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Going to Extremes In Arctic: Is it Worth It?

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18 January 2013, 4:05 PM
Industry not ready for offshore drilling in treacherous waters
Shell drill rig grounded near Kokiak Island. (U.S. Coast Guard photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Zachary Painter)

As Royal Dutch Shell continues to make perfectly clear, industry is not prepared to safely explore for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic. Shell’s Arctic operations have been called the “gold standard” of the oil industry and if this is the best they’ve got, the industry is not Arctic ready.

Beyond the arguments of the Arctic being a harsh, dangerous, infrastructure-less environment, the question remains, does it make economic sense to drill for oil in this remote region now for barrels of oil in 10 years? In 12 years, cars will be averaging 54.5 mpg. Energy efficiency and a growing renewable fuel market are also making headway. U.S. oil production hit its highest level in 20 years in 2012 and it is projected to increase an additional 14 percent this year—without the extreme oil of the Arctic. In 10 years, will Americans need the extreme oil of the Arctic that Shell is so desperately seeking?

What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. In addition to the potentially catastrophic local impacts, climate pollution from drilling in the region, especially black carbon emissions from the drill fleet accelerates Arctic warming and melting. Black carbon, which was reported this week to be the second-largest human contributor to climate change after CO2. It is even worse when this pollution is emitted in the Arctic where it has direct effects on ice.

Interior Secretary Ken Salazar should take notice on his way out the door to Colorado that our country is done with lining the pockets of the oil industry and we do care about climate change and special places like the Arctic. Tens of thousands of our supporters have already written to the Secretary and President Obama this week. Our goal is 60,000.

Caution and concern goes beyond the environmental community. As the drill ships were being prepared to head north for the summer, Lloyd’s of London warned that offshore drilling in the Arctic would “constitute a unique and hard-to-manage risk.” The insurance giant also urged companies to “think carefully about the consequences of action” before exploring for oil in the region. Watching Shell's problems, Norwegian Statoil continues to defer its plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean, and French oil company Total SA ended the year by publicly calling Arctic drilling too risky for any company."

The Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, a group of 45 Democratic congressional representatives, called for a formal investigation of the Kulluk incident in order to determine whether Shell should be allowed to continue drilling for oil in Alaskan waters. And my personal favorite quote; Rep. Ed Markey (D-Mass.), the top Democrat on the House Natural Resources Committee, said recently:

Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies.

This week, former EPA administrator and the director of the White House Office of Energy and Climate Change policy under President Barack Obama Carol Browner and former Chief of Staff for President Clinton, John Podesta delivered a strong warning to stay out of the Arctic.

Secretary Salazar has called for a 60-day investigation into Shell’s 2012 Arctic operations and media reports say there is an ongoing criminal investigation into pollution related to their drilling vessels. The top dogs from U.S. environmental groups sent Salazar a letter last week requesting a time out. We can go on about rigs hitting shores and the numerous “free passes” the Administration has granted Shell. Now is the time for the President and his team to recognize that drilling in the Arctic now just does not make sense and poses too great a risk.

Meanwhile, our attorneys here at Earthjustice will continue to represent its clients in challenging flawed and unlawful oil and gas permits that put the Arctic Ocean, its wildlife and its people at risk. Our aim is to promote a clean energy future and protect the pristine American Arctic waters from harmful industrial activities in the short term with a long-term focus of conservation based on the best available science.

Save the arctic!

The problem is that oil drilling just cannot be done in polar regions. These areas are rich in photoplankton and zooplankton, which feed the vast array of fish, crustaceans, molluscs, seabirds, and marine mammals. An oil spill here would just radiate out into the world's oceans, and devastate the fisheries. The king crab fishermen on "The Deadliest Catch" would be put out of business by an Arctic oil spill. So it is not worth it, for the environmental catastrophe it would cause, and the economic ruin.

I work in a field where we examine and document damage done by oil companies. The field work is always a sad and depressing experience to witness the damage and indifference. Animal tracks leading to pits of produced water full of toxins. Yes, they end up paying the landowners; but who pays the sick and suffering who drink the water on site or the water contaminated from that site?

The oil companies keep telling us that they have everything figured out, there will be no problems, all is safe, no worry. And then they proceed to demonstrate that it's all a big experiment, learning on the job, cross their fingers and hope.

It's time to shut down Artic oil drilling!

Arctic drilling has to be stop,enough mistakes had been done in a past .
Arctic do not belong a corporations who is trying to make money there.
It belong to nature and all people. People do want other tragedy happened,
We need to close this chapter and never ever do drilling in Arctic.

Mr. Obama:
At present USA has no need of making an ecological disaster in a fragile area such as the arctic. We, at USA are squandering energy right and left. How about beginning with a strict policy of conservation coupled with further development of renewable forms of energy that you had promised to push ahead?

Mr. Obama:
At present USA has no need of making an ecological disaster in a fragile area such as the arctic. We, at USA are squandering energy right and left. How about beginning with a strict policy of conservation coupled with further development of renewable forms of energy that you had promised to push ahead?

Question? What man made construction site can withstand the extreme weather; cold, ice, currents, winds... in the Arctic currently???

If NO man made objects (under water capped oil drill capped pipes) can not ever survive the weather/seasonal extremes of the Arctic at the purposed off shore oil drilling site(s), how is it possible for any oil drilling companies to safely drill in any Arctic Regions as the other oil drilling companies state that it is not possible for any off shore drilling companies to safety drill for oil in the Arctic currently?!?

What is the Common sense, reasoning and logic of allowing Off Shore Oil Drilling Permits by the Executive and Legislative Branch of both State & Federal Government? The only conclusion a person with a reasonable ability to think is PERMISSION TO DESTROY THE SENSITIVE ENVIRONMENTAL ECOLOGY OF THE ARCTIC when they can not safely do the same at the other less extreme environments.

Great Job Obama and Political Leaders of Alaska!!! You all have great environmental sense!!!

I am 87 years old and have seen so many changes in oue world. I definitely am against any oil drilling of any kind in an area that if as prestine as the Artic. I have never been there however am very aware of the problems that were occur if oil drilling was allowed. Haven't we seens enough of this in previous oil spills which reunied other beautiful areas that this happened to be in. Please save our world from any drilling which could turn into a great disaster.

It make no sense. So you know that the only reason has to be money! If there is no logic behind their reasoning than there is but one reason. The environment,our concerns and nothing we say is going to help because all they see is the green of greed!

Well said! I'm with you 100%!

Keep oil drilling out of the Arctic region. There is always a better way.

The ineptitude already evident in the operations of oil companies proves that they are not now, and never will be, up to the challenges of drilling in the Arctic. In addition, as witnessed a couple of years ago in the Gulf, the government agency that is charged with overseeing the standards and safety of this very dangerous industry are not up to the task, either. These greedy assholes will never prove worthy of entering the Arctic, let alone befouling and destroying it in their unending attempts at chasing the almighty buck! The Arctic is not ours to destroy!

It is well past the time to end dependency on fossil fuels. We do not need to drill anymore anywhere in the world as the world has found cleaner, better, and more efficient energy sources. What the world has NOT been able to replace is whales, polar bears, and all the animals that inhabit the Arctic. Please realize that the greed of industry is not the need or want of the world.

Help our tomorrow today by stopping any drilling in the Artic, make it law for a minimum 50 years, way no one can change it.

Amen, Christina!

I voted for you because the Republicans have turned so nutty. My biggest disappointment is your terrible record on protecting the environment. How can you look your daughters in the face? You'd think you would do your best to protect the earth for their future and the future of your grandchildren. Once it's defiled by oil spills and fracking, all in the name of oil/gas company profits, it's gone. Example - the spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The beaches and ocean will never be the same in our lifetime, or your daughters lifetimes. Keep these corporations out of the arctic before they destroy the habitat for so many species. Shell has proven they do not have the ability to clean up a spill. And guess who will get stuck with the bill.

I totally agree. The biggest threat to humans is the degradation
of the planet. And there is no repair for what is being destroyed at an accelerating speed. The planet is small (you can circle it with a commercial plane in less than 3 days) over populated and already over damaged. Where do all these gangsters (big oil, big mining, big logging, big politicians, big money) think we will emigrate when the Earth is not habitable? to Mars, Saturn, the Moon?
Come on, we have to stop NOW, TOMORROW, and start repairs everywhere.
Most of repairs will happen in a natural way when we stop the damage. Nature is SO kind!
A world law should be passed: during every other year not a single birth permitted. Impossible? Nothing is impossible if the rules and control are strong and the rewards sufficient.
Let's act NOW, before it's too late.

i forgot to mention, the way we were reimbursed for miles driven for the presidential campaign is we were given shell gas cards.

the reason why the obama administration has granted shell the right to explore in the arctic is because shell paid for the gas that was needed to get the numerous volunteers and employees out into the street and go door-to-door during the presidential campaign. i was one of those who knocked on at least 1,000 doors. even though i voted for president obama, my shame regarding environmental issues is at an all time high.

I really believe the Gov of the United States of America does not give a shit about the peeps or the environment. I believe they only care for what's out there for themselves. I truly believe this is how it is.

This greed whih will cost us our planet.

The Exxon Valdez wreck. The Deepwater Horizon rig explosion.
Time and again, humans fail in their poorly run black gold money-grabs. The destruction is indefensible. Bring us away from petroleum-based energy.

No company is "ready" for drilling in the Arctic. If the calmer, warmer waters of
the Gulf didn't teach us that, I don't know what the future is for this planet!
We all need to keep vigilant and stop the continued destruction of our fragile
earth and learn other ways to offer sources of energy to people. We can also be
asked to conserve and begin some needed life-style changes.

No company is "ready" for drilling in the Arctic. If the calmer, warmer waters of
the Gulf didn't teach us that, I don't know what the future is for this planet!
We all need to keep vigilant and stop the continued destruction of our fragile
earth and learn other ways to offer sources of energy to people. We can also be
asked to conserve and begin some needed life-style changes.

Leave the poison where it lies.

We know the oil companies are incapable of drilling responsibly so why does this conversation even continue - just say no!

It is obvious that the oil companies have not yet conquered drilling safely in the Gulf of Mexico. The Arctic? I believe the thought is that fools will rise to the position of their highest level of incompetence?

I have read the comments. WHAT THEY SAID!

Oil drillers are no better than Facebook -- by the time you make a protest they've gamed it out and are ready with stalling, semi-truths, untruth, and appeals to"the needs of the country" -- strike that "needs of the country" please; insert "NEED of Big Oil" for more and more and more money, forever if possible."

Remember the Superman stories where he went to the Artic purity to restore his powers? Maybe Kryptonite was radiation & overheating - - & soothing, cool caves of crystals were where he was rejuvinated. Why darken the planet (smog) & blacken the poles (fracking) so life has no place to regrow?

That is exactly what we are putting the wolves through. They run, are tagged but still get shot doing a much better job of raising young who can continue life on this planet than the maladapted human families. Thanks, gg

So how many minutes did it take to have the first major screw up? Get their sorry exploiting asses outa there!

So how many minutes did it take to have the first major screw up? Get their sorry exploiting asses outa there!

We are already seeing the disastrous affects of pollution in our oceans. what will it take for the oil companies and government to see where we are headed? Do they think they are immune to the disease and misery? Please pray for a shift in consciousness.

Oil is an unnecessary evil. There are hundreds of ways to get the energy more safely and more cleanly and safely. Encourage the President and the Congress to subsidize the oil companies to transition to to safe energy companies.

I have been fighting for the Arctic for 20+ years and this is a fight that will never end because the Oil companies (Shell) will keep adding more pressure to go drill there.

Has nothing been learned from the disaster in the Gulf of Mexico?. Weren't we told by the oil companies they had the means to clean up any spills in the Gulf? You know how that turned out. And,now, they want us to believe they know what they are doing in the Arctic. Sorry, Big Oil! You've lied to us too many times!

Oil company brass: have you no children or grandchildren that will have to survive the consequences of your greed?

They must have some secret planet they've discovered where they plan to move their families to away from the disaster they're creating on Earth.

The only way to transition to renewable energy is to stop appeasing big oil, put on our big boy pants, and do it! Let's not have any more domestic drilling. If big oil wants to stay ahead of the curve, it needs to invest some of those subsidies baby Bush and his congress gave them (out of our pocket) in renewables. Then they can make money.

POX on Shell...And on any other ""Oil Co''. that is strictly out for MORE Profits off our land by killing it and everything in it . Past due time for this guvm't. to wake up to the stark Truth..this cannot continue. WE Need OUR Land and all therein. OBama, Wise up Man ! Take control and stop Being controlled by big oil greedy-guts who don`t seem to have a bone of conscience in them. TO Kill others and live off their say the least.

We must keep oil out of the far north; if any accident occurred it would make the spill in the
Fl/TX Gulf area seem like nothing. We simply cannot drill there. Period. Our government should focus on finding other means. The arctic has too many creatures that live only there. I agree with John trespassing in the arctic.

Arrogance. Short-sightedness. Stupidity. Greed. Shell has demonstrated this in spades. Dear President Obama, you and I both know that drilling safely in the Arctic is a pipedream--an environmental wrecker. Don't allow it.

We have the opportunity to protect an environment and to not add more co2 at the same time.
Lets do it. Let keep the Arctic free of the Oil Industry.

Off shore drilling and pumping is not safe, not sustainable!

How many more areas do we need to pollute? Too many oil spills have occurred. Just like the
Gulf of Mexico, they are not cleaned to pre-spill conditions. Why are we allowing this drilling to take place.

What happened to preserving our planet? why are we allowing this planet to be killed off one area at a time, when we have other resources available, which are untapped.

I have a young daughter, close to the age of your children, what are we leaving them? a polluted and damaged planet and debt. It does not sound like a great inheritance for them.

Why are companies allowed to do this, why are you allowing them to do this?
Please use your power for some good.Protect the earth for the future generations....

Thank you,


2 things-
1) Aouto makers need to make energy efficient cars that are affordable!
2) Our environment-animals and water are irreplaceable and priceless-when are we going to learn from other countries who have drilled for oil-take at the environment and learn from it-Oil companies are NOT to be trusted.
In BC we have no idea the damage already created and Stephen Harper and the provinces involved need to step back, put cash aside and make well informed decisions-not based on research of biased oil companies but based on environemental facts and


What happens in the arctic doesn't stay in the arctic Please promote a clean energy future and protect the pristine American Arctic Ocean.

we must protect the arctic!

we must protect the arctic!

Shell is not Arctic ready and should stay OUT of this pristine but tough area!

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