Yesterday, David Cunliffe announced that Labour had been looking at the Norwegian model of regulation for the oil and gas industry. Although continuing to support oil drilling has consistently been part of Labour Policy, there seemed to be a number of people who were surprised that Cunliffe had not pledged to ban it completely.
It seems as though Labour’s policy on oil drilling is sensible, realistic and well thought out. Although in an ideal world I would definitely not support people drilling big holes in the ground and seafloor, Labour’s policy reflects that fact that there do not seem to be any viable alternatives out there. So rather than complaining about it, this policy does the best that it can to ensure that oil drilling does as little harm as possible to the environment. By strengthening government regulations and checks on the oil drilling industry, Labour will ensure that the drilling process actually follows a set of clear rules.
Much of the recent debate around this has come from whether or not New Zealand requires ‘world best standards’ of oil drilling companies. Given that Labour is only now suggesting that we introduce tougher environmental protection regulations to ensure that the drilling process is not based ’on trust’, as David Parker says, then it seems obvious that we do not meet world standards, no matter what Simon Bridges claims.
There are the inevitable National Party claims that this new policy will drive companies away from drilling in New Zealand, our fourth largest industry, and also that this policy will damage Labour’s relationship with the Green Party. However, in a pleasant turn of events, big oil companies have in fact welcomed Cunliffe’s announcement, and are in complete agreement over the need for stricter regulations. As well as this, the Green Party have said that this new policy is not a huge deterrent to any coalition plans after 2014. Green Party involvement in a Labour Government’s oil drilling operations should in fact be a good thing, and will be key in ‘keeping Labour good’ over oil drilling. The Green Party, as a minor party, have more time to be idealistic, while Labour need to sometimes create policy that is more realistic. This is why Labour has continued to support the offshore drilling industry. No one can disagree however, that Labour’s policy makes the best of the current situation, as they are continuing to support a large and necessary industry in the short term while we seek viable energy alternatives.
The fact is that we continue to be largely dependent on oil for almost everything, especially transport and trade. If we have to have oil drilling, why don’t we make it our own? Labour’s policy seeks to do that while protecting environmental standards at the same time. To be honest, the idea of the income going into a sovereign fund, similar to Norway, seems like an awesome idea too. The fact is that most alternatives that are currently being developed, like wind, hydrogen, geo-thermal energy seem to be just too expensive in the short term, and we can’t adopt an energy source that will cripple us financially.
Onto alternatives. I am by no means an expert on oil drilling, environmental protection or clean energy alternatives, and Iapologise if any readers have been offended by my amateur opinion in this piece. Having done a bit of research on suitable energy alternatives before writing this, I have been unable to find any information on likely looking technology that could take the place of industries like oil drilling. As I said before, idealistically I don’t think many people, on the left at least are particularly fond of oil drilling, but the lack of ready, cheap alternatives that I have been able to find have led me to believe that the above arguments are the best thing in the short term, as we explore other options. Are there alternatives out there? I welcome anyone who wants to comment on this post, or even write their own posts to us in response to what I’ve written here and give a detailed argument for alternative energy sources today. Please do, I’ll be an avid student.
If anyone wants to submit a post, please email it plus a short bio of yourself (if you want) to email@example.com . It doesn’t even have to be about oil drilling, we welcome all contributors!