Friday, 19 July 2013

Shake rattle and roll, then spill?

At 9:06 this morning my chair started wobbling, the phone cable on the wall started swinging, and my flat(apartment) started creaking. No, this was not a burrito escaping captivity. Some 30kms East of Seddon a minor fault line let loose a M5.7 earthquake from 8km below the seafloor.

The quake was felt from Taranaki, to Christchurch.  The location of the quake puts it in the region where Anadarko has permits for exploratory drilling. After today, this seems even more stupid than it already appeared given that it will take months just to get the contingency resources in place on top of the weeks of drilling for a relief.

Spot the quake location and its proximity
to Anadarko's hunting ground.
To make matters worse they are insured for NZ$30m of cleanup costs. The grounding of the Rena clear show that this would wholly inadequate.

To many, especially in Wellington, this project is the poster child for stupid, Just for the risk presented to the fishing and tourist industries alone.

North East of the quake location lie the Kaikouras, a region known for whale watching, it may seem strange, but tourists don't come here to see gassed whales covered in crude oil and Corexit.

It is not well known among the public that spilled oil treated with Corexit is much more toxic than floating crude. But the problem for aquatic mammals is that the oil off-gasses volatile components. These components are corrosive to organic tissues, particularly, found in lungs. Of the many photos taken in the gulf of Mexico, at least one captures a whale with a huge blood clot near its blow hole. Photos taken in the same location days later show a dead whale. This is not the sort of thing we want to be showing tourists.

We would also like to be eating locally caught fish, partly because we have one of the most sustainable fisheries in the world. Recreational fishing also generates business, and this too would be damaged in the event of a major spill.

But also what we have here is Big Oil pissing on our leg and telling us it is raining.  Fuel prices here are among the highest as a portion of household income, even though they are "middle of the road" in $/litre. In part because any little thing becomes an excuse to raise prices, but they never seem to drop all the back.  To be fair there real pressure though they like to deny it, because this is the post peak oil era. The Oil industry will cease to exist in the next decade or it will go down with the rest of civilization having created the volatile climate that will wreck them both. That pressure may yet see, Big Oil sacrificed to save civilisation, so in the mean time they are making hay while the sun shines. Customers sort of understand oil is harder come by and accept the pump price offer because they feel there is nothing they can do about it.

But there is, a suitable mixture of filtered use cooking oil and alcohol is cheaper. Paying the road user changes gets to be a little inconvenient, keeping track of the odometer, filling in a form, cutting a cheque, or other payment method. But since used cooking oil is derived from plant sources it adds little CO2 to the atmosphere. UK residents have been on to this for a while. Often getting pulled over as police on traffic duty noticed the take-away odours coming from the exhaust. And checking up on payments for road user taxes.

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