The Great Australian Bight is one of the marine wonderlands of this planet. It is the breeding place for several whale species. Its kelp forests are under attack from warming waters, but even so are the home of many endangered species. It is a unique place of beauty, and the livelihoods of many thousands of people depend on it staying that way.
It is also very stormy, and the sea bottom is a minimum of 1 kilometre below the surface. That’s 3280 feet. BP’s Deepwater Horizon disaster was at only 41.5 metres (136 feet) depth. A prospective oil well site is at a depth of 2.2 km.
For many years now, we have been battling to keep oil exploration out of there. All companies but one have wisely withdrawn their bids, but not Equinor, the state-owned company from Norway, a country very proud of its environmental record.
Equinor’s own data have shown that the risk of a major oil spill would be substantial. It would wipe out life on the coast of much of Tasmania, South Australia, and, depending on size and time of year, great swaths of Western Australia, or to the east right along the Victorian coast, all the way to New South Wales. Look that up on a map.
And of course the dinosaur Australian government has done everything possible to facilitate and encourage Equinor to proceed. “Business is business, and business must grow, regardless of crummies in tummies, you know!”
I am overjoyed to let you know, Equinor has just announced that it is stopping this project “for commercial reasons.”
It never did make financial sense. But even if it did, it makes no moral sense.
Photograph: Jason Obrien/EPA