Friday, March 12, 2021

The deadline for fossil fuels

The spate of gas exploration permit surrenders off the South Island has given hope that this toxic, destructive industry might be on the way out. So how long before the oil and gas industry disappears from New Zealand? I've spent some time looking at NZPAM's permit map, looking at expiry dates and conditions and collecting the data into a spreadsheet here. The headline date is that the last offshore exploration permit will expire on 30 March 2030, with the last onshore one just a few days later in April (though the government is still granting onshore permits). But expiry dates are just the upper limit. Most exploration permits have a "drill or drop" provision, where the polluters are required to drill an exploration well by a particular date or surrender the permit. And just under half of them are due by 1 April 2022. Many of these are marked as "change pending", so that date might not be fixed, but: a big chunk of the industry could disappear very quickly if OMV can't get a rig in in the next year.

Mining will take longer, as mining permits tend to be granted for longer periods, but even then almost all will have expired by 2036. The policy question is how we can bring that date forward and leave the gas in the ground. Destroying their market by requiring industrial electrification and rapidly phasing out thermal generation seems like a good start. But ultimately, we need legislation like that proposed by Te Paati Māori to ban extraction and revoke permits and consents. The question is exactly when.