Opinion Piece: 7 April 2011
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The Gisborne Herald Editorial on 4 April needs a reality check.
Petrobras is not a good operator, they have been responsible and roundly criticised for numerous environmental disasters and human deaths in Brazil and further afield. They are a world leader in deep water drilling, which is increasingly desperate and dangerous given the scarcity of easy oil.
Just two weeks ago Petrobras was involved in a major incident in the Gulf of Mexico. Eight days after US regulators allowed Petrobras to start deep sea extraction one of the 8000-foot long production risers fell to the sea floor after the chain connecting it to its 130 ton buoyancy can failed. There are no reports of any hydrocarbon release at this stage, however Petrobras has not yet commented on the incident. So Petrobras have had a major incident before they even start the job!
Natural gas is not a ‘clean-burning fuel’, according to the US Energy Information Administration, worldwide the burning of natural gas (which is mostly methane) produces nearly 5 billion tons of CO2 each year, which is just behind oil and coal emissions.
The Petrobras permit is not just for gas, it includes oil as well. Hekia Parata’s spin is that it is now a ‘research’ permit – that ‘research’ requires the company to drill an exploratory well unless they run away from Cape Runaway at one of the two permit surrender milestones.
Petrobras has confirmed it will be based out of the Port of Tauranga, and talking to Coasties who have worked on rigs overseas and don’t want one here, I can’t see how it will create a single job for the Gisborne district.
Major gas finds are not going to lead to cheaper electricity in New Zealand. Any petroleum extracted would no longer be New Zealand owned, the government has very clearly said it would be taken by the multinationals to sell on the international market (or possibly taken back to Brazil in the case of Petrobras).
There are no effective ‘environmental protections’ for deep sea petroleum extraction, the new practice is experimental at best and the only way to guarantee a disaster does not happen is to not let them drill. As we have seen in the Gulf last week, where the review and strengthening of regulations has been second to none, deep sea drilling is simply too unpredictable. The Raukumara Basin has an average of three tremors per day and regularly has earthquakes over 5 on the Rhicter scale, it is twice as deep as the Deepwater Horizon well that blew out last year and Taranaki wells are in only 100-150m of water so they are no way comparable.
I’m not sure what the Editor bases his claim on that ‘a majority of New Zealanders hope Petrobras strike a major gas field of East Cape’. In a poll of over 12,000 people this week only 12% said they thought fossil fuels should be a government priority for our energy future.
New Zealand certainly has become a frontier for new exploration, and a frontier in the struggle of communities that rely on their local environment for survival against corporations who rely on exploiting anything they can for their survival. The wellbeing of our district should not be put on the auction block in the interests of foreign corporations.
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GH Editorial reply 7/4/11: http://gisborneherald.co.nz/opinion/editorial/?id=22178