The New Zealand government has just proposed to release half a million square kilometres of our land and sea to petroleum exploration.
The Taranaki Basin offer encompassed a third of the West Coast Marine Mammal Sanctuary, designated for the protection of the nearly extinct Maui’s Dolphin. The government says “this has been re-introduced due to commercial interest in the area”.
So rather than upholding New Zealand’s international obligation to protect endangered species and the Paris Agreement on Climate Change, the government does what corporations want – “providing a stable and predictable regime”.
Committing NZ to further fossil fuel exploration and dependence is plain ludicrous, at a time when the world is rapidly moving onto sustainable systems incorporating renewable energy, electric transport and even climate-survival technologies. The race for energy innovation and disruptive technologies is on. There are even organic flow batteries being developed, notably a Harvard battery that runs on rhubarb or oil waste! The inventor is confident that “it could complement wind and solar on a very large scale”.
The UK Telegraph recently proclaimed that “the world’s next energy revolution is probably no more than five or ten years away… This country can achieve total self-sufficiency in power at viable cost from our own sun, wind, and waters within a generation. Once we shift to electric vehicles as well, we will no longer need to import much oil either.”
If the UK can become self-sufficient, surely NZ can also, and more quickly. Over three quarters of our electricity already comes from renewable sources. There are dozens of renewable energy projects across the country waiting for an enabling environment to take off, when the government no longer bends backwards for the fossil fuel industry and corporations. Notably, the Aluminium smelter at Tiwai Point received $30 million from the government in 2013 to keep its gate open. When it eventually closes down, it will free up more than enough electricity to power an entire fleet of electric vehicles for NZ. If we stop producing petrochemicals (methanol for export and urea for industrial farming), the local demand for fracked gas would shrink by half.
Unfortunately, the manufacturing of electric vehicles, solar panels and wind turbines all require rare earth metals, the mining of which is polluting and harmful. The global supply of rare earths, almost entirely from China, is now dwindling.