Let’s take lead on clean energy

Gareth Hughes. Picture by Liam Clayton

COLUMN

One of my favourite places in the world is Pouawa Beach. For the first 18 years of my life, every summer we would tow the caravan out and spend idyllic days on the beach. We’d swim, put cray pots out amongst the rocks and slide down the sand dunes. Looking back, I’m not sure if I’ve grown or if the sand dunes have shrunk.

Years later I watched oil from the Rena wash up on Bay of Plenty beaches and thought “what if this was at Pouawa?” For the first time, oil on beaches wasn’t just something on TV like the Deepwater Horizon spill, it was real and happening here. You could see it, touch it and smell it. We were caught woefully unprepared for a minor spill, yet the Government was and still is trying to encourage deep-sea drilling off the East Coast, risking a spill on my favourite beach.

The Rena was a warning but since then the Government has continued to encourage oil exploration, including $46m in annual tax breaks, direct subsidies and ridiculously-extravagant hosting of oil executives. They even changed the law under urgency to stop campaigners protesting their seismic ships at sea.

Scientists warn we can’t afford to burn the majority of oil we’ve already discovered, let alone searching for more off our coast, if we are to leave our kids a safe climate. And I’d hate to see oil wash up on our beautiful East Coast beaches, so I am committed to stopping risky deep-sea oil drilling. I’m proud to say only the Green Party would stop deep-sea drilling and place a moratorium on fracking.

Deep sea drilling is a “different kettle of fish” to the shallow-water drilling that’s been happening in Taranaki for the past 100 years. Drilling more than a kilometre down is at the frontiers of technology, geology and geography. When it comes to oil drilling, the deeper you go the greater the risk. When we look to the Gulf of Mexico we see that, for shallow-water oil drilling, one in 272 wells has a spill, while that number increases to one in 35 wells for deep-sea drilling and to one in 19 wells for ultra deep-sea drilling. Why would we jeopardise our $4 billion fishing and $13 billion tourist industries and the beaches we love?

Not only are we risking our environment and economy, we are also missing out on clean-energy economic opportunities. In Parliament, I’ve championed the need to support and encourage the growth of a clean energy industry. It is potentially a $20 billion annual economic opportunity according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, and we know from international data it grows four times as many jobs as fossil fuels. Economics agency BERL estimated we could employ up to 27,000 Kiwis, around four times the numbers employed in the oil and gas sectors in NZ, simply by using our forestry wood wastes as a sustainable biofuel, helping reduce our multibillion-dollar annual oil import bill.

Thinking globally, we could benefit locally. Gisborne, “the first to see the light”, could lead on clean energy. Our beautiful region is famed for its sunshine and we should be harnessing it. I’d like to see solar panels on every school, saving money on power bills to spend on kids. I’d like to see scientific research conducted here developing marine energy. With a huge forestry industry, we should be investigating how we add value and grow jobs from converting pine wastes to sustainable biofuels.

This election voters face a stark choice on energy direction. National wants to look to the past and subsidise more oil drilling; the Greens want to look to the future and focus on clean energy.

One of my favourite places in the world is Pouawa Beach. For the first 18 years of my life, every summer we would tow the caravan out and spend idyllic days on the beach. We’d swim, put cray pots out amongst the rocks and slide down the sand dunes. Looking back, I’m not sure if I’ve grown or if the sand dunes have shrunk.

Years later I watched oil from the Rena wash up on Bay of Plenty beaches and thought “what if this was at Pouawa?” For the first time, oil on beaches wasn’t just something on TV like the Deepwater Horizon spill, it was real and happening here. You could see it, touch it and smell it. We were caught woefully unprepared for a minor spill, yet the Government was and still is trying to encourage deep-sea drilling off the East Coast, risking a spill on my favourite beach.

The Rena was a warning but since then the Government has continued to encourage oil exploration, including $46m in annual tax breaks, direct subsidies and ridiculously-extravagant hosting of oil executives. They even changed the law under urgency to stop campaigners protesting their seismic ships at sea.

Scientists warn we can’t afford to burn the majority of oil we’ve already discovered, let alone searching for more off our coast, if we are to leave our kids a safe climate. And I’d hate to see oil wash up on our beautiful East Coast beaches, so I am committed to stopping risky deep-sea oil drilling. I’m proud to say only the Green Party would stop deep-sea drilling and place a moratorium on fracking.

Deep sea drilling is a “different kettle of fish” to the shallow-water drilling that’s been happening in Taranaki for the past 100 years. Drilling more than a kilometre down is at the frontiers of technology, geology and geography. When it comes to oil drilling, the deeper you go the greater the risk. When we look to the Gulf of Mexico we see that, for shallow-water oil drilling, one in 272 wells has a spill, while that number increases to one in 35 wells for deep-sea drilling and to one in 19 wells for ultra deep-sea drilling. Why would we jeopardise our $4 billion fishing and $13 billion tourist industries and the beaches we love?

Not only are we risking our environment and economy, we are also missing out on clean-energy economic opportunities. In Parliament, I’ve championed the need to support and encourage the growth of a clean energy industry. It is potentially a $20 billion annual economic opportunity according to PricewaterhouseCoopers, and we know from international data it grows four times as many jobs as fossil fuels. Economics agency BERL estimated we could employ up to 27,000 Kiwis, around four times the numbers employed in the oil and gas sectors in NZ, simply by using our forestry wood wastes as a sustainable biofuel, helping reduce our multibillion-dollar annual oil import bill.

Thinking globally, we could benefit locally. Gisborne, “the first to see the light”, could lead on clean energy. Our beautiful region is famed for its sunshine and we should be harnessing it. I’d like to see solar panels on every school, saving money on power bills to spend on kids. I’d like to see scientific research conducted here developing marine energy. With a huge forestry industry, we should be investigating how we add value and grow jobs from converting pine wastes to sustainable biofuels.

This election voters face a stark choice on energy direction. National wants to look to the past and subsidise more oil drilling; the Greens want to look to the future and focus on clean energy.

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