Offshore Otago oil exploration versus climate change

A recent announcement that a large oil exploration programme is like to take place off the Otago coast is predictably controversial.

ODT (10 April):  Gas and oil exploration move off Otago coast

Austrian oil giant OMV has unveiled one of the most ambitious gas and oil drilling programmes proposed in New Zealand.

It plans possibly three exploration and seven follow-up appraisal wells off Otago’s coast in the Great South Basin.

The 10 oil and gas prospects are within a 100km-150km arc, southeast of Dunedin.

OMV has applied to the Environmental Protection Authority for a marine discharge consent to release contaminants to sea, the application being made public today.

“Depending on the outcomes of the exploration drilling, this could include up to three exploration wells and up to seven appraisal wells,” the company said.

The company also said if no indications of potentially commercial hydrocarbons were detected in the exploration wells, no appraisal wells would be drilled.

OMV will be looking for gas deposits and there is a likelihood of finding a small percentage of oil condensate; fine, light oil suitable for aviation fuel.

ODT (10 April): ‘Expect resistance’, oil company told

An Otago environmental group is telling Austrian oil giant OMV to “expect resistance”, should a deep-water oil rig appear off Otago’s coast.

The Dunedin City Council, which supports a ban on issuing new exploration permits, will be briefed by OMV at the end of the month.

Oil Free Otago spokeswoman Rosemary Penwarden was aware OMV had applied to the Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) to “discharge contaminants to sea”, a requirement before it could drill any prospects in the Great South Basin.

She had spoken “at length” with the EPA last week and understood the application covered a “tiny spill” of around 250ml and Oil Free Otago would not be opposing the application.

“Climate change is now in a crisis situation …we won’t sit by and let them continue their destructive business off our coast,” she said.

She cited Dunedin Mayor Dave Cull saying earlier in the week at a public forum on climate change he was proud of his council’s stance against oil exploration.

Mr Cull said the council did commit to supporting the moratorium on no new oil and gas exploration permits, but could “informally welcome” OMV’s latest interests in Otago.

However, when pressed about lobbying OMV to base itself in Dunedin, “council wouldn’t lobby them”.

“If there was to be a base and investment then council would have to vote,” he said.

He noted council had no role to play in non-notified marine consent applications.

ODT editorial:  Oil and gas versus climate change

For many, including those who participated in or encouraged last month’s climate change strike by school pupils, the news of Austrian oil giant OMV unveiling one of the most ambitious gas and oil drilling programmes proposed in New Zealand would have seemed like a late April Fool’s Day joke.

They may have asked how, if climate change is rapidly contributing to the end of the world, such a thing could still be considered appropriate. To others, news of a major international company investing significant sums to find whether true riches lie beneath the waters off the Dunedin coastline would have been enthusiastically received.

It isn’t fair to say the first group wants no economic development. Nor is it fair to say the second group doesn’t care about climate change. It does seem fair to suggest many New Zealanders are interpreting the climate change conversation in very different ways.

As much as many believe otherwise, the issue is still confusing.

Confusion, contradictions and complications abound on this topic and the divide between those who are ”all in” on climate change, and those who are yet to be convinced, is still broad.

It isn’t that there is a simple answer to any of this. The problem is that there are too many potential answers, and many seem unsure who to believe, who to follow. And, while they consider, they want reassurance the economy will remain buoyant.

Protests against oil and gas exploration are natural and healthy. But if the time has really come to move to a war-footing against climate change, we first need to be very clear about what the enemy is. For many New Zealanders, this country’s meagre fossil fuel consumption is unlikely to be considered the priority.

Oil-free is an unrealistic goal in the foreseeable future.

 

No more offshore oil permits, existing permits remain

Jacinda Ardern has announced that no more offshore oil exploration permits will be granted, something that will please the Greens, but she has made some short term exceptions for Taranaki (where most of our oil exploration is based), presumably to try to appease NZ First.

Stuff: Ardern announces an end to offshore oil exploration, with short reprieve for Taranaki

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has announced an end to offshore oil exploration, with no new onshore permits outside Taranaki.

Actually the way I read things it just stops new permits being given, existing permits can still be used.

Ardern said the Government was “taking an important step to address climate change and create a clean, green and sustainable future for New Zealand”

As well as an immediate end to new offshore permits, some onshore will be offered to the industry for the next three years in onshore Taranaki, none of which will be on conservation land.

“This is a responsible step which provides certainty for businesses and communities that rely on fossil fuels. We’re striking the right balance for New Zealand – we’re protecting existing industry, and protecting future generations from climate change,” Ardern said.

The decision to continue to offer onshore permits was partly a concession to Labour’s coalition partners, New Zealand First, which expressly supports extractive sectors. The move is also designed to head off the risk of judicial review.

“All three of the parties in this Government are agreed that we must take this step as part of our package of measures to tackle climate change. I’m grateful for the support of New Zealand First in ensuring the transition away from fossil fuels protects jobs and helps regions equip themselves for the future. I also thank the Green Party for their continued advocacy for action on climate change.

Russel Norman, the former Green Party co-leader who is now Greenpeace New Zealand’s executive director said the Government “has listened to people throughout the country who have campaigned for seven years to bring an end to offshore oil and gas exploration”.

“The tide has turned irreversibly against Big Oil in New Zealand”.

The industry has warned that ending oil exploration will do little to cut emissions in New Zealand or overseas, as the move will not affect demand or supply.

We will just keep using oil drilled elsewhere in the world.

All existing permits, some of which could continue to operate for decades, will be protected under the Government’s plans.

So it doesn’t cut offshore drilling, it just rules out new offshore exploration permits, for now at least.

This may be largely symbolic given that oil exploration companies aren’t rushing to drill in the oceans around New Zealand. But it is an important symbol for the Greens.

Greenpeace: “New Zealanders want to end oil exploration”

I really really don’t like it when activist groups claim to represent “New Zealanders” without providing any evidence of their claim. In this case I’m certain that not all New Zealanders “want to end oil exploration”.

Stuff: Greenpeace says Ardern has ‘the benefit of the doubt’ over end to oil

Environmental group Greenpeace says a failure to end oil exploration would put Labour in the same camp as National, but for now Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has “the benefit of the doubt”.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Kate Simcock, who delivered the petition to Ardern, said the Prime Minister’s attendance at the rally was taken as a positive sign.

“The petition was designed to send a strong message that the public want her to rule out any new permits going forward and we took it as incredibly positive that she came. For now we’re giving her the benefit of the doubt and we’ll continue to send a strong message that New Zealanders want to end oil exploration.”

Making unsubstantiatable claims like that really weakens their argument.

Simcock said if Ardern’s Government awarded new exploration permits “she’s probably in the same boat as [National leader] Simon Bridges when he put all of this into action. Our position on that was we’ve got a Government that’s not listening to the people and not taking climate change seriously.”

A warning to Ardern – but Ardern has many more things and people to consider than Greenpeace.

Government actively considering whether to decide on oil exploration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern personally received a Greenpeace petition calling foe an end to oil exploration at Parliament today, and said that the Government was actively considering what to do, but didn’t give any more specifics.

Stuff:  Ardern says Government ‘actively considering’ call to end oil exploration

Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern has delayed attending a state visit to personally receive a Greenpeace petition calling for the end of oil exploration.

Greenpeace said the petition was signed by 45,000 people, including Dame Jane Campion, Taika Waititi and actor Lucy Lawless.

Greenpeace climate campaigner Kate Simcock said Ardern had won praise for describing climate change as New Zealand’s “nuclear free moment” but now had to put the words into action.

Standing in front of a series of posters of Labour leaders which had made high profile environmental decisions, Ardern said her Government was “actively considering” the issue.

Although her statement was light on details and Ardern has previously refused to rule out ending offering new exploration blocks, the decision to walk to the front of Parliament was highly symbolic.

“We’re working hard on this issue and we know that it’s one that we can’t afford to spend much time on,” Ardern said at the Greenpeace rally.

“But we are actively considering it now and we are considering all of these issues in mind and with this government’s pledge that we will be carbon neutral by 2050, that’s not in question.

“But these are the intermediate decisions that we have to make in between. So while I ask for time, I’m not asking for much. But just enough that we can make sure that we factor in everything that you would ask us to factor in,” Ardern said, including “grave environmental concerns”.

Which didn’t really say a lot, but Ardern has already walked back on this.

By 4pm Ardern appeared to walk back the comments, saying consideration of what to do with the process under which areas are offered for oil exploration was something that “every government does around this time of year”.

So they are “actively considering” something that “every government does around this time of year”

Ardern is going to have to start delivering on some of her implied support or she will disillusion people and groups.

 

Auckland Council votes against deep sea drilling

The new Auckland City Council should have many important issues to deal with, like transport, housing, trying contain rampant rates rises.

But they took time out from council business yesterday to make a political statement.

NZ Herald: Auckland Council votes against deep sea oil drilling

Auckland councillors have voted 14-7 against deep-sea oil exploration off the west coast of the North Island.

At a governing body meeting today they said oil exploration could have a catastrophic effect on the coastal and ocean environment, and industries such as fishing and tourism.

The decision also referred to the “critically endangered Maui’s dolphin and other cetaceans living in the Tasman Sea” and to avoiding the “catastrophic impacts of climate change” and to achieving “the Paris goal of keeping the increase in global average temperature to well below 2C above pre-industrial levels”.

Voting against an offer of oil exploration in the Government’s 2017 block offer, the councillors believed the overall economic benefit to Auckland of deep sea oil would be negligible.

“Rather than encourage further oil exploration, effort should instead be put into developing abundant clean energy opportunities and strategies that can create employment and replace polluting energy sources,” the amendment said.

So a city council is voting against a national Government matter.

I don’t think Auckland City has many suburbs in the deep sea. I don’t think they even have any special housing areas proposed for deep sea locations.

The encroachment of political activism into city administration seems to be a growing thing – unlike deep sea drilling which is hardly a pressing issue, around New Zealand it is on the back burner anyway.