The problem

Our hundred year reliance on oil is at a turning point. The BP Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico put the spotlight on the far reaching consequences that our addiction to oil is having on the natural world and on the climate.

Today, oil is being used to power most of our vehicles, making us all dependent on it in some way - to get our food, to see our loved ones or to go on holiday. There are millions of cars, buses, trucks, ships and planes moving around our cities, our country, oceans and skies, connecting people and moving stuff around the world. But all of these vehicles need millions of gallons of oil to keep them going every day. And that’s taking a toll on the air we breathe, on our energy security, our economy, the environment and our climate.

But the giant oil fields that the industry hoped would last forever are starting to run dry. Faced with increasing restraints on access to the easy oil, companies are pushing in to areas previously considered too inaccessible, expensive or too risky to exploit. And this means going to greater and greater extremes to squeeze the last drops of oil from the earth - scraping the barrel in the tar sands of Canada, potentially violating the fragile ecosystems of the Arctic and now the pristine coastlines of New Zealand

This map shows current and proposed areas of oil exploration, drilling, and coal mining, and the climate-changing potential of those coal deposits. *The size of the oil deposits – and so the amount of potential CO2 emissions - within the new permit areas and block offers is not yet known.

If these places are exploited, and the oil burnt, we will be on track for a six degree rise in global average temperatures. Two degrees is generally accepted by scientists and governments as the tipping point of dangerous climate change. Scientists say a rise of six degrees in average global temperatures would have cataclysmic and irreversible consequences for the planet and threaten our very survival. This is the path we are on right now. But if we transform our transport and energy systems this doesn’t have to be the pathway we follow.

At the moment, millions of dollars of our money is going into subsidising risky oil, and keeping us stuck in the oil age. Our governments are propping up the oil companies with tax breaks and subsidies, and they’re allowing oil companies to exploit our natural world. In the long run, our addiction to oil will cost us far more.

If we do nothing, climate change will cost us around 20% of total gross domestic product (GDP) over the next half century. That's more than the cost of both world wars and the great depression put together. But if we act now to mitigate it, the cost would only be about one per cent of total economic growth. That's the same amount of money we spend on global advertising. Surely our survival is more important than billboards and TV adverts.

The latest updates

 

Oily people at Muriwai

Image | July 25, 2010 at 11:46

Harold Phillips, along with 19 other Greenpeace supporters at Muriwai beach who covered themselves in 'oil' to send a strong message to the Government to stop its plans for the drilling of new deep water oil wells off New Zealand's coast.

Oily people at Muriwai

Image | July 25, 2010 at 11:38

Greenpeace volunteers at Muriwai beach covered themselves in 'oil' to send a strong message to the Government to stop its plans for the drilling of new deep water oil wells off New Zealand's coast.

Oil spill in China worsens

Feature story | July 22, 2010 at 5:25

We continue to keep a close watch on the development of the oil spill in Dalian, China, which has already cost the life of a firemen and continues to grow, posing an increasingly severe threat to the area’s coastal ecosystem.

A big win for people power

Blog entry by Nick Young | July 20, 2010

Lucy Lawless heads the March Against Mining Today the Government announced a complete u-turn on plans to mine New Zealand's best conservation land. There will be no mining in Schedule 4 land or any national parks now or in the...

10 simple ways to use less oil

Blog entry by nick | July 8, 2010

This entry comes by popular request. A lot of people have been asking what they can do to use less oil, and reduce demand for the sticky stuff ruining beaches everywhere. Here's my top ten, feel free to add to it in comments: 1.

PETITION: Sign the deep water oil drilling in NZ waters

Blog entry by nick | June 10, 2010

Imagine if the BP Deepwater Horizon oil disaster happened in NZ waters. It would stretch from Wellington to Christchurch and would devastate our coastline and fisheries for decades. This is now a very real risk as the...

The Energy [R]evolution

Blog entry by nick | June 8, 2010

We have had a vision! The Energy [R]evolution demonstrates how the world can get from where we are now, to where we need to be in terms of phasing out fossil fuels, cutting CO2 while ensuring energy security. This includes...

Brownlee and oil – relics of a dying age

Blog entry by sboxer | June 2, 2010

In the film Amazing Grace  set in the 19th century there is a scene where the British Parliament is debating the end of slavery. Members of that Parliament argue that the end of slavery would have massive economic impacts that would...

Can Statoil wash its hands of the Tar Sands?

Feature story | May 14, 2009 at 0:00

The largest industrial project in the world. The largest capital investment in history. The world’s second largest oil field. The Canadian Tar Sands show just how desperate the oil industry is to feed its carbon habit. Now, thanks to a Greenpeace...

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