Oil and Gas Exploration: Turning Middle Earth into Mordor

New Zealand, perhaps more famously known as Middle Earth from the Lord of the Rings and Hobbit films, is famous for its untouched scenic vistas, the pristine, rolling landscapes, green hills, glaciers, volcanoes, and beautiful beaches. But all of this is now at risk as the country rushes to develop its hydrocarbon resources.

As the demand for energy increases around the world, countries are racing to extract all available reserves of oil and gas possible, hungry for the precious revenues on offer. Ecuador, ready to allow oil exploration in a national reserve in the Amazon rainforest, is another example of a country in pursuit of economic success despite the social and environmental costs.

New Zealand, in the quest to diversify from the traditional agricultural exports, has opened up its land and sea for oil and gas drilling and seabed mining.

Cindy Baxter, a New Zealand environmental activist, said that “basically the government seems to think that the economic future of New Zealand has to rely on digging up fossil fuels and mining. Anything they can open up and prospect, they will.”

Nathan Argent, the Policy Advisor for Greenpeace in New Zealand, stated that “the government has invested a lot of political capital to make it as easy as possible for oil companies to come and drill here. This includes really low royalties, low taxes and a permissive regulatory framework that in some places has taken away the public’s right to object to drilling.”

Argent explained that New Zealand has had a green reputation that was originally created after the sinking of the Greenpeace ship, the Rainbow Warrior. The ship was moored in Auckland and preparing to protest against French nuclear protests when it was sabotaged and sunk. In response the New Zealand government sent its own ship to protest the nuclear tests, with Cabinet Ministers aboard.

Argent said that “30 years later it’s hard to overstate the importance of our clean reputation, because 70 percent of our exports are traded off that basis and half the jobs in New Zealand rely on it. We’re a nation of protesters, so these law changes were a step too far for many people.”

New Zealand`s stunning vistas
New Zealand`s stunning vistas are threatened by oil and natural gas exploration.

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Argent complains that the government is keen on developing its oil and gas resources due mostly tolaziness. He claims that “if all the government has to do it divvy up parts of the ocean, give permits and change a law here and there, then they don’t have to think outside the box. But if you critique what the government is actually doing as far as creating jobs and bringing about economic development, it’s really very little. At the moment the best they’ve got is oil, gas, and subsidies for the dairy sector, which is also having a rather negative impact on our environment.”

Middle Earth could quite easily turn from a place of idyllic hobbit settlements, to disturbing landscapes more akin to Mordor.

This piece is cross-posted from Oil Price.com with permission.

3 Responses to "Oil and Gas Exploration: Turning Middle Earth into Mordor"

  1. Frank in SF   September 20, 2013 at 2:38 pm

    There is a strong sense of hyperbole in these statements. Let's take a step back: would this landscape look more like Mordor if the landscape was blanketed with solar panels and windmills? At least the drilling rigs are temporary and the pumping facilities once operational are hardly noticeable. The pipelines are below ground and the refineries can be located in a less pristine location than shown in these pictures. If one flies over western Colorado on a clear day, the natural gas and shale oil facilities are barely evident but these provide large quantities of hydrocarbons for the US economy. Let's be realistic about what is being proposed. One can always hypothesize the worst case scenario, but it is quite another thing to balance opposing points of view.

    • @DragonFlySolar   September 24, 2013 at 8:08 am

      I suppose it is possible that someone might suggest installing wind turbines atop mountain ranges then running power-lines down their sides to population centers…?

      The idea of course behind solar is to install right where it is used…mostly commercial flat rooftops where parapets (par·a·pets – a low protective wall along the edge of a roof, bridge, or balcony.) hide the panels from street view and are only a substitute view for what from above? – rubber or some form of hydrocarbon blended waterproof roofing materials in commercial and most often asphalt, hydrocarbon and rock, materials on residential structures.

  2. EugenR   September 22, 2013 at 10:16 am

    Nathan Argent and Cindy Baxter are additional political advisers, who have no capacity to think in parallels of alternatives. If the world has to supply the increased additional need for energy coming mainly from the less developed regions in Asia, (China and India) what alternative they have? Coal? Isn't it going to have such a devastating environmental effect that not only we will burn by heat to death, but will have probably to stop to breath.