As a child, I used to keep a sharp look out for money on the pavement. But the unforgettable bonanza of my youth was a tendollar note, which accompanied me straight to the dairy. I had a peculiar penchant for the ‘Pink Smokers’ sweets, and I knew in my heart I wouldn’t be able for the big packet – I was too small – but I asked for them anyway. Half an hour later the entire school yard watched with a mixture of horror and delight as wave after wave of cerise vomit splashed onto the ground.
Could my misplaced belief in my own abilities be much like the government’s, which argues that we are quite capable of safely extracting oil and gas from various areas around our country, including the deep sea beds, and all will be dandy?
The logic can’t be faulted, really, because we’re going to need oil for a while yet. It’s taken 150 years and trillions of dollars to get the planet to this level of dependence, so weaning ourselves off it isn’t going to be quick. It’s also a given we’ll all be paying a pretty penny for petrol from here on in, so in the mean time we might as well make some decent money, right?
It’s taken 150 years and trillions of dollars to get the planet to this level of dependence, so weaning ourselves off it isn’t going to be quick.
But biting off more than we can chew is what concerns opponents of allowing Brazilian exploration company Petrobras access to the depths of the Raukumara Basin off East Cape – depths, by the way, of up to 2500 metres. Our Tui oil rig in Taranaki is in 120 metres of water. The BP Deepwater Horizon spill was at a depth of 1500 metres. It flowed for three months, during which time almost 800,000 tonnes of oil coated 800 kilometres of coastline and only God knows how much of the sea floor. At the time of going to press, 350 tonnes of oil had escaped from Rena. Feeling nervous? Whether or not the response time for Rena was speedy (according to government) or slow (everyone else), it certainly seemed to the armchair critic to take an excruciatingly long time – particularly given the proximity to New Zealand’s second largest port and the fact the reef was just 20km offshore. Could we really deal with a spill two and a half kilometres under the sea and 100km away from land?
It seems we may be, in any number of ways, out of our depth. And – take it from me – the results of overestimating your capacity are not pretty.