Copyright Greenpeace/Malcolm Pullman
As a flotilla of yachts and fishing boats sets sail for the choppy waters off the East Cape to bear witness to deepwater oil exploration, the Government’s leaked energy strategy appears to be a clarion to call to the world’s biggest polluters to come forth and exploit.
The energy plan to “develop petroleum and mineral fuel resources,” ahead of renewable energy and clean energy technologies is as predictable as it is disappointing as they’ve had their fossil fuel colours pinned firmly to their lapels for some time now. First it was coal mining in our national parks, now they’re playing Russian roulette with our pristine coastlines. Next it will be digging up and burning lignite – the dirtiest form of energy. And all in the name of economic progress.
But is it really progress and just how will New Zealand benefit?
This energy plan smacks of lethargy and a lack of vision, underpinned by a business as usual approach which risks corroding our future prosperity and our environment. It also exposes a myopic thinking at the heart of government that ignores the realities of what’s happening in the world today.
The simple fact is that in a world of depleting fossil fuels, concerns over energy security and reserves and climate change we are witnessing a historic, shift in the way we power our businesses and our homes. The world’s leading economies are racing towards a new era of clean and renewable energy, and we’re in an enviable position to capitalise on this.
Yet, the Government has recklessly chosen to bet the house on a 19th Century energy which will anchor our economy in the past and deny us the huge opportunities we have for developing our innovation in clean technologies. Indeed, for the second year running, investment in clean energy eclipsed that of fossil fuels attracting $140bn compared with $110bn for coal and gas, and we could rightly claim some of this money.
Our national interest would be far better served in ending our addiction to oil and not inviting a Gulf of Mexico style catastrophe. The country would be far more secure economically and politically; it would be immune to oil price shocks, and would be much better prepared to make the move to a cleaner, more prosperous economy. And crucially, phasing out oil would be a huge step towards tackling climate change and would move New Zealand towards becoming a global leader in clean technologies.
In a world that is resource constrained and carbon constraining now is not the time for New Zealand to sideline our renewable energy powerbase and clean, green reputation to focus our efforts on trying to resuscitate a dying fossil fuel industry. At a time when the country needs vision, not vertigo; leadership rather than abdication; it is clear that the Government is incapable of delivering either.