What's wrong with deep sea oil?

The part oil has played in modern human history, how oil can’t have any part in our future, if there’s to be one … and what the alternative is.

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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

 

Searching for an Arctic Council that will Rescue the Arctic

Blog entry by Truls Gulowsen | May 16, 2011

The ministerial meeting of the Arctic Council in Nuuk has just ended to great fanfare with the foreign ministers from eight countries focusing media on the signing of the new search and rescue agreement. Greenpeace welcomes an...

Wikileaks reveals Arctic could be the new cold war

Blog entry by Nick Young | May 13, 2011

Submarine explorers planting Russian flags under the North Pole. Military tension between NATO and Russia. US diplomats manoeuvring in the wings. Aircraft carriers lurking and strike fighters changing hands. Sound like something...

Destroying the Arctic for a three-year fix

Blog entry by James - Greenpeace UK | May 13, 2011

How much oil lies under that Arctic ice? 90 billion barrels, according to the US Geological Survey . But, how much really is that? If you ask an oil company, that’s a huge amount. With a barrel of oil over the hundred dollar mark...

Greenland approves more Arctic drilling for Cairn Energy

Blog entry by Ben Ayliffe | May 12, 2011

Yesterday, the UK’s wildest wildcat oil company, Cairn Energy, received the news it has been waiting for when the Greenland Bureau of Minerals and Petroleum (BMP) gave final permission for the company to start its 2011 Arctic...

Deteriorating weather conditions force activists to end Arctic oil rig protest

Blog entry by Jess Miller | April 23, 2011

After bold action to stop Arctic drilling, the climbers have been forced by bad weather to end their protest onboard the world’s second largest oil rig, the Leiv Eiriksson. Early this morning, activists intercepted the Cairn...

Government's Energy Strategy puts us in hot water

Blog entry by Nathan Argent | April 4, 2011

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...

Fighting spirit at Flotilla send off

Blog entry by Dean Baigent-Mercer | March 28, 2011

Copyright Greenpeace/Malcolm Pullman In speech and in song their rejection of Government approvals to allow oil exploration in their traditional water off East Cape was clear. It sent goosebumps. “This is not about money, this is...

Flotilla Stop Deep Sea Oil

Image gallery | March 27, 2011

History repeats ...

Blog entry by Suzette Jackson | March 25, 2011

Public rally as flotilla leaves Auckland for Moruroa to protest French nuclear tests. 08/06/1995 © Greenpeace / Dave Hallett New Zealand has got a great tradition when it comes to flotillas – groups of small yachts sailing huge...

Save our beaches from oil disaster

Publication | March 23, 2011 at 16:21

Many of us watched dumbfounded as the oil-spill disaster in the US Gulf of Mexico unfolded in 2010. Amazingly, as the oil was gushing from BP’s well, Energy and Resources Minister Gerry Brownlee was issuing permits for deepwater exploration to be...

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