Think twice before we let them bite Bight

In June, the UK ran without coal power for 18 straight days.

Germany has committed to closing all 84 of its coal-fired power plants over the next 30 years. Norway voted to divest more than $8 billion from oil and gas companies ... while its state-owned oil and gas firm, Equinor, continues a push to drill for oil in the Great Australian Bight.

Wait, what?

At a time when nations are trying to reduce their dependence on finite fossil fuels, this seems like an odd move.

The Norwegian multinational is majority owned by the Government of Norway.

Equinor's website says it has been active in Australia since 2012, and holds two permits to drill in the Bight.

Cynically, one might wonder if the Norwegian Government's divestment from fossil fuel companies is a PR exercise, while they squeeze a few more bucks from a dying industry.

Equinor was formed by a merger of Statoil and the oil and gas division of Norsk Hydro.

Statoil was responsible for a number of spills in the Arctic. Earlier this year, Equinor tanks spilled oil in the Bahamas when Hurricane Dorian struck in August. The company estimates the clean-up will take another six months.

Australian waters are far from the lives and minds of the Norwegian public. Although a spill here would create outcry locally, it would probably be less upsetting for a population half a world away.

Ocean-lovers around the country, including at Dalmeny, Culburra, Mollymook and Kiama, will take to the beaches on Saturday, November 23 to voice their opposition to the project.

They are worried because the ecological value of the Bight is immeasurable. For instance southern right whales breed there in winter. They're also concerned a spill would hurt human health - and destroy the great Australian playground called "the beach".

The profits from a project undertaken by a company majority-owned by a European nation are unlikely to do much for the Australian economy. It seems we wear the greatest risk, with least to gain.

Last week Equinor was told by the national regulator it needed to modify and resubmit its environmental plan for Bight drilling.

Regardless of best-laid plans, taking a gamble with our precious, pristine ocean to prop up a dying industry seems like a lose-lose proposition.


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