Q+A Panel: Response to Dr Scott Tinker - 17/03/13
Q+A, 9-10am Sundays on TV ONE and one hour later on TV ONE plus 1. Repeated Sunday evening at 11:30pm. Streamed live at www.tvnz.co.nz
HOSTED BY SUSAN WOOD
In response to DR SCOTT TINKER interview
Do you think, Jeanette, that’s there’s thinking around us being a world leader in terms of, you know, electricity? We’ve got a wonderful 55% hydro which we know is clean. Is anybody thinking that way?
JEANETTE FITZSIMONS - Former
Co-Leader, Green Party
Yes, a lot of people have thought that way, but electricity is only one part of our total energy use. The big thing that Dr Tinker is ignoring is that the challenge to get into the transition away from fossil fuels to renewables is not because we're running out of oil. It is going to become much more expensive, because the amount of energy you've got to invest to get it is becoming more and more all the time. But the fundamental fact is that if we are going to have any chance at all of stabilising climate at a liveable level, then there are already five times as much oil and coal on the books of fossil fuel companies discovered and economic to mine as we can ever afford to burn. Four-fifths of it is going to have to stay in the ground, or we have no future. So looking for more-
SUSAN Although it won't be you and me and it won’t be First World countries burning it, Raymond, will it? It will be India, and it will be China. It will be those countries that just need the energy.
JEANETTE It doesn’t matter who burns it. For climate change, it doesn't matter who burns it.
SUSAN I’m well aware of that, but, I mean, sitting here in clean little NZ, what do we do about it?
RAYMOND MILLER - Political
Yes, well, I mean, there's a limit to what we can do, but we need to be a model of a country that behaves responsibly, and I think that's a valid point being made by Dr Tinker. Where I think, you know, one would disagree with them, and remembering of course that he's here at the invitation of the petroleum industry-
SUSAN And I should point out that that film, because I asked the question, it was funded by 100 people. Some of them were big oil, but he says he's been accused of being biased by everybody. He says both sides accused of bias, so he says that makes him-
RAYMOND It’s interesting because, I mean, he says there are four most important things in terms of energy, and the first one is affordability, and fourth and last is the environment. I mean, he is an advocate for, for instance, nuclear energy, because he thinks it's cheap once it's actually been developed. He understates the dangers of fracking, for instance, in terms of water contamination, in terms of air pollution, in terms even of small earthquakes. These are things- Off-shore oil drilling, for instance. There are lots of dangers that he tends to gloss over and I think partly because of the position he's coming from.
SUSAN He also asked the question, Sam, about monetising oil and gas. And we know we know we've got a lot of it on the ground. Should we do?
SAM STUBBS - CEO, Tower
Well, look, the market is always going to find a way of getting the cheapest energy to you on the day in the very short term. So if you want to talk about the monetising of oil and gas, it will be compelling, and there will be a lot of pressure to do that. The real question here is politically, do the people of NZ want to go down that route? Do they actually want to monetise this? Or do they want to take what will be the more expensive route in the short term to switching to alternative energies? This is actually question for the globe, it's not just a question for NZ. It’s for everybody. Do you want to take the short-term way, which is the easy way? Or do you want to take the long-term way, which is the hard way? Now, who knows what will be right, but that is a political issue, and we live in a democracy, and people are just going to have to get involved in this debate.
SUSAN Well, I saw a Herald survey sometime last year, Jeanette, and it had a vast majority of people actually wanting to be getting the oil out, looking for the jobs. You know, Shane Jones has made the sort of comments about why are we sending our workforce of to Australia when we could be digging up our own resources here?
JEANETTE You know why? It's because our grandchildren don't get to vote, and they are the ones that are going pay for this big time.
SAM But, equally, also this is not a switch. It's not one or the other. There's no question were going to have to take some of the stuff out of the ground because we all drive cars that use petrol at the moment. The issue is, longer term, do we want to use some of the profits of that industry or some of the revenues to fund alternative energy sources which are expensive to develop, expensive to roll-out, but maybe the right decision in the long term?
SUSAN Which is what we're seeing in the States at the moment. In fact, President Obama in his first speech on energy in this second term of government is talking about taking $2 billion dollars out of oil over the next 10 years and doing research into renewables. That's got to be a right step for them, doesn't it?
RAYMOND Yes, that's right. And, of course, what’s tending to happen is that, you know, they're looking for more benign forms of energy. Even within fossil fuels, looking for things like natural gas, for instance, or course, is where Dr Tinker again is an advocate. But, you know, a vast amount of research needs to be done, and I think there are trade-offs, Sam. And we have to look, I think, intelligently at what is going to be in the best interests of NZ.
SAM Look, here's a classic trade-off. You say fracking is always bad. Fracking of natural gas has brought the price of natural gas in the United States down by 85%. And a lot of that gas is substituting for oil. It's actually burning less oil because you're burning more gas, which is more environmentally friendly, and fracking has made it happen. These are very complex debates. You can't just say it's all bad or at all good. You have to have a long-term national energy strategy, and it has to come from governments with the support of the voters so that you can go through this process of substituting out these things which we all agree we don't want to have. We don't want to be burning oil if we can't do it, but it's going to take time, and it's going to take investment. The people have got to be behind it.
SUSAN Very good.