Social media has gone viral in the past week with anti-oil and gas and mining groups claiming the high ground of having academics and a poet laureate supporting their claim that the Prime Minister should make an immediate halt to oil and gas exploration.
The claim covers the familiar track of alarmist claims being made about seismic ships about damage, about pending oil spills and other unlikely events, on the basis that New Zealand can do without oil and gas exploration.
Well guess what, even the latest Statistics New Zealand figures show the important role oil, gas and coal are having on manufacturing data for the December quarter.
New Zealand needs to maintain a strong revenue flow from production royalties to maintain healthy Government coffers to help such groups as the new academics who oppose any fossil fuel production.
Yet they still drive petrol and diesel-fuelled vehicles and while electric vehicles are coming, their dominance over combustion fuel may be decades away.
And, as for gas, it will remain a critical fuel for New Zealand, as it is for Australia where petroleum production is moving more strongly towards gas developments.
The Petroleum Exploration and Production Association of New Zealand (PEPANZ) responded to an open letter from Greenpeace on oil and gas exploration, saying a ban would be a lose-lose for New Zealand and the global climate.
PEPANZ chief Cameron Madgwick said: “A ban on exploration here would simply mean production shifting overseas. This would be a worse overall outcome for the environment given that natural gas has half the emissions of coal, and oil produced in NZ has a relatively lower emissions footprint than oil produced overseas,”
He said New Zealand would then miss out on the economic benefits as well.
Madgwick said New Zealand will run out of natural gas in 10 years without new discoveries or developments. This would likely mean having to import fuel from overseas at a higher cost to the 268,000 homes, businesses and community facilities who depend on it, and higher net emissions as well.
“Natural gas and oil provide half of the world’s energy and this is forecast to continue for decades to come. While more sources of energy are being developed there is no realistic way they can cover this demand in the immediate future.
“We need to have a serious discussion on how to lower our net emissions while meeting a growing demand for energy in an economically and environmentally rational way. Turning off half of our energy supply is just not a realistic solution.”
Perhaps New Zealanders need to understand that the more oil and gas it has to import hurts the country’s trade figures and could result in even higher fuel prices at the petrol station.