Greenpeace has been making waves in the Great Australian Bight (GAB) recently, using its (diesel-fuelled) Rainbow Warrior III ship to lead a flotilla of petroleum-based surfboards, paddleboards, yachts and powered boats in Port Lincoln to protest oil exploration. It’s a bold stance to rebuke an industry with the potential to provide many jobs, infrastructure and services to the region, so Greenpeace’s own green-creds must be solid, right? Well not quite.
Greenpeace is quick to boast the Rainbow Warrior III is “as sustainable as possible,” despite the fact that it is still, ultimately, reliant on fossil fuels. It’s engine, a Volvo Penta D65A MT 1850 HP, is a diesel-electric motor that uses fuel at the rate of 206 g/kWh of power as Greenpeace activists cruise it all over the world to protest the very resource its dependant on. This hypocrisy has been widely noted and the public record is rife with photos of the ship being refuelled by oil companies, including BP, which has often borne the brunt of Greenpeace’s campaigns.
As if that’s not bad enough, both the superstructure and the spars of the boat are made of aluminium, which according to the Commonwealth Scientific Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO), is the most GHG-intensive metal to manufacture. Of course, Greenpeace is philosophically opposed to aluminium, mounting campaigns against its use and manufacture, but is ultimately—like everyone else—reliant on it. Furthermore, the paint, rubber, seals and almost every other part of the boat is made possible by petroleum products. Every night the crew sit down in a galley with food prepared on a gas stove. Notice the trend emerging here?
When recently confronted with this hypocrisy in South Australia, Greenpeace Australia and Pacific chief executive, David Ritter countered:
“Yes, it does use some fuel and the reality is, as one of Greenpeace’s founders said, ‘You can’t save the world in a row boat’.”
This mentality of chiding others about their carbon footprint, while turning a blind eye to their own seems endemic to Greenpeace’s culture—let us not forget their Program Director who commuted from Luxembourg and Amsterdam by plane about twice a month – which a Greenpeace director chalked up to the “kind of compromises do you make in your efforts to try to make the world a better place.”
Fishers and local communities
While Greenpeace ostensibly views itself as crusading to save the Bight and its fish, local fishers should be wary of linking arms with the global activist group. First and foremost, many of Greenpeace’s assertions regarding the damage that exploration and production could do to the region are based on unrealistic projections or run counter to what scientific studies have so far concluded.
Secondly, despite the fact that Greenpeace seems to view itself as “saving the world,” fishers from France, Germany, New Zealand, and even here in Australia have – at times—been very vocal about what a pest the group can be, sometimes going so far as to block the Rainbow Warrior from their waters. And no wonder, year in and year out, Greenpeace wages campaigns against the fishing industry, including a very high-profile and long-running campaign against the Australian tuna industry.
While the activist group may be unable to successfully coexist with the fishing industry, Equinor – the Norwegian company seeking to drill in the Great Australia Bight—has a long history of successfully coexisting with Norway’s fishing and seafood industry, an industry that hit record export value in 2017.
Perhaps this is why many people in South Australia’s coastal communities see the value in developing the Bight. In fact, a recent report from Marine Innovation SA found that:
“The social baseline study identified that the region is characterised by a small and sparsely distributed population and highly dependent on primary industries (that is, agriculture, fishing and aquaculture). There is migration of younger residents to larger centres and Adelaide for employment and education… Attitudes toward development were largely positive, with expectations of alternative employment opportunities generated directly (by the oil industry) and indirectly (through increased population in the region).” P.34
“The regional communities were largely supportive of development.” P. 35
The benefits of a development program have the potential to be far-reaching in terms of the local economy—and who knows, maybe one day Greenpeace may fuel its boats with Bight oil?