OIL lobbyist David Robinson in a recent column said we should let the public make up their own minds: “. . . we can argue back and forth, back and forth using hand-picked examples of why each point of view is right. But that’s not helping anyone”. Of course he included with this statement a few hand-picked examples.
I guess I do have personal ideology, as Mr Robinson claims, but I don’t agree it should be “put aside” — it’s an ideology that favours all relevant information being made available to the public so we can make free, prior and informed decisions. Any opposition I have has developed since looking beyond the industry PR spin ($185m worth of lobbying in the United States alone last year) and trying to take seriously the science related to human use of petroleum and its impact on the planet.
Beyond the climate implications, it seems useful to refer to people with direct experience of the industry, like Caleb Behn who acknowledges the income that can be derived from oil. Weighing these benefits with the negative social, cultural, economic and environmental impacts in his homelands, Caleb is strongly opposed and warns others to look carefully at the situation in British Columbia and Alberta.
The farmer speaking in Gisborne this week is in no way “philosophically opposed to the oil and gas industry” — if Mr Robinson had read her story in The Washington Post he would have seen that Ms Vargson and her husband used to farm dairy cattle but got out of it because methane got into their well water, a fact confirmed by the state regulators. The couple now do other jobs and worry their son won’t be able to farm there either.
Ms Vargson permitted drilling of a gas well in the pasture behind her home, but the experience has raised serious doubts. Drilling “can be done safely,” she said. But: “I believe that for the most part the industry takes a lot of shortcuts.”
The Royal Academy of Engineering (RAE) and UK Royal Society’s fracking report probably hasn’t been widely promoted because it omits some key facts: the RAE’s ex-president is Lord Browne, chairman of Cuadrilla, the UK’s leading fracker. He owns 30 percent of Cuadrilla and was head of the RAE until last year.
The RAE is also part-funded by the oil and gas industry. In the last three years it has taken £601,000 from oil companies with links to fracking. It has also awarded cash prizes to BP engineers for their work in hydraulic fracturing.
Lord Browne’s successor, Sir John Parker, is also closely connected to the fracking industry. Before taking over at the RAE, Parker headed Anglo American with their fracking interests in South Africa; some of his previous positions include non-executive director at British Gas, chairman of National Grid Transco (gas distribution) and non-executive of BG Group (which has coal bed methane interests in Scotland).
Mr Robinson says renewables are too expensive; I agree. If it wasn’t for the $1 trillion of annual public subsidies awarded to fossil fuel industries, and permissive legislation that allows continued access to relatively cheap fossil fuels, renewable technology would be affordable to most of us.
It was great to hear Rod Drury this week talking about how his software company may soon overtake Fonterra as New Zealand’s largest business. IT entrepreneurs are keen to move to Gisborne for the lifestyle and environment it currently offers. Local investors are looking seriously at sustainable energy and biochemicals opportunities for the East Coast.
Given the money to be made and sustainable jobs created, these kinds of industry seem like sensible alternatives for our community to support.