Letter: Green dogma

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The Independent Culture
Sir: This week, delegates of the Oslo and Paris Commission (Ospar) are meeting in Hamburg to continue the process of creating the framework required to implement the recycling of redundant North Sea oil platforms. This programme us expected to cost the oil industry around pounds 10bn to pounds 15bn.

While the prospect of forcing "environmentally hostile" oil companies to spend some of their profits on removing redundant material might produce a warm glow in the hearts of the public and green organisations, it is worth noting that the environmental evidence upon which this "green milestone" has been achieved is proving difficult to obtain.

Since I asked questions associated with this programme relating to energy balances, carbon dioxide burdens, landfill problems and the precise nature of the threat posed by redundant oil platforms in Nature some two months ago, senior green personnel have found it necessary to express regret that I have had the temerity to question the Ospar decision - for which they were largely responsible - in public. I have seen no more than opinionated historical material in justification of the Ospar decision.

I have no doubt that credible information about the different options for redundant oil platform management exists. How to obtain it, what it reveals and how it has been interpreted is another matter, given the triumphalism which has prevailed since the Brent Spar affair. Before asking oil companies to spend billions on what may well prove to be only a marginal improvement to the marine environment, perhaps zealous green organisations should look beyond an agenda designed to pillory the oil industry to those perennial environmental problems crying out for even modest funding.

The oil companies, the green movement, governments and the public would surely, if a review of the evidence justified it, welcome a revision of the Ospar decision to one which required a diversion of some of the oil companies' profits into sensible environmental improvement measures rather than one which is seemingly based more on environmental dogma than on wisdom and analysis.


Pete Wilkinson Environmental Consultancy

Halesworth, Suffolk

The writer is a former director of Greenpeace