Shell exploration manager Roland Spuij – deluded or ignorant?
Printed below is a deluded article written by a Shell exploration manager – Roland Spuij (person on the right) – who apparently is totally ignorant of Shell’s track record of giving a higher priority to production and profits than to the safety of its offshore workers. Either that, or he is trying to deliberate mislead New Zealanders? Same applies to his comments about Shell’s conduct in Nigeria. Has he forgotten that in 2009 Shell paid $15.5 million (£9.7m) as an out-of-court settlement in a case accusing it of complicity in human rights abuses in Nigeria. 17 pages of correspondence between Shell and the Nigerian Police – authentic exhibits from the litigation – prove Shell supplied arms and ammunition to the Nigerian police force (part of a corrupt murderous regime)
Otago Daily Times
Shell proud of its safety record
It’s good to see Rosemary Penwarden outlining her concerns and for Shell to have the right to respond, something we were unable to do in our recent meeting in Dunedin brought to a halt by other protesters.
Shell welcomes any discussion, including on climate change, so long as it has a chance to present its views. Whether there is oil or natural gas present in any basin is not determined by us or any opponents, but by nature. We have strong scientific evidence, including information from wells previously drilled in the Great South Basin, that we can expect to find gas there, with some associated liquid gas ”condensate”; the chance of finding oil is very low. The first step is to prove the presence of hydrocarbons as part of the exploration phase. It is too early to talk about options for future development concepts, assuming the presence of hydrocarbons is proven.
Shell did not leave anything off the table with our Environmental, Social and Health Impact Assessment.
At the earliest opportunity we were presenting some of the preliminary findings in order to get feedback. Rafting birds were indeed identified as potentially being affected in the very unlikely case of an uncontrolled release of gas and condensate. Much research was included on the feeding and migratory patterns of rafting birds, including albatross and shearwaters.
Shell operates under detailed processes, using the latest equipment and technology to minimise any credible risk a drilling spill could have on birds and marine life, particularly whales and dolphins. If we proceed to drilling, we will have a complete range of responses to deal with the consequences of any spill, however unlikely.
The video footage acquired by Niwa’s research vessel Tangaroa under contract to Shell does indeed indicate there is little marine life apparent on the surface seabed at the potential drilling site. Shell received the video footage only a few days before the meeting and chose to share it. Our preliminary conclusion is that drilling a single exploratory well over a month would have very limited impacts. We are open to further input.
Shell does not take lightly its often stated commitment to environmental and personal safety. We are a major player worldwide and publish our performance on environmental metrics on an annual basis. The number and volume of operational spills has steadily reduced over recent years but we continue to learn from all our incidents to improve our performance further in the future.
For the record, we were not involved in the 2010 Horizon disaster in the Gulf of Mexico, or the Elgin platform gas leak in the North Sea. We agree that the health and safety record for New Zealand is poor across all industries compared with Britain and other countries. The head of Shell New Zealand, Rob Jager, is at present chairing the Government’s Independent Taskforce on Workplace Health and Safety.
As for Nigeria, as recently as last week, the US Supreme Court refused to hear a case attempting to link Shell with claims of human rights abuses in the Niger Delta – claims that Shell has always strongly denied. Shell remains firmly committed to supporting fundamental human rights, including those of peaceful protest. Shell acknowledges improvements can be made to our operations there and has made significant progress in reducing spills and gas flaring in recent years. It is important to note that the vast majority of spilt oil in Nigeria is caused by rampant criminality – oil theft and illegal refining. This leads to widespread environmental damage and is the real tragedy of the Niger Delta.
Shell shares concerns about climate change and we see gas as a clean and affordable energy source. Wind, solar and bio fuels are some 1% of the energy mix today and they will have an important role to play beyond 2030. Over the past five years, we have spent US$2.2 billion on developing alternative energies, carbon capture and storage, and other CO2-related R&D.
But industry will need to see more technology development to make renewables cost-competitive with hydrocarbons and less reliant on subsidy; we are working on that for the long term. We do not have coal reserves. Our 2012 total production was split almost equally between oil and gas. Given that natural gas has around half the carbon emissions of coal and about a third that of diesel, this should provide some common ground for discussions on how we address climate change in a world with ever-increasing energy demands. We remain committed to debating all these issues and urge anyone with an interest in New Zealand’s energy future to engage constructively with us.
– Roland Spuij, Shell’s New Zealand exploration manager.
Right or wrong?
The ban on ‘whatever is in the seas and waters that does not have fins or scales’ is passionately supported by conservatives.
However it faces opposition from Americans who experimented with shellfish in their youth, or have relatives or friends who have eaten shrimp.
Meanwhile, Republicans are accused of making political capital by fomenting hatred against so-called ‘Godless big-city mollusc-munchers’.
But Tom Booker, from Pasadena, said: “We’re not forcing anyone to do anything they don’t want to. Why can’t you enjoy your chicken just because I’m lustily devouring a big shiny red lobster?”
Nikki Hollis, from Chicago, added: “If my friends and I want to munch on a juicy oyster, that’s what we’re going to do.
“These small-minded people are just losing their shit because secretly they want to feast on bivalves.”
The pro-shellfish lobby has accused their opponents of ignoring other verses of Leviticus which prohibit tattoos, wearing garments of mixed fabric, and homosexuality.
Norman Steele said: “Shit, I don’t care if a couple o’ dudes want to ride each other’s assholes all night – ain’t none of my beeswax. Long as they ain’t eatin’ no scallops at the same time.”
RECENT DEBATES ABOUT social media commentary have brought the question of freedom of speech in Ireland into focus. While politicians seem to be on a quiet path to try and dampen the vigour of their critics, it is worth pointing out that in Ireland there is no unqualified right to freedom of speech.
Article 40.6.1.i of our constitution guarantees liberty for the exercise of the right of citizens to express freely their convictions and opinions. So far so good. Unfortunately it heavily qualifies the statement with a ‘however’ in that this right “shall not be used to undermine public order or morality or the authority of the State.”
The next line in the same article is where our famous blasphemy law comes from:
The publication or utterance of blasphemous, seditious, or indecent matter is an offence which shall be punishable in accordance with law.
All of these qualifications pretty much mean that freedom of speech in Ireland is whatever the government and judiciary of the day are having themselves. What precisely does “public order” mean? What is the “morality” of the state? Or its authority? What’s seditious or indecent?
There’s no constitutional appendix outlining what can and can’t be banned under these loose phrases. The judiciary tends to adopt a conservative view when interpreting these clauses, to pretty much mean that whatever the state bans in law is constitutional. After all, their job is to interpret the wishes of the framers, and the esteemed Eamon de Valera was not shy when it came to censorship and upholding the morals of the nation.
In general Ireland today is a tolerant and open democracy, where most of the censorship is self-imposed for the benefit of social normality or from fear of litigation, like the way we report on car accidents or former persons of interest to tribunals. There are however government curbs on freedom of speech as well as hangovers from our more uptight Archbishop McQuaid days.
The Minister for Finance, for example, has the power under the Credit Institutions (Stabalisation) Act 2010 to take some fairly extreme financial action and ban any open discussion of the details; or even publishing that such an order or direction has been made. Days after that act was passed €3.7 billion was transferred from the state to AIB with journalists kicked out from court before the matter was discussed. Whether or not other orders have been made with your and my money at stake I can’t tell you.
Even if a concerned citizen involved in the process were to leak the details, they could not be published without severe punishment falling on the heads of those involved.
In terms of context rather than content, I’m reminded of the leaking of the Pentagon Papers and their publication in 1971. The papers were a classified Pentagon study of the war in Vietnam exploring how the US government had effectively lied about its involvement in that war and its escalation.
Though the papers were classified, the New York Times’ legal counsel argued that under the first amendment to the US constitution the press had a right to publish information significant to the people’s understanding of the Vietnam War. The Nixon administration sought an injunction against publication. If such a thing were to happen in Ireland, I’d say everyone would run for the hills and the publication in question would be in it deep.
In the US, the Washington Post joined in the publication and the US Supreme Court ruled that the US government did not have the right to censor the press on the matter. The court found that the right to free speech was more important to the security of the Republic than the “broad and vague” definition of security that the government wanted to preserve.
The Supreme Court Justice Brown actually made reference to a few of the things that are qualifying statements in our own constitution during his summary. He said that the framers of the first amendment specifically thought that strength and security came from providing “unabridged” freedom of speech, press, religion and assembly.
There is presently open talk of regulating new media and social communication online in Ireland, and Declan Ganley has just won a landmark defamation case against a Twitter user. I’m not for the right of anyone to bully, harass or harm the reputation of anyone else freely and without any fear of consequence. I do believe however that in Ireland there is too much scope to stifle free speech, if not explicitly in law then from the bully pulpit or through the threat of legal consequences.
In the US the right to absolute freedom of speech allowed the publication of the Pentagon Papers. It also leads to some fairly vitriolic discourse in politics and, ultimately, it is the freedom enjoyed by people like the Westboro Baptist Church who picket funerals with slogans like “God Hates Fags”. The trouble with trying to ban this sort of distasteful stuff is that the net, ultimately, can be extended to catch other things. It was one of our former Attorney Generals during the campaign against Oireachtas inquiries who pointed out that a constitution is not designed to protect you from a benign government.
Ireland is a country where the Republic has been blighted by corruption and mismanagement at its very core; where we can hardly get adequate protections together for whistleblowers; and where the economy is in ruins – but the government can do things with your money and ban anyone from even saying it happened. I believe that instead of talking about regulation of communications, we should be opening up our own First Amendment-like rights.
We should get rid of the qualifying statements from our Constitution on freedom of speech. It’s not for the state to decide if what you or I say is undermining public morality. It’s more seditious to the security of democracy to allow politicians and civil servants to decide if what you or I are saying is seditious. Too much free speech is stifled by the person with the deeper pockets who can pay their solicitors and senior counsels to run down to the High Court.
Yes, a completely free debate can become vitriolic. Then again, nobody takes the Westboro Baptist Churches of this world all that seriously for their abuse of their freedom. And in not regulating that freedom, you don’t run the risk of stifling somebody who has something important to say.
Aaron McKenna is a businessman and a columnist for TheJournal.ie. He is also involved in activism in his local area. You can find out more about him at aaronmckenna.com or follow him on Twitter @aaronmckenna.