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


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Norwegian oil giant Statoil is sending a delegation of executives all the way from Norway to Whangarei. Next Friday, 28th August, they will attend a specially organised meeting with the Northland Regional Council's Maori Advisory...

Why we all should care about the oil platform explosion that just happened in Mexico

Blog entry by Arin de Hoog | April 4, 2015

Early Wednesday morning the Pemex oil platform, Abkatun Alpha blew up off the West coast of the Yucatan peninsula. The explosion killed four people and sent 16 to the hospital. 300 people managed to escape the blazing wreckage. Three...

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Repsol and the Spanish government, no honour among thieves

Blog entry by Julio Barea | January 28, 2015

Nearly two months since the Spanish navy  recklessly rammed and injured  peaceful protestors who were standing up to Repsol, the Spanish oil giant announced their decision to  scrap their oil exploration  off the Canary Islands' coast.

Deepwater drilling in New Zealand in deep trouble

Blog entry by Nathan Argent | January 15, 2015

It looks like the Government’s plans to open up New Zealand’s deep and clean oceans to dangerous deepwater drilling could be in deep trouble. Today’s Herald reports that plunging global oil prices have forced explorers to scale...

The Arctic Sunrise, her journey continues

Blog entry by Arin de Hoog | November 22, 2014

Last Saturday, the ecologically pristine area around the Canary Islands was the watery stage of the next chapter in the story of the Arctic Sunrise. Last year, she carried Greenpeace activists across icy waters North of Russia, where...

Shell Oil Cowboys Caught Drilling Illegally in New Zealand

Blog entry by Nathan Argent | October 23, 2014

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The Berlin Wall of oil begins to crumble

Blog entry by Steve Abel | October 7, 2014

The Berlin wall was a symbol of the Soviet era like no other.  When it was finally dismantled in 1989 it signalled the end of a system that had stood for nearly 70 years.  A system that shaped the political landscape of the 20th...

Norway in sneak attack on the Arctic

Blog entry by Sune Scheller | August 22, 2014

The Esperanza has been in Svalbard, in the Arctic, for a few weeks now and we recently became aware of something urgent and disturbing. A seismic company called Dolphin Geophysical, commissioned by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate, ...

How the peaceful protest at Prirazlomnaya made positive change in Russia

Blog entry by Maria Favorskaya | August 18, 2014

The dramatic Greenpeace International action at Prirazlomnaya in September 2013 is mostly infamous for causing a lot of problems for the 28 activists, two freelance journalists and the Greenpeace ship Arctic Sunrise. But what media...

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