Showing posts with label GlobalPost. Show all posts
Showing posts with label GlobalPost. Show all posts

Wednesday, April 2, 2014

Physicists are building an NSA-proof internet

Published on GlobalPost
BOSTON — It’s long been the Holy Grail of communications: technology that not only maximizes privacy, but also reveals when a message had been intercepted or copied.
The quest began in antiquity, with encryption and with the humble envelope — which not only kept out prying eyes but also showed if a message had been opened by someone other than its intended recipient.
More recently, Edward Snowden's revelations of spying by the National Security Agency have heightened concerns over electronic privacy, espionage and meddling.
Despite centuries of innovation, today’s methods for secure communication are basically the same — and in some ways are even more vulnerable, given how easy it is to copy, store, and search electronic data.
Scientists say a solution for truly private, tamper-free digital communication is underway, and should be commercially viable within a decade.
For theoretical physicists, the solution has already existed for several decades, but the technology needs refining before it’s available on a mass scale across the internet. Still, the pieces of this ultra-secure, high-speed communications web are beginning to take shape in labs around the world.
The system is based on quantum physics, and more specifically on the concept of “entanglement.”
Entanglement is a topic that even hardened scientists discuss with a degree of wonder. “It’s quite mysterious, in fact,” said Félix Bussières, a senior researcher in the Group of Applied Physics at the University of Geneva in Switzerland.
Physicists have long struggled to come up with metaphors and analogies to describe entanglement, which is so hard to actually wrap the mind around that even Albert Einstein gave up and settled for calling it “spooky.” It involves creating two photons (particles of light) that, while independent of each other and free to travel long distances apart, are still tightly interrelated, almost as if they are not two separate photons but one indivisible photon pair. As photons travel, they spin; each part of the entangled photon pair spins in the exact opposite direction from the other. If something happens that causes either of the pair to change its spin, the other instantaneously changes its spin to compensate.
Entangled photons act like a tripwire for any outside tampering — which is what makes a quantum internet so secure. In other terms, “quantum mechanics tell us that if you look at a quantum state you perturb it,” wrote Thomas Jennewein, an associate professor at theInstitute for Quantum Computing and in the physics and astronomy department of Ontario'sUniversity of Waterloo, in the institute’s 2013 annual report. (If you want to read more on the science, start by looking up the Heisenberg Uncertainty Principle and the Schrödinger’s catthought experiment.)
The good and bad of the quantum internet
So in the ideal case, wiretapping a quantum message system is impossible, Bussières said, because the wiretap will disturb the system, and the disturbance can be detected by the sender and recipient.
“The principle is perfectly secure,” Bussières said. “One can use in principle the quantum properties of light ... to ultimately cipher communication ... in a way that is ... provably unbreakable.”
This now works in the lab. It has even gone commercial: There is a small industry doing what is called quantum-key distribution — using quantum methods to generate encryption keys that are substantially more secure than more conventional ones. But the keys can only be shared across relatively small distances, no more than about 125 miles of optical fiber.
The challenge is that the technology depends on photons (instead of electrons), and photons attenuate, or lose, their momentum over distance.
It also means that quantum connections are quite slow (about one megabit per second, Bussières said) compared to standard internet communications speeds. That’s why the technology is being used for keys instead of entire messages. And as such, while messages with quantum keys are more secure than others, they can still be monitored and copied for storage and later cracking by hackers or spies.
Quantum-key distribution could be poised for widespread commercialization right away, Bussières said, if technological advances threatened the security of conventional electronic encryption.
“If we want to go beyond these distances” with actual quantum connections, “other technologies are being intensely researched around the world,” he said. It would take several years to develop quantum-enabled devices that are small enough, cheap enough, and efficient enough to be mass-produced and widely used, “but considering the amount of research put in that direction, there is a great chance that it will become a reality,” Bussières said.
For nerds: solving the quantum quandary
To transform quantum communications from a lab project to a commercial application, three major approaches are in development: wavelength optimization, quantum repeaters, and satellite connections.
Scientists say the progress is encouraging, in part because much of the research involves adapting existing, conventional optical-communications gear to quantum uses, rather than inventing all-new equipment.
First, it’s not enough to simply connect photon-entanglement sources and detectors to opposite ends of optical-fiber cables. Because eventually photons attenuate — getting absorbed or scattering away from their detectors — even non-quantum-carrying fibers need help to keep the signal alive across long distances.
Steven Olmschenk, an associate professor of physics at Denison University in Ohio, is working to lengthen the distance entangled photons can travel in optical fiber. While previously he had also been working on quantum repeaters at the Joint Quantum Institute, he and others realized they were researching themselves into a bit of a corner.
Most of the photons used in quantum research so far, he said, are in ultraviolet wavelengths, which attenuate too quickly to be truly useful in fiber-optic transmissions. Internet and telecom companies already use infrared signals in fibers, because they attenuate more slowly.
Olmschenk’s research focuses on taking existing capabilities for UV quantum communications, and adapting them to infrared transmission and reception. It has only been a couple of years, though, and he told GlobalPost that while he is optimistic, he does not yet have any results to report.
If he is successful, he and others will also have to translate into UV the accomplishments of other researchers figuring out how to extend signals in other ways.
Bussières is working to improve quantum repeaters, which combine a photon detector, a quantum memory, and a photon source so that when a quantum signal needs to be transmitted, say 600 miles, that trip can be split by repeaters into shorter segments with less attenuation.
But for distances (or geographic features) too large to handle usefully with optical fiber, there is another option: sending quantum signals by satellite.
Jennewein, of the Institute for Quantum Computing, is on that task. He and his team have set their sights on sending entangled photons to satellites in low Earth orbit, likely somewhere around 300 to 360 miles above the ground. At present, open-air quantum transmissions have been achieved at around 100 miles, using transmitters and receivers that are very precisely aligned. (This gets harder when involving a satellite moving 15,000 miles per hour.)
Jennewein’s current work covers several aspects of the puzzle, including aiming photons accurately at distant receivers that are moving, determining how much attenuation will happen in the atmosphere as it thins at higher altitudes, and improving detection of the weak signals that will arrive.
One crucial challenge has not yet been undertaken: Because quantum sources need to be smaller and more energy-efficient before they are ready to fly in space, nobody has yet sent a quantum signal from a satellite back to Earth.
Other efforts, which would expand bandwidth over those extended distances, are also in the works. "Quantum dots," nanocrystals that conduct electricity, can simplify and even automate the process of emitting photons with particular entanglements on demand, which could help increase transmission rates, as would using light from LEDs instead of lasers. And repeaters capable of handling multiple quantum signals simultaneously would speed things up as well.
But the crucial part is building the connections that can span the world so that people can, it is hoped, finally communicate with complete privacy.

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Reality check: Could MH370 have hidden from radar next to another plane?

Published on GlobalPost

Yes, says an MIT aeronautics professor. With caveats.

BOSTON — It’s the Malaysia Airlines missing jet theory that has taken the internet by storm.
Ohio aviation hobbyist and IT professional Keith Ledgerwood dug deep into the data and emerged with the idea that — after making the sharp left everyone seems to now agree on — flight MH370 appears to have piggybacked on another aircraft, Singapore Airlines Flight 68, which also departed Kuala Lumpur around the same time.
In doing so, the theory goes, it could have evaded radar detection. Unlike MH370, which was heading for Beijing, SIA68’s destination was Madrid. Its flight path passed over parts of IndiaPakistan, and Afghanistan, after which the Malaysian Boeing 777 could have peeled off and landed in the desert or in Central Asia.
The hypothesis, replete with charts and technical details, is compelling. But is it feasible?
Yes it is, according to Massachusetts Institute of Technology professor of aeronautics and astronautics R. John Hansman Jr.
But it’s not very likely.
An airplane as big as a Boeing 777 can effectively hide from radar systems, Hansman says, if it gets close enough to another plane of similar size. Hansman is also the director of MIT’s International Center for Air Transportation.
Speaking to GlobalPost Tuesday, he said he was familiar with Ledgerwood’s idea, and termed it “technically possible but operationally very difficult.”
Hansman said with planes of that size, “you don’t have to get that close — within a half-mile or a quarter-mile” to appear on radar screens as, effectively, part of the same plane, even on military radar.
“It would be a slightly larger radar blip, but not enough to get anybody’s attention,” Hansman said. Since radar operators would be expecting to see a contact at that speed and on that flight path — they would be assuming it was only SIA68 — they would not see anything worrying.
However, maneuvering two massive aircraft that close together in flight at high altitude is extremely hard, he said.
First, while the flights departed from the same airport, “it’s hard to catch up with the other airplane.” Big airliners don’t have much of a range of possible speeds, especially when flying at cruising altitudes, so it’s not like the Malaysia Airlines pilot could have done the airplane equivalent of stepping on the gas pedal — it would have already been quite near the floor.
If it was possible to catch up with speed, the Malaysian pilots would have had a challenge locating the Singapore Airlines plane — having turned off their transponder and anti-collision signaling systems, that equipment would have been useless to provide other planes’ whereabouts.
Transponder silence also would have prevented the Singapore Airlines plane from noticing it had a shadower, Hansman said, as airplanes’ on-board primary radar is designed to detect weather, not other aircraft.
Even assuming MH370 could catch up to, find, close in with, and shadow SIA68 in the middle of the night over the ocean, “at some point you’re going to have to separate” and fly elsewhere, Hansman said. “Then you have to land it somewhere.”
As suggested by another aviation expert speaking to GlobalPost, being certain of escaping radar detection all the way to landing at a remote airstrip would mean discovering and evading secret military radar capabilities, or at least being absolutely sure that the nations in question would not want to expose their technological expertise by sharing information those systems might have detected.
Hansman discounts the possibility of a thief having run off with the plane because “it’s easier to just go out on the ramp and steal an airplane” than to gain enough expertise to accomplish what Ledgerwood’s hypothesis suggests, and then to go and actually execute it.
He is more persuaded by an idea he and others have been discussing for several days: The possibility of some sort of onboard emergency, an electrical malfunction or a fire, like that described in a Wired post earlier Tuesday.
“The original turnback” — the one Ledgerwood thinks was to chase SIA68 — “was in a direction toward an appropriate emergency-diversion field,” Hansman said.
But even that change raises questions for him: In an emergency, pilots wouldn’t likely have taken the time to use the flight computer, but would instead have changed the plane’s heading manually. And if there was time to use the computer, he said, there would have probably been time to make a radio call announcing the problem.
But Hansman said the basic assumption of Ledgerwood’s idea is true: Only very high-tech radars can tell the difference between two planes traveling close together at altitude, and many countries in South Asia may not have that equipment. In fact, “we hope not,” Hansman said.

Sunday, March 9, 2014

We have a problem: The science behind rising seas

Published on GlobalPost

A hundred years after it spawned the iceberg that sank the Titanic in the North Atlantic, the Jakobshavn Glacier is now a major contributor to global sea-level rise, this time threatening the homes and lives not of 2,200 passengers and crew but of a billion people across the world.
As climate-watchers and coastal-dwellers keep a weather eye out for signals of irreversible changes in the environment, the world’s fastest-moving glacier has already begun self-destruction. 
Jakobshavn is now shedding ice nearly three times as quickly as it was 20 years ago, dumping enormous and growing quantities into the ocean. It's contributed 0.1 millimeters per year to worldwide sea-level rise — more than 3 percent of the 3 mm produced globally — for the past decade.
The glacier “has been retreating for the last 100 years,” according to Ian Joughin, senior principal engineer at the Polar Science Center, part of the University of Washington's Applied Physics Laboratory. “Retreat” means a glacier is shrinking in length, losing more ice from its face that meets the water than accumulates from higher up.
But it was only in recent decades that the retreat reached extreme levels.
Jakobshavn’s story isn’t unique. For decades now, more ice has been melting into the ocean than is falling from the sky in the world’s mountain and polar regions, where ice sheets store two-thirds of the planet’s fresh water — and the science shows us the situation won’t reverse any time soon.
To understand exactly what’s happened and what's likely to come, it’s critical to understand the topography underneath each glacier.
First, a note on how to think about glacial ice: it's not as simple as frozen water. Scientists consider glaciers to be "nonlinear viscous fluids," which behave like both solids and liquids. Think of a glacier as a frozen river, always flowing at some speed from source to outlet, but growing and receding with the seasons. Because ice is heavy and not a perfect solid like rock, it flows under gravitational pull and pressure from above. Sometimes big chunks become unstable and fall into the sea. When Earth’s climate is in balance, about the same amount of water flows into the oceans from glaciers as is evaporated and then precipitated as snow onto ice sheets from which those glaciers are made.
The Jakobshavn Glacier, known in Danish as Jakobshavn Isbræ, has its origins in large areas of land well above sea level, from which it flows down toward the ocean (in this case, Ilulissat Icefjord), where it calves icebergs into the water.
As physicist Joughin describes it, Jakobshavn Glacier flows off the land and into the 1,600-meter-deep fjord, filling it entirely with ice for a distance of about 50 kilometers, ultimately climbing up a slope in the sea floor that peaks at about 600 meters of depth. The narrow sheet of ice coming off the edge of the glacier at that peak — called a “glacier tongue” — once served as a sort of “cork” for the glacier, holding it back significantly and preventing quicker loss of ice.
You can see the rise in sea-bed elevation just to the left of center in this graphic.
In 1992, Jakobshavn was melting at a rate of about 6 kilometers a year. It was “about in balance” with the natural rhythm — gaining and losing roughly the same amount of ice over the course of a year’s winter accumulation and summer melting, Joughin said.
But in the late 1990s, the glacier’s tongue broke off, and the “uncorked” Jakobshavn began to calve and lose mass in ever-deeper water.
By 2000, the glacier was losing 11 kilometers in length every year, nearly twice the stable speed. As of last summer, according to a paper Joughin and others published recently in academic journal The Cryosphere, it was losing nearly 17 kilometers a year, retreating up the fjord into increasingly deep water that could cause it to melt even faster in the coming decades.
Jakobshavn’s dramatic change was recorded in the 2012 film "Chasing Ice," in a compelling scene that captured the calving of a kilometer of ice in a single event. That happens throughout the summer, Joughin said, though not always in such significant individual moments. (When it does, though, global seismic monitors have been known to register them as 4 or 5 on the Richter scale, he said.)
Eventually — perhaps in about 100 years — the glacier will have retreated far enough that it will no longer feed directly into the fjord. At that point, essentially landlocked, the glacier will only shrink through melting, which happens much slower than calving. With that slowing will come more stability in terms of the glacier’s size. “The next stable condition could be a regionally smaller ice sheet,” Joughin said.
Jakobshavn would still contribute a significant amount of global sea-level rise before then. But the real danger lies at the other end of the Earth, in the West Antarctic Ice Sheet (WAIS), which holds enough water to raise the ocean between three and six meters.
The WAIS is also meltingbut it’s doing it in open water; once the process starts, the sheet will never stop calving.
“The [WAIS] glaciers are going to keep retreating. At this point there is nothing we can do but watch,” said Eric Rignot, a glaciologist at the University of California Irvine who published his latest paper about the WAIS in December’s Geophysical Research Letters. “Just how fast they can flow, we don’t know,” he said.
It could take hundreds or thousands of years, but as Joughin puts it, the next stable point for WAIS is “no ice sheet.” By then huge areas of land, home to massive proportions of the world’s population, would be under water.
The question facing scientists and coastal dwellers is akin to the one facing the Titanic’s passengers: The water is rising, and we don’t quite know how fast it’s coming, or how quickly it will accelerate. But we need to plan, move, and adapt if we are to survive. There’s no way to stop the water, and no time to waste.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Neutrinos: A little-noticed breakthrough lets scientists see the distant cosmos like never before

Published on GlobalPost

PORTLAND, Maine — Imagine being one of the very first humans, tens of thousands of years ago, to actually look up at the night sky. You’d see dozens of lights and other sights, with no understanding of what they were, where they were, or anything else. You might think they were just “pinholes in the curtain of night.”
Only after centuries of study, with the invention of countless increasingly complex devices to peer into the sky, can we say we know anything at all about planets, stars, galaxies, and the universe as a whole.
But a recent scientific discovery has brought us back to that very first night: to the very beginning of our exploration, and to the realization of just how rudimentary our knowledge is.
After decades of searching, scientists have detected high-energy subatomic particles originating from previously unknown sources in the universe.
The particles themselves aren't news. Neutrinos — nearly massless, charge-less byproducts of radioactive decay — were first theorized in 1930 and first detected in 1956 during nuclear experiments on Earth.
Since then, we have learned that neutrinos are literally everywhere. In the time it takes to read this sentence, about 700 trillion of them run through your body. Almost all of the neutrinos scientists have detected originated either from the Sun, from the Earth’s atmosphere, or from man-made nuclear activities.
However, an almost impossibly tiny proportion come from the far reaches of the universe. Tracing those neutrinos' movements offers the possibility of greatly expanding our understanding of the cosmos.
For more than a decade, a research project called IceCube has sought to do just that — to detect neutrinos from outside our galactic neighborhood, using a cubic-kilometer detector embedded in the Antarctic ice sheet.
A paper published in the journal Science revealed late last year that IceCube had detected 28 of the particles.
And that’s rocked the physics world.
These minuscule particles from distant sources are analogous to the light emitted by the first stars ever seen by human eyes.
Because they are so tiny and electrically neutral, neutrinos “can travel at nearly the speed of light from the edge of the universe without being deflected by magnetic fields or absorbed by matter,” according to IceCube’s explanatory webpage.
Most vitally, “they travel in straight lines from their source,” which means when we "detect them here on Earth, we can calculate where they came from, like a laser pointer aimed back out into space,” said Francis Halzen, a physicist at the University of Wisconsin-Madison, who directs IceCube.
“At the moment we don’t know what we’re mapping,” he added.
Still, the accomplishment is significant, in that it may lead to the discovery of more distant parts of the cosmos than we have ever known. It could even lead to new fields of physics. Some scientists suspect these extra-galactic neutrinos may be able to tell us more about the heretofore invisible “dark matter” that many believe makes up most of the mass of the universe.
Very high-energy neutrinos, like the 28 detected by IceCube, are as much as billion times more energetic than those commonly found here on Earth. They are thought to come from supernovas and black holes, but nobody is sure yet.
“The energy requirements of these sources are so large” that theorists’ imaginations are being stretched to come up with possible explanations, Halzen said. “We are really looking at the violent processes” of the universe.
Halzen has spent most of his career searching for neutrinos and trying to explain their origins, and not even he knows what we’ll find.
IceCube is only the first glance from the first “eye” ever to look at the sky in this way. “It’s like a map of the universe with 28 pixels,” he said. “That’s a lot of emptiness.”
Finding even these few neutrinos has taken decades of innovation and science. As far back as the 1970s, Halzen said, it was clear that finding high-energy neutrinos would require a massive detector.
Scientists thought that using a cubic kilometer of ice in the South Polar Plateau could be a way to achieve this. They embedded equipment in the ice, setting up a grid of deep holes and inserting long strings with detectors at regular intervals. The goal of wiring this massive cube was to detect tiny light pulses emitted when, at extremely rare intervals, a neutrino actually hit a piece of matter.
In 1999, your correspondent witnessed an early, small-scale test of the idea at the South Pole. Using hot-water hoses to “drill” the holes that house the equipment, a detector was built just 1 percent of the size of IceCube's. The effort consumed massive quantities of fuel to power huge water heaters near the South Pole. When that project — called AMANDA, for Antarctic Muon and Neutrino Detector Array — proved the concept was valid, construction began on the larger IceCube. It only finished in December 2010.
Now the task is to keep adding to the neutrino map, in part with IceCube, but also by finding more efficient means of detecting high-energy neutrinos, Halzen said. As that picture comes into sharper focus, physicists and astronomers can compare it with other maps of the universe, including those marking known locations of black holes, pulsars, and supernovas.
Right now, “there’s nothing that stands out” as matching up, Halzen said, though it’s obviously quite early in the process.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

Off world-class surfing beach, Kiwi protesters in small boats confront a Texas oil giant

Published in GlobalPost

New Zealand's government sides with Anadarko, legislating a protest-free zone around its rig.

PORTLAND, Maine — Located in the South Pacific, hundreds of miles from its nearest neighbor, New Zealand has a long history of peaceful protest — particularly at sea. And the country’s Bill of Rights guarantees freedom of speech and peaceful assembly.
But earlier this year, multinational oil companies convinced lawmakers to restrict seaborne demonstrators who oppose oil drilling surrounding the island nation.
This week, the law is likely to get its first big test as the two sides approach direct confrontation.
A six-boat “Oil Free Seas Flotilla,” is sailing to stop deep-sea drilling 120 miles off some of New Zealand’s most iconic surfing beaches, Piha and Raglan. On Nov. 16 the vessels arrived at the site where Texas oil giant Anadarko was about to sink an exploratory well into the ocean floor 5,000 feet below the surface of the Tasman Sea.
The drilling ship Noble Bob Douglas arrived three days later and immediately declared, via radio, that the controversial new law applied, requiring the boats to stay 500 meters (1,640 feet) away from the drill rig. The flotilla responded that its boats would not comply. It has regularly radioed the Noble Bob Douglas with requests to leave New Zealand waters.
The oil-friendly law is opposed by figures as prominent as former Prime Minister Sir Geoffrey Palmer, a legal scholar, as an unlawful limit on the rights of free navigation and free speech. 
It also defies historical precedent in enviro-friendly New Zealand, which once sent its navy to protect protesters at sea.
In the late 19th century, long before Mahatma Gandhi wielded nonviolence against Britain, native Maori people at Parihaka sent dancing children to face English soldiers attempting colonization.
In the 1970s and 1980s, private boats crossed the South Pacific to protest nuclear testing inFrench Polynesia. Closer to home, vessels blockaded Auckland Harbor against nuclear-powered US Navy ships.
This time around, leading the anti-drilling flotilla is the Vega, a 38-foot vessel that pioneered seaborne nuclear-testing protests and helped make New Zealand a nuclear-free nation. Vega is co-captained by the head of Greenpeace New Zealand, Bunny McDiarmid. Each boat in the flotilla is flying a white Parihaka pennant representing “peace, justice, resistance, and solidarity,” according to an accompanying letter from community elders.
The controversial law that Anadarko has invoked to repel the flotilla was hurriedly passed by the New Zealand Parliament after significant, and secretive, lobbying of government ministers by the oil industry. Allowing boarding and takeover of private boats by police, it is seen as a response by the conservative government to protests against a 2011 offshore expedition byBrazilian oil giant Petrobras, which soon thereafter scrapped all its New Zealand drilling plans.
Since the radio warning, the 38-foot-long Vega has stayed about 800 to 1,000 feet from the 756-foot Noble Bob Douglas. At times, according to Anadarko New Zealand manager Alan Seay, they have been within 330 feet of each other. The Vega is operating primarily under sail. To remain that close, it must tack about every eight minutes, according to Anna Horne, a flotilla spokeswoman who has sailed on the Vega to protest nukes.
According to Prime Minister John Key, drilling began early Tuesday morning, Nov. 26. Nonetheless, the Vega has remained within the exclusion zone.
Steve Abel, a Greenpeace New Zealand campaigner, says there has not been any sign of any authorities, nor any word from them. During the Petrobras protest two years ago, police arrived aboard navy vessels.
The protesters object to the environmental danger. New Zealand’s current ocean-drilling industry operates in very shallow waters. The deepest is about 400 feet. The country’s three small spill-response boats are not ready for operations beyond sight of land, they contend. “We are woefully underprepared,” Abel said.
Seay admits that the rig’s safety procedures have not yet been made public. That is to happen “shortly,” he said, noting that there is an “enormous amount of design and planning work that goes in up front to ensure that we have a safe and incident-free operation.”
The risk may be statistically low, but if a spill or blowout occurs, the damage will be “catastrophic,” Abel said, covering the entire west coast of the North Island within weeks,according to models of the spill. It would threaten tourism, fishing, and agriculture — all vital sectors of the New Zealand economy.
Abel also noted that the Deepwater Horizon blowout in 2010 in the Gulf of Mexico was also in roughly 5,000 feet of water — and that Anadarko was involved in that disaster, ultimately paying $4 billion as part of the legal settlements of that cleanup. “It’s the same company, the same depth,” Abel said. Anadarko is one of the world’s largest publicly traded oil and gas exploration corporations.
Sharing those concerns, more than 5,000 protesters thronged the western beaches of New Zealand on Nov. 23. The demonstrations included a significant Maori presence. In fact, the Tainui tribe may issue a legal trespass notice to the Noble Bob Douglas, which is in their traditional fishing waters.
“In many ways, [the Maori] hold the last line,” said Horne, noting not only their moral and cultural tradition of “kaitiakitanga,” or guardianship, but also their legal rights to many natural resources under the 1840 Treaty of Waitangi, which shares sovereignty between the Crown and the Maori.
The 70-day drilling project was slated to begin Monday, but unspecified technical problems caused delays. Anadarko will leave enforcement of the exclusion zone to New Zealand authorities. Seay said “we respect the right to protest but ask in return that protesters respect our right to carry on our business free of interference.”
But the protesters have no desire for the oil giant to operate unobstructed.
New Zealand could be oil-free, and even the world’s first carbon-neutral nation, Abel said. The country already is home to the world’s biggest geothermal plant, Ngatamariki in the central North Island. It also has a strong forestry industry, whose byproducts could be used in place of petroleum derivatives, Abel said. “For us it’s not a hard ask” to get off fossil fuels.
In fact, Abel noted drily, “None of this oil, if it’s found, will ever land in New Zealand — unless there’s a spill.”
Jeff Inglis is managing editor of the Portland Phoenix. During the past 15 years, he has traveled extensively in New Zealand.