

This isn't right. Hell, its not even sane. "If you can't cap it, don't drill it" should be a fundamental part of our environmental regulation. Until it is, we should not allow deepwater drilling. It is that simple.