NZ PM BP: John Key and the Fellowship of the Drill – beyond parody

The growing disconnect between the NZ government’s promotion of New Zealand as a 100% Pure tourist destination, and its desire to see more offshore oil and gas exploration and increased mining for coal and minerals is certainly attracting attention around the world. Graham Readfearn’s article New Zealand pushing plans to drill Middle-earth as Hobbit filming ends is top environment story on the Guardian web site today. Readfearn riffs on the completion of filming for the last part of the Hobbit trilogy, set against a frankly astonishing promotional video by PM John Key, in which he waxes lyrical about our beautiful country, and then describes how he’s committed to ruining it. Have a look: it is — as Greenpeace NZ noted — beyond parody.

Readfearn’s not the only one to notice: climate campaigner Bill McKibben tweeted “NZ doing its best to become a junior league petrostate, talk about bad timing” to draw attention to a blog post about Key’s tasteless little video.

The foolishness of trying to build an extraction economy around fossil fuels at a time when the carbon bubble — the over-valuation of carbon reserves by oils and coal companies — is beginning to gain traction in financial markets is all too obvious. Investing in assets that will be stranded by the inevitability of action on climate change is a strategic nonsense.

Unfortunately that’s part for the course for a government locked into an outdated set of political ideas, wedded to a world-view that considers action on emissions optional. Unless they wake up and see the world changing around them, they will find themselves as stranded as the tax payer funds they plan waste by subsidising fossil fuel exploration and extraction.

51 thoughts on “NZ PM BP: John Key and the Fellowship of the Drill – beyond parody”

  1. I rather think that Key does not “wax lyrical about our beautiful country” at all! He simply puts the natural environment on the table as one potential revenue source for the government (I mean the economy!), by way of tourism etc. Then oil and minerals are just another potential revenue source to be balanced with the environment. He seems to me to be relying on the idea that most NZers really care about jobs and standard of living, more than they do environment per se. So, he is arguing that jobs etc. are best served by economic growth, which in turn requires the sensible management and utilisation of our natural assets, of which the environment is ONE asset. There is always going to be a potential conflict between short term and long term, but, alas, most people probably don’t look too far into the long term. Key seems to be confident that oil and minerals can be extracted with MINIMAL harm to the environment, for as long as these things remain economical to extract. I’m not agreeing or disagreeing, but just trying to clarify what Key is actually saying.

  2. “He seems to me to be relying on the idea that most NZers really care about jobs and standard of living, more than they do environment per se. So, he is arguing that jobs etc. are best served by economic growth, which in turn requires the sensible management and utilisation of our natural assets, of which the environment is ONE asset.”

    In which case he is either seriously uninformed, or a serial liar….

    “Economic growth” has not increased the slice of the cake for the majority of NZers, or any one else in the developed world for that matter other than the uber-rich, and has not done so for the past 2 decades at least.
    Furthermore, continuous “growth” requires continuous depletion of finite resources, hence a world economy based upon continuous growth is unsustainable. It’s time that politicians, media, and the population at large woke up to the simple fact that we in the developed world are living beyond the means of the planet to support us.

  3. That is why I made the short term/long term distinction. Sustainability is a long term worry, unemployment is an immediate worry. For as long as voters are more worried by short term stuff, Key will almost certainly keep making short term decisions. I’m not sure what that makes him, but probably neither particularly uninformed nor a liar! Wait, I do know what that makes him! A politician! In the short term, environment is merely an asset. In the long term, it is survival for the human species! Hence the rather nervous juggling act!

    1. Well, as long as you and others believe we can continue talking about climate change and general resource depletion as ‘long term issues’ while at the same time we can ‘happily’ press down on the accelerator (growth…) of the train, we will simply make the impact at the end more severe, when the leaderless train of the global civilization crashes over the cliff….
      Unless we comprehend that in order to change tack we must start doing so now, we will simply make the walk in the other and only sensible direction longer and the hope for a soft landing of some description in the promised land of ‘sustainable living’ less likely.

      1. Please bear in mind that these are not necessarily my views! I am just trying to explain what I think Key’s views are on this issue! I don’t think Key is accurately portrayed as misinformed, or a liar! He is no fool. I suspect that he would agree with you that the long term prognosis is being made grimmer by continued short term decision making. But I also suspect that most National voters care more about the short term benefits than they do the long term costs, and therefore Key is making decisions based on what they most care about (or else they might not vote for him next election!) There simply isn’t, to quote the first sentence of the article above, a [quote] growing disconnect between the NZ government’s promotion of New Zealand as a 100% Pure tourist destination, and its desire to see more offshore oil and gas exploration and increased mining for coal and minerals[unquote]. The government is perfectly connected on this issue! The environment, along with oil etc. are “assets” (=revenue sources) to be managed and balanced against one another IN THE SHORT TERM, because that is what most of their voters care about the most – the short term! That’s my take on it, anyway …

  4. Could this be the among the first casualties of climate change?

    Note the inciteful comment of Kate Moriarty.

    Interesting that they are talking about public money in order to relocate these people. WHy?? Why shouldn’t it come directly from the fossil fuel industry? Why are we all suddenly liable? If we want to perpetuate an immoral industry, then the industry and those who support the industry ie the enduser should bare sole responsibility for the costs of externalities.

    If John Key wants to put up economic arguments, then lets have a fair and just system of economics.

    In the immortal words of the late Alan P. Ryan “Any cost accountant would happily write the planet off if he could show a short term profit under a system in
    which big business could externalise most real costs.”

    1. Nobody can deny climate change, but some are sceptical that it has a human cause. My opinion on this is irrelevant to what I am saying here. At any rate, the rest of Alaska is unlikely to suffer the same fate as that one small community, so, under a democratic system, the rest of Alaska is unlikely to want to lose its benefits from the fossil fuel industry. Similarly, in N.Z., nothing is likely to change unless the majority decides to give up short term benefits for the sake of the planet long after they are dead and gone … sound likely to you??

  5. My ( twentyish, childless ) niece said ‘ Climate change? That’s only going to affect my grandchildren isn’t it? ‘ That’s probably a pretty widely held view, and it’s probably wrong.

    1. A contact energy salesman of the same age hadn’t even heard of climate change when he came my way – a condition that did not last. Nevertheless note that the in one of the current tweets the presi of the UK farmers union is spelling out the issues arising from climate change are now.

  6. “it’s probably wrong”

    Really? It probably depends on what you mean by “affect”? Have some effect, or be a huge urgent problem? At any rate, there is probably not much point in trading car for bicycle if we can’t stop big business driven deforestation of the third world, and I’m not sure we can? I’m not a big fan of ineffectual symbolic gestures! Can we stop China’s rapid development on the back of environmental indifference? I fear not! One thing is for sure, though: all the propaganda warfare between pro and anti-climate change camps isn’t helping!

    1. Whereas shiftless pseudo-intellectual cop-outs will make all the difference!

      Oh, and faux-Solomonic mumbo-jumbo – that’s always really helpful, too.

      Boring. If it’s all so pointless one has to wonder why you’re here, doesn’t one? Next.

    2. There was a dramatic slow-down in deforestation thanks to reduced corruption and initiatives such as REDD that compensates third world stake-holders for retaining forest. Unfortunately these policies have lost their way over the last couple of years.
      Don’t think that China is completely environmentally indifferent. There is a a large groundswell due to pollution and the leadership is very sensitive to it. There is still a lot to do but things are slowly getting better. A lot of polluting factories have been forcibly closed down recently. China’s per capita pollution is far less than our own for most waste products.

      1. Interesting. I’m no expert on this stuff, but it seems to me that deforestation could actually be the main driver of global warming. Burning fossil fuels may be CO2 input, but the lack of an efficient way of getting it back out of the atmosphere may be the real cause of the problem? Also, I think I’m correct in thinking that there is minimal exchange of atmospheric gases between hemispheres, so global warming should be a lot worse in the Northern Hemisphere, where more people live, and overall deforestation has been higher.

        1. Neither of the above assumptions on your part have any scientific validity whatsoever. Just to give you some facts regarding GHG emissions; since the beginning of the industrial era, the world has emitted around 2000 Gigatonnes of CO2 from the burning of fossil fuels, currently the world emits around 30 Gigatonnes annually and this amount increases by around 3 % each year. If you take the time to actually READ the Gluckman report (on which you place so much hope that the PM will read) – you will see that Southern Hemisphere concentrations of atmospheric CO2 track those of the Northern Hemisphere.
          Deforestation exacerbates the problem, and there are studies that indicate that deforestation in the early human era may have had some effect on Global temperatures but nothing like we are experiencing today. However we could never hope to plant enough trees to sequest the massive amounts of GHG emissions that the world currently emits. NZ can do its fair share because by world standards (with a small population) our emissions are small – although per capita we are right up there! (ie NZ could cover its entire GHG emissions with re-forestation but this is NOT an option for a large proportion of the nations).

          1. You say: [quote]deforestation in the early human era may have had some effect on Global temperatures but nothing like we are experiencing today[unquote]

            I say: That is consistent with what I am saying! The deforestation per se doesn’t cause global warming! It just removes the mechanism for getting rid of CO2, so then emissions become a problem, in the absence of forests. My point was that further deforestation may well make global warming worse. I’m lacking an explanation as to why CO2 levels are comparable in both hemispheres…

            I do not place any hope in the PM reading the Gluckman report, I was merely stating that it remains to be seen if he will act on it or not …

            1. No it’s not!
              The primary cause of AGW is increasing CO2 emissions this is exacerbated by deforestation but even if there had not been a tree cut we would still have global warming!

            2. Again, my point was that global warming would probably be far less of a problem if forests were intact, and further deforestation is probably making global warming worse.

            3. That is true and has been the subject of considerable attention. It is part of the overall issue of land use. Here is a handy summation. There are lots of pie charts to help provide a sense of proportion, one of them is here.

              Really forestation, although it increases albedo, and soil improvement are the only ways we have for bulk sequestration of atmospheric carbon, but like the other processes by which this planet has been tamed, they are slow and geared to an equilibrium which has passed, quite apart from soils and forests being looted and destroyed by our practices at a huge rate.

              Yet another dark genie is clouding this matter. As our addition of atmospheric carbon increases temperature and the planetary energy imbalance, the risk of our remaining forests releasing their carbon to the atmosphere via fire, aided by the increase in and movement of pine beetles for example, has become high and will become inevitable as the temperature mounts further.

  7. I despair of politicians and their lack of vision and their short term views. What would be wrong with expanding our renewable energy electricity production, which we have in abundance, and converting a good share of our transport to electricity. We could then export our oil to save on our import bill and over a period of time, insure ourselves against the big clamp down on fossil fuels that is surely coming.
    The affects of climate change are getting more and more obvious and in very few years it is going to have bad affects on farming and food production world wide. Not a good outlook. We need some preparation.

    1. Indeed! And what does John Key and his Nats do? Sell off Mighty River Power (a producer of sustainable hydro electricity) to mom and pop shareholders and take a big chunk of the proceeds to bail out Solid Energy for loosing their shirt while digging for one of the worst fuels on earth…. What a travesty!!! The hard earned savings of our people taken for a ride and burned in the black pit of coal while we would have needed these moneys to invest into the next generation of alternative energy generation….

  8. Some people think there’s a certain class of reactionary that likes to play at being some kind of detached observer. Seems they go around making deliberately antagonistic pronouncements about how it’s just so unrealistic to expect anything to be better than some ground-state they actually support, but are not forthright enough to come out and openly champion.

    They reckon these guys like to adopt the ‘above the fray’ tone of the world-weary sage whose benign visage radiates an almost saintly tolerance of human folly, probably because what they’re most afraid of acknowledging is the depths of their own cynicism.

    I’m not saying I believe this myself, mind.

    In fact, I’m not saying anything at all, am I?

  9. A policy of goodwill in addressing issues that divide people is usually the only way that a settlement that sticks can be reached. It is better to invite people out of their corners than confine then in their corners.

    One of the hallmarks of people who can reach agreement in good faith is a willingness to understand where a person is coming from. Characteristic behaviour of those who can never get along together is to say, after someone has stated a position, something like this: “Yes but what I’m saying is …” after which comes yet another monologue to which the the opponent does not listen while awaiting the opportunity to do the same. I have had on many occasion to warn people that unless they listen to what another is saying, and show that they have, they themselves will never be heard, in which case everyone is simply wasting time and opportunity.

    Thinking together usually gets somewhere, defending positions never does. Ever played devils advocate? – it is a necessary proceedure. So I value what stephenthorpe had to say and would welcome such contribution in any debate in my mind. One result of such a policy has gone like this: “Noel, I don’t agree with your views on many things but I can work with you,” a view I fully reciprocated in the instance I am recalling. As cac-handed compliments go, that is one which I treasure.

    All that said, it was difficult not to feel sick watching the video, yet I could have sat down and written the script myself for a play on the issue, and so could everyone here I suspect. It is worth remembering that in everybody is a conservative, even somewhere a little reactionary, but also in most, a reservoir of goodwill, an aspiration of somekind, a hope or a basis of understanding to set against fear. It is easy to see almost anyone as being on the other side but it is better to identify a basis for developing an understanding.

    As another example consider the impassioned comments of John Banks the other day on the iniquity of testing party pills on animals. Before hearing his view I had never thought there could be an issue where I could work with him.

    Of course a reply to that video, without parody, would be a video on what are or are not our resources. To that end I rather fancied the comment by Thomas the other day on the risk of burning fossil fuels. Me? I would probably weigh the numbers against Hiroshima bombs these days, and call that a balance 🙂

  10. Perhaps I am lacking sufficient clarity? My main point appears to have been lost! It was that my strong impression from what John Key actually says in the promotional video posted above, goes like this:
    He does not appear to link environment with the long term survival of the human species, and he does not appear to attribute to environment any intrinsic value, only $$$ from tourism! Given this interpretation, what he says is perfectly consistent, as opposed to a “parody” or “disconnect” between views, whereby as long as the environment stays “clean and green” enough to keep attracting tourist $$$, there are no perceived drawbacks, that Key can see, of mining for minerals or oil! It is hard to effectively argue against a view that is misrepresented, so this is my suggestion on what is really going on in Key’s mind. He has a short term view of it all, which probably isn’t that surprising given that he is a politician, and most NZers are probably more concerned with short-term conforts than they are long-term risks, and aren’t going to vote for him if he starts sacrificing their comforts for the sake of longer term concerns …

  11. If you want to argue against Key, then simply stating long-term considerations isn’t going to do much, because Key is, by the very nature of his job, a short-term kind of guy! But maybe something along these lines might not be entirely futile: what currently attracts tourists (and their $$$) to N.Z. is not how the environment actually is, but how they expect it to be (i.e., the “clean, green image”). Even if mining etc. doesn’t visibly tarnish the environment to a significant extent, it may well tarnish the “clean, green image”, thus resulting in less tourism in the short term. However, Key would probably respond that these factors have been weighed up, and the overall gain in revenue from mining trumps any likely reduction in tourism …

    1. Near term climate change arguments have gained a lot of strength recently and are beginning to bite even in NZ, namely the effects of climate extremes on agriculture and infrastructure.

  12. Maybe. But are the arguments strong enough? They could actually be spun in the other direction, i.e. if I am to be able to cope with increasingly extreme climate events, I need a job and a decent income, and for that we need economic growth, and for that we need revenue from mining and oil. In any disaster, the rich people will be the last ones standing …

    1. I heard today the drought this year cost $2 billion. Economic growth? . We’ve already heard all the economic rationalisations which merely make the situation worse. In the end people have to face the issue we would all wish we could avoid. If we work at it the misery may only last a few hundred years, the immediate penalty for avoiding the issue of climate change, if not then many thousands of years will be the penalty. I agree it is the long tail of consequences that is hard to face if we cannot act responsibly as humanity. For this reason, though there are others too, I say that with respect to humanity I put humanity first, and all other human groupings well down the list.

      1. Well, maybe, but spin your argument the other way and we see that the $2 billion cost for the drought (which I will assume for the sake of argument was a genuine affect of climate change, and would not have happened anyway) has to be paid for somehow. Unless you can write the govt. a cheque, they are going to have to find extra revenue from somewhere. How about oil and minerals?

        Few people care what happens in a few hundred, let alone a few thousand years! Politicians certainly don’t!

        1. To take your argument further – and the North of the North Island has suffered 4 periods of drought over the past decade… then we can expect the farmers to be coming cap in hand to the Government now on a regular basis as they persist in attempting to farm dairy herds in what is now clearly becoming an unproductive area for dairy farming*… Farming we are constantly told is more of a BUSINESS than it was some years back – so we are told. So if that is the case – then surely it is not the responsibility of tax payers to continually support uneconomic businesses. Maybe the land owners should be investigating more sustainable uses for their land? To continue to bail out farmers farming unsustainably is sheer madness.

          * The prognosis for climate change for the North and East of the North Island by NIWA is that frequency of drought will increase.

        2. “Few people care what happens in a few hundred, let alone a few thousand years! Politicians certainly don’t!”

          Yes Stephen, we all know that there are still people out there who mistakenly think that AGW is a matter of consequences a few hundred or thousand yeas into the future. The $2 Billion for one drought is just the tip of the proverbial iceberg and anybody who believes that it is a wise idea to spin doctor the debate into the ‘way in the future’ issue and wants us to burn lots of minerals for a bit longer as the fun lasts…. is doing the debate no good whatsoever.

          Your ‘spin the other way around’ is like the heroin junky shooting up a few more times as the really bad consequences are perhaps still deniable to him for a bit longer.

          So how about stop mumbling arguments in defense of a position that is rotten to the core and instead help to end the reign of the spin doctors and economic growth addicts and stop arguing (even for arguments sake) for a side that is indefensible. Otherwise you might risk that people see you as one of these libertarian blog trolls, trying to insert the poison of denial into the debate. New softly softly approach perhaps – same madness.

          Oh and on the idea that ‘somebody’ has to pay for the $2 billion drought… who told you that anybody is entitled to being paid a penny for carrying on a practice that will be untenable in the AGW future?

          I guess Bill here has taken one whiff at the drift of your posts and smelled a rat instantly…. his intuition has been rather impeccable in the past.

          1. Well another Bill (English) said that Farmers have to adapt to various climate conditions as the Government was not going to pay drought compensation in the future – same language basically as the insurance companies are handing out. Who pays really? Climate extremes are reflected in food prices.

            On “the rich people will be the last ones standing ” I have for some time being doubting that to some degree. Rich people are the ones with a vested interest in the status quo. That will be swept away, literally in some cases: who builds multi-million dollar houses on top of eroding sandstone cliffs, or on beach fronts only a metre above sealevel. Who builds houses out among highly flamable forests that cost firemen their lives trying to save? Who own the commercial buildings in the CBD that tend to fall down or get flooded. Whose far flung business empires depend for their viability on complex infrastructure that even now figures largely in the costs of extreme events?

            Strangely there are people who can pick up the basic messages of climate science, assume responsibility, face the issues and work on mitigation and adaptation, else we would have no grounds for any kind of hope. I note that the young are prominent in attending genuine climate change presentations. It’s mainly the elderly that attend the other kind.

            1. Rich people tend to have elaborate insurance cover and other contingencies, like simply keeping enough money in relatively safe investments to be able to react quickly to unforeseen events. In other words, if their mansion falls off the cliff, it is no big deal!

            2. Your insurance cover is not so good if insurers and reinsurers will not support insuring climate vulnerable properties and municipalities will not support provision of infrastructure to service those properties. This is already getting underway.

              One of the few takehome lessons I got from the sundayschools I was sent to in the fourties was that it is foolish to build houses upon the sand.

          2. I am not defending Key’s position per se, I just don’t like to see his (or anybody else’s) position misrepresented and then argued against. That is something that just really annoys me for some reason, perhaps because it has happened to me more than once. On that note, I object to the following excerpts from the article above:

            [quote]a frankly astonishing promotional video by PM John Key, in which he waxes lyrical about our beautiful country, and then describes how he’s committed to ruining it. Have a look: it is — as Greenpeace NZ noted — beyond parody[unquote]


            [quote]Investing in assets that will be stranded by the inevitability of action on climate change is a strategic nonsense[unquote]


            [quote]Unless they wake up and see the world changing around them, they will find themselves as stranded as the tax payer funds they plan waste by subsidising fossil fuel exploration and extraction[unquote].

            There is just so much rhetoric here and so little rationality! Rightly or wrongly, Key is mainly (or even only) interested in the short term. Climate change simply isn’t a strong argument against fossil fuel extraction in N.Z. in the short term. If the last drought was a real manifestation of climate change (I assume we have always had the occasional drought, so this need not be so), and if other droughts are on the way, then this is so regardless of whether we extract fossil fuels. In the short term, such extraction is not going to make climate change significantly worse than it will be without the extraction. But the droughts and other climate events are going to cost the country. Fossil fuel extraction is a way to compensate for that cost. That, I believe, is Key’s argument. You may claim that we should look beyond the short term, but I suspect most voters care more about what happens now. You seem to be trying to convince them that tomorrow is closer off than they think, but that isn’t really a good argument, for they can just say that we therefore need a stronger economy more quickly to be in a position to cope with the impending crisis. The demand for oil is not going to disappear any time soon …

            1. If you know that carbon emissions have to be reduced to head off irretrevable changes humanity cannot live with and retain a civilisation, and furthermore the logic has it that that effort must be underway now with all hands on deck, then it is irrational to believe that putting as much carbon in the atmosphere and ocean that you can is in any way a fence against the coming catastrophies. Governments know this but can’t face up to it, the more so if they have lots of people who have got rich on carbon. If anyone does not know this they have not been paying attention or have been misinformed and have not the nous or sense of responsibility to undeceive themselves.

              Rationalisations are tied to assumptions. I do not think Key was uncomfortable with what he was saying because he thought some people would get irrational about it as you suggest. I suspect he knows very well, for it has been said often enough, that the logic of climate change science is against every effort to liberate more fossil carbon when what we already have available is enough to ensure we have no future if we burn it. Rationalisations on the assumption that we’ll be OK or have time to burn are irrational in the face of the climate change we have set in motion and are already experiencing consequences that are intolerable to many with a global change of only 0.8°C .

              Orienting the economy away from fossil fuel dependence is the only rational way to establish jobs that are going to be needed in the future. Developing a sustainable agriculture is the only rational way to ensure that some people at least get fed, whatever their income now.

              On the subject of “brutal” logic the only difficulty I have with David Roberts is his throwaway line about CO2 lasting more than a century – more than several millenia at an influential level could still amount to an understatement.

            2. Keys’ position is perfectly clear! He chooses not to listen to the advice given him by those who understand the science (eg Dr James Hansen), and have advocated that a more constructive and active approach to mitigating Global Warming is needed. At this very moment his government is planning to gut the Resource Management Act so that citizens will no longer have the power to submit on Resource extraction enterprises of what ever nature. His government has done everything in its power to ease the path of the extraction companies and has removed almost all protection for conservation. His video is little more than hypocrisy of the worst kind, and it is rightly called for what it is.

            3. Nice rant! However, as for Key taking advice from people who understand science, his c.s.a. Peter Gluckman has just released a big report on the impact of climate change in NZ, with recommendations, which Key will presumably consider. There is no hypocrisy in Key’s video that I can see, at worst only short sightedness.

            4. Yes I’m well aware of Sir Peter Gluckman’s recently released report. Key has been advised by others far more expert than Gluckman on Global Warming – and basically he has filed that advise in the dust bin. He has trashed the ETS and his government has made every effort to undermine any sensible or serious attempt to take action against measures for mitigation. To then say just how clean and green NZ is – is pure hypocrisy. It is not shortsightedness that leads him to this deceitful behaviour but pure greed on his part, and those of his friends. To adopt the position of apologist – as you are doing – is simply to become part of his web of deceit.

  13. “Fellowship of the Rig” might have been even better.

    But whatever people here feel that Key was trying to say, it’s interesting that someone not in this country looked at the video and came to that conclusion. Especially from the Minister of Tourism.

    lots of tweeting about it – “my precioussss” seems to feature in many of them. hehe.

  14. Yep, no near-term impacts on the horizon.

    Some people believe that certain types of people people like to frame an argument in an extremely limited manner that happens to suit their own prejudices, and then proceed to label every response that transcends that frame as wrong for that very reason.

    Put another way, certain parties may keep insisting that Achilles cannot overtake the Tortoise; others may disagree.

    I’m not saying I believe any of this myself, mind

  15. @Macro: It remains to be seen if the govt. will ignore the Gluckman report. Not only am I not trying to deceive you or others, but I am also not trying to deceive myself …

    1. They have ignored numerous others on any numbery of subjects (The Treasury report on Charter Schools, the Human rights commission on any number of changes to the law, The commissioner for the Environment on the RMA amongst other environmental issues including the present parlous state of the ETS, the economic benefits of Roads of “National” significance- to name just a few of the top of my head) – why think they will act on this!

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