As John Key scowled his faux-indifferent disdain at the nation wide banners on the beach protest against oil drilling a couple of Saturdays ago, a few things were betrayed.
In the battle of public opinion, deep sea oil drilling is losing and Key knows it.
Whereas a year ago he would have claimed that “most” or “a majority” back the offshore program, he says now that a “large group” of New Zealanders support drilling. He picks his words. His “rent a crowd” dismissive shows just how ticked off he is - ticked off because the swing of public feeling is against a deep sea drilling strategy that looks out of step with the warming climate, with our clean green export reputation and with our total inability to deal with the potential disasters that are inherent to deep sea drilling.
Aside from our local love of unspoiled beaches, we should also see this campaign to stop deep sea drilling as but one part of what New Zealand can do in the global campaign to deal with climate change.
Most fossil fuel reserves will need to remain in the ground if the world is to have any hope of avoiding a catastrophic increase in storms and sea levels. Emissions must fall substantially and rapidly if we are to limit global climate change to below two degrees.
The science tells us that the warming of the climate is unequivocal.
It is these realities that one must deny to think there is anything sane about opening up new extreme frontiers of oil in the pristine Arctic or the deepest oceans of New Zealand.
As Matt McCarten recently put it, “It beggars belief that we are enthusiastically pursuing an agenda that will result in crippling droughts and storms that will destroy our economy. Long-term destruction of our agricultural nation is being traded for short-term gains for a few oil barons. There is a lunatic fringe. But it's not us.”
Indeed one could say the real “rent a crowd” in this fight is John Key and his cabinet - beholden to the last vestiges of fanatic extraction in a world that must escape oil dependency to survive.
To cap it all off, there are sod all jobs in offshore oil. A simple graph demonstrates just what a marginal industry mining (including offshore oil) is for our economy at barely 1% of GDP and less than half of one percent of the NZ workforce. In a world crying out for clean innovation - New Zealand belongs investing in our already excellent renewable expertise to generate local jobs and industry fit for the future - not mired in the oily past.