It takes 20 years to build a reputation and only five Minutes to ruin it. If you think about that, you will do things differently.” - Warren Buffet

Yesterday we spoke about the 70% of export revenue that is directly attributable to New Zealand’s clean green principled reputation - worth $36.7 Billion to our economy each year.

Today, before we really get into this, I just want to say a quick word about the timing of big oil coming to New Zealand…2012 brought Hurricane Sandy to New York, Floods to the U.K., and saw Australia burn.  In short 2012 brought climate change to the front doors of the developed World.  Obama even talked about it in his recent inauguration speech.

“We will respond to the threat of climate change, knowing that the failure to do so would betray our children and future generations. Some may still deny the overwhelming judgment of science, but none can avoid the devastating impact of raging fires, and crippling drought, and more powerful storms. The path towards sustainable energy sources will be long and sometimes difficult. But America cannot resist this transition; we must lead it. We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure – our forests and waterways; our croplands and snowcapped peaks. That is how we will preserve our planet, commanded to our care by God. That’s what will lend meaning to the creed our fathers once declared.”

So let me get this straight; just as the rest of the world is finally waking up and seriously looking for a solution to climate change, and that solution will definitely include moving away from burning fossil fuels; like oil, the New Zealand Government decides that this is the perfect time for us to jump into bed with the Oil business.

The Government’s own figures say that the future income from oil could bring $5 Billion to the economy each year, but at what cost; our “principled” reputation?  If New Zealand is no longer seen as clean green and principled, and we already know that nets us $36.7 Billion each year in exports, well that’s a net loss of $31.7 Billion each year, I’m no economist, but that dog don’t hunt. 

This Map shows you just how much of the New Zealand waters our government are hawking off to foreign Oil companies for deep sea exploration.

 Deep Sea Oil drilling Map of NZ

Regardless of the effect our decision to splash around in the puddles with Shell, Petrobras, Anadarko, and co has on the N.Z. economy, what effect on the environment?  What effect on our quality of life? What effect on our communities?  As I have said in previous posts, my experience with the Oil economy in Scotland has brought me to the realisation that you don’t need a Deep Water Horizon for oil to wreck a community.

But what if, god forbid there was a spill here?  It is made all the more likely due to the type of drilling that the Government is promoting.  Super deep sea exploration, very experimental and very, very risky.  Too many of the New Zealand permits are for depths of 3,000 meters, more than double that of the Deep water Horizon.  As a report to the U.S. President stated post the Deepwater Horizon disaster…

When a failure happens at such depths, regaining control is a formidable engineering challenge – and the costs of failure, we know now, can be catastrophically high.”

Now here’s what really bothers me; in both the Exxon Valdez spill and the Deepwater Horizon disaster the Oil companies were contractually obliged to provide 24/7 emergency disaster containment teams and they didn’t, because it wasn’t commercially viable for them to do so.  Here they are only signed up to a voluntary code of conduct.  So what makes us think that if they failed to meet their contractual obligations to safeguards the coastlines of Alaska and the American South, they will suddenly do a one-eighty and safeguard ours when all we have to hold them to is a voluntary code of conduct?  The consequences just don’t bear thinking about.

So let’s just sum that all up…

1: We are gambling not only our seas and our beaches but also our clean green principled reputation; worth $36.2 Billion to the New Zealand enonomy each year; far more than any Oil revenue could hope to provide.

2: The type of drilling proposed in New Zealand is more dangerous than that of the Deepwater Horizon.

3: The only safeguard of our seas and coastlines is a voluntary code of conduct which will, in all likelihood based on past track record, be completely ignored by the Oil companies. 

4: Remember, drilling for Oil is a risky business.  In Scotland, last year alone, there were more than two hundred reported Oil spills in the North Sea.

So the risks to New Zealand are substantial and the numbers don’t add up, surely there has to be a better way forward for New Zealand?  There is and we’ll need to be smart and ready to jump on this wave as it comes.

Clean energy creates 4 times more jobs than oilAs President Obama stated when talking about the new industries that will grow up in response to climate change, “…We cannot cede to other nations the technology that will power new jobs and new industries – we must claim its promise. That is how we will maintain our economic vitality and our national treasure…” that’s the bright, economically viable future for New Zealand.

Did you know that in New Zealand we are already among the world leaders in renewable energy technology?  70% of all of our electricity needs are met from renewable sources.  The world’s largest geothermal turbine is in the ground at Kauwerau and generating electricity right now.  Countries around the world are turning to New Zealand for our geothermal engineering expertise.  That is an exportable know-how. 

In fact Investment New Zealand estimate that there are sixty world leading New Zealand companies innovating, developing and commercialising clean technologies and climate change solutions right now.  Furthermore, clean energy creates four times the number of jobs than investment in oil for each dollar spent. 

So why isn’t John Key listening to Price Waterhouse Cooper?  Especially when you look at the numbers; Oil could bring us $5 Billion each year OR the clean energy economy which promises us between $7 Billion and $22 Billion each year and safeguards our clean green principled export revenue worth $36.5 Billion each year.  You can’t have both.  Dirty Oil or Clean energy.  They are mutually exclusive.  One carries huge risks and means working with an industry that we know to be reckless at best while the other sits extremely well with the New Zealand psyche of innovation and respect for the wealth of the natural world. 

You can’t sail the boat in both directions at once, so my question is why did Key choose Big Oil? When his mates at Price Waterhouse Cooper clearly pointed him in the direction of the clean economy? It’s not for me to speculate why he decided to opt for the much riskier and much less lucrative solution, so I’ll just leave you with this quote from “Vultures Picnic” by Greg Palast about the inner workings of the oil Industry; he puts it something like this...‘Oil runs on Pussy and Payolla...When the oil men come to town they ask two questions; who do we need to pay? and how much?’