Rodney Hide: Greens' scary predictions fall flat

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Jeanette Fitzsimons. Photo / Alan Gibson
Jeanette Fitzsimons. Photo / Alan Gibson

I have known Jeanette Fitzsimons for more than 30 years. Back then, she was worrying we were running out of oil and gas. She's now popped up as co-skipper of the protest vessel Vega trying to make it difficult for Anadarko to find more.

Her worry used to be that we were running out. Now her worry is that we are finding too much.

It's a total back-flip but her solution remains the same - we must give up the good life and de-industrialise.

At a seminar all those years ago, Jeanette explained that she was awoken to a world of worry by The Limits to Growth. The book had rocked me too. With Rachel Carson's Since Silent Spring and Paul Ehrlich's Population Bomb, it made me a hard-core Greenie and set me off studying environmental science to save the world.

But by the time I got to attend Jeanette's seminar, I knew the studies were deeply flawed. Wider study, plus the failure of their predictions, had revealed that.

I'd also had the benefit of working on North Sea oil rigs and seeing first-hand the incredible ingenuity and engineering that had opened up new and exciting oil fields never thought possible.

All industry is amazing, but the oil and gas industry is especially so. It's the industry that powers all others and provides even the poorest in the modern world a standard of living that kings 100 years ago could not have dreamed of. It's also safer, cleaner and more-productive than ever.

Oil and gas continues to power and to feed the world, and to do so against all predictions. The Limits to Growth computer printouts had solemnly predicted that the world would run out of oil in 1990 and gas in 1992.

We didn't. In 1972, global reserves of oil were 455 billion barrels. Since then we have burned through a trillion barrels. That's more than double the 1972 reserves. And today's reserves? 1.2 trillion barrels.

We burn more fossil fuels than ever before and have more reserves than ever before. We are not running out.

Jeanette Fitzsimons has not been cheered by the new discoveries. Far from it. She is now actively working to prevent further exploration. She has shifted the worry from the lack of oil and gas to a concern that the world has too much.

The new worry is the effect of drilling on our beaches and the impact burning fossil fuels has on the world's climate.

I argued with Jeanette more than 30 years ago that her predictions were wrong. I explained using reason and data. I made absolutely no headway. I would have no more luck today.

There is nothing that would convince Jeanette that discovering and exploiting fossil fuels is a good idea. The problem she has with fossil fuels is not one of economics or science. It's philosophical.

Jeanette opposes industrialised living. She wants the world to live more simply and more in harmony with the natural world. It's not enough for her to live as she chooses. Her mission is to force the rest of us to live as she says.

We have green policy after green policy making fossil fuels ever more expensive. We have continuous and hysterical protests in response to surveys and exploration for oil and gas, let alone its continued exploitation.

I long ago parted company with the green movement. That was when I realised it was a cult with always the same answer, no matter the science and no matter the obvious failure of previous scary predictions. I also thought it a failing that green sustainability meant billions of people must die.

Back in the day, the greenies viewed the big human die-off as part and parcel of getting back into harmony with nature. Funny, they don't talk about that so much now.

Debate on this article is now closed.

- Herald on Sunday

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