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Shell's "Happy" Mood Smashed By Ice

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14 September 2012, 4:17 PM
Mass of sea ice forces drilling to halt, raises doubts about spill cleanup
Chukchi Sea, Alaska. (Florian Schulz /

Shell’s vice president of Alaska operations was quoted last Saturday as saying "Happy, happy, happy." Then the ice showed up.

Hours after Shell began drilling in the Artic, operations were forced to shut down to accommodate a drifting 30-mile by 12-mile hunk of sea ice, moving at a rate of a mile every 30 minutes. That’s what ice does in the Arctic—it is unpredictable, unforgiving and moves in with the high winds just in time to ruin a happy day.

A week ago, the Department of the Interior approved drilling in “non-oil-bearing zones” and Shell immediately began drilling its first exploration well in the Chukchi Sea, off the coast of Northern Alaska in the early morning hours of Sunday. The drilling lasted only a few hours before the company took a “precautionary” move and disconnected the drilling rig from the seafloor anchors and temporarily moved the vessel off the well site. One wonders what would happen if such an ice mass moved in while Shell was trying to respond to a major oil spill.

The window for Shell to strike oil this season is rapidly closing as Shell is approved only until Sept. 24 for drilling into the oil-bearing zones. The company has asked for an 18-day extension but Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said that extension decisions won’t happen until after the final permits to drill deeper have been issued.

Drilling deeper this year has not been possible so far because of challenges with the Arctic Challenger, the oil spill response and containment barge, which had been undergoing retrofitting and testing in Washington State for months. Until Shell gets Coast Guard and various agency approvals of this vessel and moves it in place in the Arctic, Shell can’t drill for oil.

The Arctic Challenger left Bellingham, Washington in the middle of the night last week and hasn’t been seen since. Sea testing? On its way to the Arctic while undergoing sea testing? We don’t really know, even though the administration and Shell both promised the communities of the Arctic and the rest of us—transparency.

The latest government approvals to Shell’s ever-changing set of standards, specifically the air pollution and sea-worthiness of vessels, have been made without any public process and in some cases the official documents have only been released to the public after repeated requests. The public has yet to see Shell’s official request to extend the drilling season. That’s about as transparent as the gooey waters of an oil spill.

Earthjustice continues to represent its clients in challenging flawed and unlawful oil-spill response plans, air pollution permits and leases. Our aim remains to protect the pristine American Arctic waters from harmful industrial activities in the short term with a long-term focus of conservation based on best available science.

The implications of a failed Arctic ecosystem will affect us all through the rapid effects of climate change. And there’s nothing “happy, happy, happy” about that.

The Gulf spill is not really cleaned up as gobs of oil washed up after Isaac, and vast amounts remain on the bottom. No out of sight out of mind; scientists are only just beginning to find vast species of life miles below the ocean surface and we are just beginning to understand the importance of the poles and plankton blooms in managing CO2 waste. The audacity of drilling near Arctic ice without any real understanding of the potential problems, as this very usual massive ice floe, is just mind boggling. Do not just blame the government, blame ourselves. The government just pursues what it thinks we want. First, my wife and I switched to a Honda hybrid which was a big change, but once we understood that the benefits of our changes will take 40 years to show, we just stopped driving a car and now walk or ride bikes. These are the changes we need . Stop accumulating stuff and recycle where possible. Use public transportation. Once we decrease our personal greed, so will governments. Even though solar, wind, tidal, and other forms of energy may be better, there will always be associated problems. We must BE THE CHANGE we want.

WE must BE The Environmental Change we want. WE must buy or rent solar to replace oil and gas. We must reduce consumption. Environmental groups should tell us how in every piece they write.

How can anyone lose a boat? Speaking of disingenuous, this almost as good as Ryan's rhetoric.

They won't be satisfied until the whole world is covered with that bkack/brown sludge. And at this rate it won't be too much longer.

They won't be satisfied until the whole world is covered with that bkack/brown sludge. And at this rate it won't be too much longer.

My Sunday laughs have come early! The situation is so awful (awe-ful, too) it's comical. The comments are "right on".
But do consider the environmental/long term health costs of the alternative energies. Take the concrete/cement industry(see Smithsonian magazine, 12-11). Solar is becoming more useful - even up north - but, again, there are concerns to weigh in. Harnessing sea and lake waters' energy needs more funding. Serious consideration of untapped hydropower in the US (with minimal environmental damage, due to existing structures on/around the rivers and streams) has been assessed, but little is being done to even consider using it. Building "mini" nuclear plants is being considered. Certainly mundane activities like biking ought to be more seriously considered. And more.

The irony of this situation is that what's happening/the actions seem to be understood by an audience (nearly all of us!), but not by the players. I find some amusement (and lots of disbelief) in this.

This is just pure greed. They need to use the oil they have already found. There are many wells that they have drilled and capped. How can oil prices go up, when we have plenty here? If we made them use the wells that they already have drilled and capped the price would plummet. We do not need foreign oil, we need to make the oil companies here responsible. And we need to stop them from selling our oil to other countries. The price of oil in Venezuela is around .18 a gallon. Hydrogen technology is proven, and clean. So why are there no Hydrogen stations? There would be if we stopped Super Pacs, and lobbists from buying out our politicians. If we stop being "Sheeple" and vote with our minds instead of what the media tells us to, we could stop this insanity. But America is too busy trying to get the next Iphone, when they should be worried about why its not made here.

Why do you think hydrogen is an option? Hydrogen needs just as much carbon-based energy as a regular gallon of gas. The process does not work without another renewable energy to create it. One of us has to do more research here and possibly I am unaware of a new way to create hydrogen that is not so energy-intensive. Otherwise, we are on the same page.

Watch your news ! 08/2012 - United States Armed Forces (Air Force, Army) are entered in a Congressional and Judicial battle over energy choice; the US Military wants to switch their primary fuel from Hydrocarbon to total Hydrogen for their operations. The corporate machine petroleum cartels have lodged the litigation against this conversion. The point here is that there are other basic clean energies (wind, solar, nuclear)to separate the hydrogen from oxygen; that leave no carbon footprint whatsoever. The argument that hydrocarbon exploration; acquisition; and processing is cheaper than hydrogen technology; is pure BS Propaganda by the very same corporate machine which doesn't want to abdicate its global throne and stranglehold over the energy source for this planet. Energy evolution must not be prohibited any further; the very survival of life on this planet depends on clean energy. Hydrocarbon's reign must end now. Life Rules !



Well said, Larry.

dont destroy my world

dont destroy my world

I think we need to respect the earth more than we have been doing for hundreds of years. The earth provided everything we need to live, humans and animals alike. However, many humans have lost their respect and love of the earth and nature. We plunder resources with little thought as to the far reaching consequences. Shell is an irresponsible, greedy company who needs to be shut down and have severe monitoring of their actions if they are to be allowed to continue. Some one wrote that wind turbans are not the answer. They are not the complete answer but they can be part of the answer. Add Solar big time and Hydro and we might have a good solution. We just need to get rid of all the greedy, selfish, wasteful, careless people who are in charge of our power sources. This is just my humble thoughts on the issue.

Right on! I totally agree.

I could not agree more.


This oil drilling in the Arctic is the insanity of sociopathic greed. Sociopaths have no conscience and will stop at nothing to get their pleasure. The President is between a rock and a hard place: he hates drilling and fracking, yet he is pressured by to create American energy sources and American jobs. We must re-elect the President and put in a Democratic HOUSE and SENATE so they can stop these vile things from happening without the pressure of having to win an election that's been horribly distorted by sociopathic Republicans. Please vote, persuade everyone you know to vote Democratic, and join the Obama campaign by going to Time is short!

Obama may say he is for the environment; however, look at his record. He is beholden to bankers, oil companies, and wealthy gay activists. He vetoed the Canadian oil pipeline, but has not made alternative energy a focus of his political efforts. Except for the promise of taxing energy use if he remains in the Whitehouse - that effects the middleclass more than the wealthy. Obama gives lip service to the environment, but as all politicians, he knows he can not because only the wealthy - whomever and whatever their goals - their money buys the day. Obamas' focus has been social re-engineering because of gay activist lobbyists. If environmental lobbyists had as much money to throw behind their causes, environmentally sound policies would occur rapidly.
Obama is a consummate politician, he says he is for the environment - but the money is not there. He makes speeches and ineffective moves to appease environmentalists, but he focuses action on the wealthiest lobbyist's causes.
Good luck re-electing Obama.

Uh, excuse me, kindly explain lumping 'wealthy gay activists' in with bankers and oil companies?

Time is short, indeed. We must defeat the Deadly Duo & stop raping Mother Earth. I am also volunteering for Obama but that's not enough. We must each act responsibly in our own lives ... reduce our own dependence on energy ... set your AC up a degree or two each year, turn it off a day or a week earlier each Fall, use less water, replace old lightbulbs with CFL bulbs, etc.

That's why I signed up yesterday to volunteer for Obama (again).

President should take a chance and act accordingly to his conscience. Has plenty of reasons not to approve the drilling...given that some of these are not even American this point does not matter. The earth will be affected and everyone in it. Its madness... a nihilistic society.


I agree it is outlandish the way these companies want to kill off the earth and cause horrible consequences to this drilling.I guess the animals don't have a say in what will happen to them or even what will happen if another BP happens there. What is wrong with the human race, they are all so greedy we will all pay for it. I know we have to get off of mideast dependence. Please do all you can to stop them in Alaska

If you think Obama is a sell out just wait and see what happens if Mittens Romney, the bishop the the Church of the Latter Day Saints will do to our environment. He intends to dismantle the EPA and allow corporations to rape, pillage and plunder our Mother Earth. Think of the ground we will lose with him at the helm for 4 years. Romney thirsts for money and power and doesn't recognize evil when it's right in front of him.

It's been said a few times lately, especially by the shrill voices on the "right", that is Romney doesn't win, it'll be the end of the Republican party as we know it.

Given what we're seeing, would that be a bad thing?

Works for me.


This is remniscient of the Titanic disaster to me - human greed, recklessness, and shortsightedness thwarted by a huge iceberg! I only hope that a disaster is not in the cards. We desperately need to learn to use less, conserve more and actually capitalize on renewables that are less risky and detrimental.

Please accept this little ditty:

Shell NO! Do not go,
Though vast profits lie far below
To the pristine Arctic snows

Though Congress has its wanton ho’s
You know your poison grows and grows
Leave the land to Eskimos

Shell NO! Do not go.

O, The Kochs grew fat on their fossil fuels,
And hired Heartless stink tanks of fossil ghouls
To feed lies to minions of fossil fools
Who then elect Koch-sucking fossil tools
Now more treasure protects the Koch’s deadly rule.

Exxon Mobil spreads death on scales global
And plants into Congress zombies of no soul
CO2 it doth spew
To screw me and you
Till our demise on our dear Earth is total

Excellent poem. It really gets to the ugly truth of the matter.

God has nothing to do with the problems Shell is having in the Arctic. It is a natural occurence. God didn't do anything about the spill in the Gulf. God isn't feeding the hungry all over the world. God isn't healing the people afflicted with cancer. And, finally, God doesn't have anything to do with the election. God didn't kiill the 4 men in Libya. We had all better wake up and take the blame and then forge ahead with solutions. Wind turbines, by the way, aren't any kind of solution.

Why don't you think wind is part of the solution?

Finally,someone that understands what's going on here. If there was a "god" ,there could'nt be this much sufering .

God has nothing to do with the problems Shell is having in the Arctic. It is a natural occurence. God didn't do anything about the spill in the Gulf. God isn't feeding the hungry all over the world. God isn't healing the people afflicted with cancer. And, finally, God doesn't have anything to do with the election. God didn't kiill the 4 men in Libya. We had all better wake up and take the blame and then forge ahead with solutions. Wind turbines, by the way, aren't any kind of solution.

My thoughts exactly. We need to take responsibility for our own actions instead of saying "its someone else's fault" or God's will.

My thoughts exactly. We need to take responsibility for our own actions instead of saying "its someone else's fault" or God's will.

I agree with the comments of reckless slobs who have no concern of conserving. I know people who will just buy a bigger guzzling show boat without a thought; some of them are gm management living recklessly and flippantly with the deliberate bailout debt (which is less than the amount of cash it holds?) where I work as hourly worker expected to do much more for much less while we’re watching more and more salary with fancy offices with desktops and laptops -- idiots staring at them all day long while the billions of wasted money on robotical junk produce only 10% of what we used to; they took me off a line that we took from 80% to 100% over past five years and reduced its line speed 50% while handing leftover jobs to political favorites instead of implementing seniority agreement. If you believe gm was bankrupt having over $70 billion in cash and all pension obligations covered completely in 2008, I’m spinning wheels here; wallstreet and dc have scammed Americans beyond believability drueling over those systemically stolen funds; tax payers made “$200 billion” (ben barnanke congress hearing c-span, when forced to answer “yes” or “no” only). Locally we’ve lost 4000 jobs but have gone above and beyond producing quality parts. We work in toxic dangerous foundry making the machines that demand the oil. I would like to see it used wisely. So move closer to your livelihood and walk, ride a bicycle, car pool, or get frank paulson to threaten to shut your house down and find it “under capitalized” while forcing you to sign an agreement capitalizing you with “20 billion” checks – like he did to fed res bank members who didn’t even need it? This may seem like rambling but it is related to the corruption going on with energy price fixing and fraud, let alone nature. The best we can do is stay home whenever possible and let its greedy stockpiles build and demand it’s stored safely. What’s the rest of the world doing, we hear little about? Aren’t they good points: (1) little usa is insignificant compared to entire larger world’s pollution and accidents, (2) closer to shore at gulf would be shallower and easier to manage unwanted spills, and there’s plenty of supply?

Didn't King Midas teach us anything about greed? Led by corporations, we are destroying everything.

Thank you Earthjustice for your insights and persistence.

There is a reason this has been denied until now. Maybe they will finally get the message, and leave the Arctic alone for the same reasons no one is doing this in Antactica.

I'm so sick and tired of these oil companies damaging the environment and depleting the planet. If a spill happens in those Arctic waters how much harder will it be to clean up? It appears to me that it will be nearly impossible. Our Gulf Coast resolution to that previous oil spill seems shaky at best. That was an almost impossible task of confining the oil spill.

I have signed every petition possible to help stop these things and the greedy companies still try to get their ways. I think we all need to try a little harder on spreading the news and doing what we can to save the planet from harm. There are too many eco friendly solutions to embark upon and we need to push those agendas.
Thank you, Earthjustice for all that you do.

Well said Lisa. I feel the same as you do about this issue. I too have signed everything I could to halt this ridiculous, ill conceived, planet destroying venture.

I have a Bachelors degree in Ecological Biology, so I try to stay pretty connected with what's going on with our ecosystems around the world, and they are all in trouble to varying degrees.

Why we don't use our VAST knowledge and resources to use solar, wind and water energy is beyond me. I believe it probably has something to do with the fact that these renewable energy sources would not bring as much profit to the companies currently doing business in this field. I also believe they would be just fine profit wise, if they rebuilt the grid and energy delivery systems to reflect our current and future needs in a thoughtful, methodical and ecologically prudent way. Unfortunately, I am not holding my breath for that one.

Salazar is a holdover from Bush and should have been sent packing. He has done NOTHING environmentally friendly. His war on wolves is so heartbreaking and his love of oil companies is so apparent
The drilling in the Articl will only end in destruction of the animals,land and sea. It is such a travesty of justice for our earth. The Artic is a virgin who is being raped by greed,money and stupidity.
Wake up,America!

Salazar is not a holdover from Bush, the disgrace of his appointment rests solely on Obama's shoulders. Salazar is not only destroying our environment with oil & gas companies and KILLING of all our wolves, he also wants hunting in our national parks and his biggest passion is destroying EVERY SINGLE ONE of the wild horses & burros, even tho these horses & burros are supposed to be federally protected. Salazar is breaking our laws and needs to be in jail. Just last week, approximately 16,000 letters to Obama demanding an end to the Bureau of Land Management wild horse roundups (roundups promoted by Salazar) were delivered to Washington. Think it'll do any good? I'll bet not since Obama doesn't seem to be running things, it's the big corporations, Cattlemen's Assoc., Farm Bureau, and oil companies are the ones that are really running our country.

He's not a holdover Bush, he was a Democratic Senator from Colorado until being appointed Interior Secretary by Obama. That being said, he's got a long history of being on the wrong side of environmental issues. Although I'll still vote for him over the total nightmare and multi-generational damage that would come from a Romney presidency, must say... wake up, Obama!!

Absolutely correct, my friend. The political pressure from the Palin fanatics and corporations is difficult to withstand, and I suppose that accounts for a great deal of what Obama faces. It's time for him to be the Lincoln visionary he promised to be, however and keep Shell and other companies out of the arctic. He must also pressure the Russians, for whatever good that will do, to do the same. This planet is in dire straits.


Finding more oil just wets humans appetite for bigger gas-guzzling cars, boats and play toys like swamp buggies, wave runners, etc.

More oil does not 'wet' the appetite "for bigger gas-guzzling cars, boats ..". I would invite you to investigate data on your own. Be responsible and not follow some idiots. Please visit
Much more is used to transport all the food we eat and the supplies we comsume than is used for gas (much les than half). Then think about all that is used for people to go to work and not play. Then just think a little, if we inport the stuff we need we are sending our money outside the country. This situation is not good for us as a United Country. Bringing the costs down would be good for us as a country. If you want to help, help find ways to safely extract this resource so we can stop sending our money to the oil sheiks.

Nice coverage; too bad nobody will do anything about it and United States' corporations can do what ever they want.

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