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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Jarrod - 1 month ago
Why do we allow this to happen when there is technology available to make cars electric? There is the same technology that can be used as major energy storage devices. Australia is getting assistance from Neoen and Tesla to aid the electrical grid for blackouts etc. Learn from the leaders in clean green energy. Was New Zealand not advertised as a clean green country? Do we want to be like Gulf of Mexico and paint our country with black gold?

Jack, Te Puke - 1 month ago
Typical Greens, nice to have but you have no alternatives. Rena wasn't as bad as you lot make it out to be, and could have had even less of an impact if action had been taken sooner.

Todd Ranson - 1 month ago
There's a hole in your argument. Because the Rena crashed and spilt oil, you should really be pushing for the banning of any shipping. I work in deep sea drilling and we take our job very seriously. If we have a spill, and if it is anything like Deepwater Horizon, the chances are we will die doing our job. The Deepwater Horizon well was under pressure, which is not the case with New Zealand. Our oil would have to be pumped out, as the atmospheric pressure at that depth is greater than what the well produces.
Your opinion piece seems like you have done your research but it is full of misrepresented data and poor research.
You champion solar panels for example. Why would New Zealand, which already has 90 percent renewable electricity from hydro electric dams, invest in solar panels? All you are doing is taking money away from an already good renewable energy source. Also, in 25 years they would need to be renewed as their workable life would be over, and that is not very good for the environment.
Also electric cars are a nice idea in cities but the problem remains, how are you going to charge them all? Each car has a 25KWH battery. It's simple math as to how you are going to work out how to charge all those cars. Huntly power station at full capacity would take one hour to top up only 50 cars. That's a lot of electricity to develop.
Everybody wants a cleaner planet but the Green Party obviously has not thought it through and is just throwing ideas out there without thinking about the implications to the environment.
You need to get your facts correct. There are tens of thousands of wells around the world and the safety and environmental record from these is excellent. I've worked on many wells in marine sanctuaries around the world and we have little or no impact on the environment there.
Your article is just a load of scaremongering and pie-in-the-sky ideas. Voting for you would mean certain disaster for NZ.

Earth - 1 month ago
Umm, I think you are all missing one salient point. If there's fracking in an already geologically unsound piece of land, what happens? The Kermadeck trench is studied by geologists, seismologists and volcanologists from all over the world. The East Coast is famous for its recently-discovered slow earthquakes. What happens if you change the forces of the earth's crust by removing oil? You change the pressure of an already volatile and fragile system. The east coast is slipping towards the trench by about 3cm every year. Trigger a massive quake and we are all history anyway.
I've no idea why voting for one particular man would mean disaster for New Zealand?
Is he already that powerful?