Kangaroo Island mayor Peter Clements has hit back at claims by an energy industry consultant that local councils are “out of their depth” opposing drilling in the Great Australian Bight.
The claims were made by Dr Graeme Bethune of the Adelaide-based EnergyQuest consultancy in a press release put out to the media on Wednesday, June 13.
Dr Bethune singled out Mr Clements in his opinion piece saying that they had come “under the spell” of experienced environmental propagandists.
In other developments and on the very same day, Port Adelaide council successfully moved a motion at its meeting to oppose any drilling in the Bight, currently proposed by Norwegian oil giant Equinor.
“This is the ninth coastal council to vote to oppose oil drilling and the third in the last month,” Greenpeace Australia Pacific senior campaigner, Nathaniel Pelle, said. “They will not be the last. First Nations leaders, fishermen, and tourism operators have all sent Equinor the message that their oil rigs are not welcome and they will never gain a social license to drill.
“This high-risk pipe dream of frontier oil drilling in the Bight must be abandoned and permanent protection established for the unique marine life in the region.”
The move was welcomed by local fishing industry representative and Port Adelaide resident Kyri Toumazos.
“The local fishing industry has been making its concerns with oil exploration in the Bight known for many years,” Mr Toumazos said. “The fishing industry can last forever but that is threatened by the risky frontier oil drilling and seismic testing that is being proposed. The stakes for the communities and industries that rely on this unparalleled ocean environment are far too high to wager.”
Mr Clements back on Kangaroo Island meanwhile hit back passionately at Dr Bethune saying that he and the other councils had every right to fight against proposed drilling.
“Our local government has as much right, and even more, to intervene in issues and to advocate for people living in coastal councils,” Mr Clements said.
“Industries that make up the economy of the coastal regions in South Australia need to hear the truth about the potential industrialisation of the Bight and the risks involved.
“Firstly, the arrogance of EnergyQuest’s Dr Bethune in suggesting that local government should stay quiet on this matter is typical of the arrogance to which paid advocates of this industry deal with ordinary people who voice their opinion on this matter.
“The rich and powerful oil industry can throw as much public relations spin about this industry as it wants but it can never take away the instinctive thinking of ordinary people who smell a rat.
“Was it not 72.9 per cent of the electorate of Mayo that recently made up their own mind they did not want an oil industry in the Great Australian Bight? Weren’t the majority of coastal councils in SA, who would be affected by a major oil spill, and who voted against the industrialisation of the Great Australian Bight, of sound mind in making their decisions?
“How dare Dr Bethune belittle the thinking of ordinary people in protecting their future and the future of their children. His audacity in this matter is beyond comprehension.
“Dr Bethune’s comments also fly in the face of a plethora of scientific evidence on climate change including the recent statement from the Pope condemning the fossil fuel industry as potential destroyers of civilisation.
“He suggests that taxpayers join the scrum and allow the federal government to invest our hard-earned taxes in a joint venture with the oil industry to extract oil and gas from the Bight.
“To the contrary, Minister for Resources, Matt Canavan has already said that the establishing of an industry of this scale would take at least 10 years and the economic reality is that the oil giants will have tax right offs for at least another decade after that.
“As the renowned economic think-tank, The Australia Institute, has said, the jobs produced from an oil industry in the Bight will not be local and the royalties for the Australian taxpayer will be a long way into the future while the risk to the existing coastal economy will be high.
“The reality is at present that we may be partially dependent on oil and gas, but are we also inextricably approaching the point of no return with irreversible climate change.
“Are the majority of climate scientists, approaching 100 per cent in number, wrong? Do we have the right to subject our children to an uncertain future when we know that the correct answers are there, and that exclude the proliferation of fossil fuels?
“These are questions that will directly influence the continuance of and human race and they are the same questions that the fossil fuel industry refuses to accept for the sake of immediate gain.”
Original opinion piece by Dr Graeme Bethune:
It’s ironic SA’s local government is being manipulated to oppose oil exploration in the Great Australian Bight.
Councils’ claims, led by Kangaroo Island, include that they express the ‘voice of hundreds of thousands’, drilling threatens tourism, ecosystems will become dysfunctional and regulation will be poor.
Local government has fallen under the spell of experienced propagandists, the Wilderness Society, which funded a visit to Norway by KI’s Mayor to protest Bight drilling and lecture Norwegians on the evils of oil exploration.
The Norwegian offshore oil experience dispels such nonsense.
Norway has safely produced ~29 billion barrels of oil since 1971 with no decimating impacts.
The country had 500,000 cruise ship visitors in 2015. Its seafood exports have jumped to a record 2.6 million tonnes, worth ~US$12 billion.
Norway’s oil industry underpins a US$1 trillion sovereign wealth fund, which returned US$131 billion last year. As a net oil exporter, Norway’s transport fuel supply is secure – while Australia’s deteriorates.
Australia’s oil output is at its lowest levels since the 1960s, exacerbating fuel security concerns. The International Energy Agency mandates minimum levels of oil stocks.
Yet Australia imports most of its refinery feedstock and transport fuel, the cost rising from $5.6 billion in 2010 to $22.8 billion last year.
Australia only meets around half of the IEA minimum storage requirement of 90 days of net imports, half that of Japan and Korea. Australian transport typically only has around three weeks supply of diesel, petrol and jet fuel – inadequate by IEA expectations.
The Great Australian Bight is Australia’s chance of finding another major oil basin to replace Bass Strait and the Carnarvon Basin.
Equinor (67 per cent Norwegian Government-owned) is prepared to take up Great Australian Bight exploration and potentially solve Australia’s oil problem. Yet local government supports a campaign to stop them drilling.
Our world-class industry regulator, NOPSEMA, is not afraid to send drilling proposals back to companies if they fail safety and environmental parameters. If NOPSEMA says No, it means No.
With all due respect to local government, NOPSEMA is the expert, not local councils.
Background on Dr Bethune:
Dr Graeme Bethune is an Adelaide-based energy consultant, formerly an employee of Santos.
His consultancy, EnergyQuest, produces a quarterly report on Australia’s energy, oil, gas, LNG and renewables market.
He is currently attending the G20 Natural Gas Day in Argentina and later this month will be presenting to the US Energy Information Administration in Washington DC.
He is also about to be appointed by the World Gas Conference as Australia’s representative on the Executive Committee of the International Gas Union.