It seemed strange to have Minister Brownlee fawning all over Russel Norman during question time in the House yesterday, eager to stress how much he cares about oil drilling safety.
Russel was repeating his challenge to the Government to halt all drilling programmes until such time as the industry demonstrates that it can handle a leak in deep water conditions.
What Russel didn’t know at the time was that only an hour later, Minister Brownlee would be hosting the Brazilian oil giant Petrobras upstairs on the 9th floor of the Beehive, to sign off on an exploration permit in the Bay of Plenty.
If there is one thing the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico makes abundantly clear is that oil companies are working beyond the limits of their technology, and human and environmental safety is at risk.
There is no doubt,” Bea told NBC News Senior Investigative Correspondent Lisa Myers in an interview this week, “that safety was compromised. The biggest underlying problem of all, Bea says, is that “we horribly underestimated the risk.”
Ironically, Petrobras had a rig explode and sink in 2001, also costing 11 lives. While that was a clear case of human error and not a blowout, it too was exacerbated by cost cutting and technical failures that could have mitigated the damage.
As we desperately try and prop up our growth economies with cheap fuel, we are being forced to take bigger and bigger risks to grab bits of a smaller and smaller fossil energy pie.
Peak oil will only increase the frequency and impact of this type of accident. It’s high time we called a halt to further exploration and re-evaluated our priorities.