What are the Alternatives to Drilling?

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 theleftestate@gmail.com . It doesn’t even have to be about oil drilling, we welcome all contributors!

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2 thoughts on “What are the Alternatives to Drilling?

  1. Hydrogen fuel cells (pretty expensive, safety is questioned, but definitely reasonable), Algae based bio-fuels (conventional land based bio-fuels just take far too much room), fracking?
    As far as production of goods goes, probably Algae and plant based bio-fuels are where its at, but it’ll require massive amounts of land regardless of which is used.
    As far as electric engines go, I just don’t think battery technology is good enough to allow them to become the norm, except when hybridised with an internal combustion engine running on something else (like hydrogen or bio-fuels). Personally, I don’t think that battery technology will seriously advance in the next 50 years either.

    Unfortunately, I think oil will be staying with us for the next 30 odd years.

  2. I think it’s not a matter of are their alternatives right now, available off the shelf, we need to be a part of the new economy that is changing the world with alternatives. The fact of the matter is, we know we can’t keep burning fossil fuels and as the UK research organisation Carbon Tracker pointed out clearly in their report “Unburnable Carbon”;

    “Climate scientists (Meinhausen et al 2009) have calculated that if 886 Gt CO2 is released globally during the period 2000 – 2050, there is a 20% chance global warming will exceed 2°C. In 2011, we have already burnt over one third of this 886 Gt CO2 budget, and the known fossil fuel reserves easily exceed the remaining allowance. The reserves beyond this limit are what we refer to as unburnable carbon.”

    Going to the deep depths of the ocean to extract the last drops of oil make for a pretty poor economic vision from Labour. One that you would expect from a National Government. The opportunity to be a part of the solution,is immense but with this kind of rhetoric from Labour unfortunately they are going in the other direction.

    If Labour was really serious about addressing climate change then we need a plan such as Denmarks to be independent of fossil fuel’s by 2050. Denmark have even written up an entire plan to do it; http://denmark.dk/en/green-living/strategies-and-policies/independent-from-fossil-fuels-by-2050/

    But it sounds like Labour have got scared after their last term for taking leadership on climate change, but to take from the man himself on the Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill;

    “So we have the bizarre and frankly disgusting picture of a government so craven to it’s traditional big business interests that it’s selling out the future of my children and your children and even their own children because they are somewhere between being confused about science that puts a 95% confidence on this change and by being craven to the business interests they crave in this house.” David Cunliffe, Climate Change Response (Emissions Trading and Other Matters) Amendment Bill – Second Reading – Part 4, October 2013

    Has the situation now flipped I wonder….

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