Image credit: Greenpeace NZ
The latest talking point emanating from the friends of coal and oil seems to be that pursuing clean energy is based on "ideology", rather than "what works". But that only makes sense if "what works" is defined as decimating marine environments, polluting our rainwater and trashing our tourist industries. Now, as a tanker runs aground near a marine conservation area in New Zealand, and severe weather means risks of a major catastrophe are increasing, it's high time to stand with the New Zealanders who have been saying we can do better, long before this latest tragedy.
The video above was created in July of 2010 as part of a campaign push to end oil and coal exploration in New Zealand. But—with The Guardian reporting on an oil tanker that has run aground in the ecologically important Bay of Plenty area—what was originally conceived of to campaign against oil exploration is equally relevant as a reminder that any transportation of oil carries with it gigantic risks and huge costs to our environment and our economy.
Having just heard about a study by conservative economists which shows coal costing the US economy more than it makes, it's not like we needed any more evidence that the economic viability of fossil fuels is a false illusion. But the lessons keep coming. And Bob Zuur of WWF New Zealand explains to The Guardian, this next lesson could be a particularly painful one:
"New Zealand is known as the seabird capital of the world. We have about 85 different seabirds that breed here. It's breeding season now, so there are many birds, such as petrels, that are diving into the water to find food for their chicks. The oil makes it difficult for them to fly and there's a real risk they will ingest the oil when they preen, or pass it into their chicks."
"Should the vessel break up, we risk an international-scale incident. It's a huge amount of oil. I sincerely hope the it doesn't break up as the storm bears down on it."
It's estimated that up to 50 tonnes of oil has already been jettisoned into the sea. Radio New Zealand has reported that four of the 1,300 containers aboard Rena carry ferro-silicon, a hazardous substance which is flammable if it comes into contact with water.
So as we all hope for the best in New Zealand, and cheer the clean up crews working to prevent a tragedy, let's also stand with the folks who are trying to make sure these incidents become a thing of the past. And let's reject the ridiculous arguments of the pro-fossil fuel pessimists who argue that this is the best we can do.
The beginnings of a truly clean energy infrastructure are emerging as we speak. Let's not ask whether we can afford to pursue it. Let's just remind ourselves that we can't afford not to.
More on the Environmental and Economic Impact of Fossil Fuels
The BP Oil Spill's Impact on Tourism
Gulf Oil Spill Oil Fell as Rain on Populated Areas
Coal Costs US Economy More Than It Is Worth