Editorial: Rejoice when a plan comes together

Who's really protecting the Arctic?

Last updated 05:00 21/09/2012
arctic stand
Greenpeace has claimed a victory after Shell announced a delay to drilling in the Arctic.

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OPINION: Congratulations Greenpeace. Well done Shell.

As Colonel John "Hannibal" Smith, George Peppard's character in the classic television show The A-Team, was always so fond of saying, we "love it when a plan comes together".

Earlier this week it was revealed that Shell had decided to delay its controversial drilling programme in the Arctic because of concerns about equipment failure in such a harsh part of the planet.

That story had particular relevance in Taranaki because of a dramatic Greenpeace protest at Port Taranaki earlier this year, featuring eco-warrior princess Lucy Lawless, against the Shell vessel Noble Discoverer.

The protesters were targeting the oil giant's plans for the Arctic and the potential for disaster in that largely untouched, wild, white world.

So it was not surprising that the environmental organisation was claiming a victory this week and a key role in Shell's decision to pull up stumps ahead of worsening weather and encroaching ice.

Greenpeace deserves some praise for highlighting potential dangers in a vulnerable environment and for keeping the oil industry on its toes.

But the announcement by Shell highlights another side to this story, one that the industry has been trying to get across in the face of vehement opposition from environment groups over fracking, rural access and now deep-sea drilling.

And that is that most industry players are responsible entities fully mindful of their obligations to health, safety and the environments they are working in.

There are, of course, cowboys. They exist in every industry. And Shell's record, and that of the oil industry, is not without stain in some parts of the world, including New Zealand. Especially when oversight from governments and environmental groups has not been comprehensive.

But Shell's decision to postpone drilling until it has the appropriate equipment in place and the reaction to it says as much about the attitude and political leanings of the reader as it does about the truth of the situation: the passionate advocate for the environment will see only an exploitative company finally yielding to scrutiny and pressure; the industry and its supporters will no doubt applaud such caution as business-as-usual and a sign of a healthy, responsible attitude.

The rest of us will see what Colonel "Hannibal" Smith sees when he says we "love it when a plan comes together".

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Both sides would likely deny it but both have made a contribution to ensuring that if oil, gas and other resources are taken out of the ground, for the betterment of our daily lives and various economies, it is done, for the most part, with care and consideration. And with the knowledge that the world is watching.

In the end, whether success is the result of environmental advocacy or standard industry best-practice is probably immaterial. More likely it is a little bit of both, a relationship that provides a valuable balance between exploitation and environment.

And that coming together is a plan we can all love.

- Taranaki Daily News

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