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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.

Don't drill in the Arctic!!

Climate change is important. Big Oil is
out if control.

Big Oil is out of control.

Greed is blind and knows no boundaries!

Well-written. Thanks.

Well, duh. Clearly this is a case of institutional dysfunction. To abandon this project now would mean some top execs at Shell have to admit they erred, and this crowd doesn't really do mea culpa very well or often.

We don't need the oil.Corporations are thinking about profits nothing else and will do or say anything oit takes if it might increase their profit margin.I think our world is more important than their pocketbooks.They need to stop all arctic drilling attempts.

We must focus on other ways to develop the energy we absolutely need. We must NOT destroy our environment as Arctic drilling would do.
Please halt any plans/proposals of Shell oil or any other company to drill there
Thank you,
Patricia

The Arctic Ocean is no place to drill for oil. Pres. Obama must finally do what he lacked the courage to do before his re-election: say NO, permanently, to any drilling in the Arctic Ocean. It cannot be done safely. To allow it, is to allow the catastrophic spill that is inevitable and that is massively irresponsible and massively criminal. Pres. Obama, do your job on behalf of the native people, wildlife, the pristine waters and the American people, who are counting on you to safeguard the Arctic by pulling the plug on any Arctic drilling.

The Arctic Ocean is no place to drill for oil. Pres. Obama must finally do what he lacked the courage to do before his re-election: say NO, permanently, to any drilling in the Arctic Ocean. It cannot be done safely. To allow it, is to allow the catastrophic spill that is inevitable and that is massively irresponsible and massively criminal. Pres. Obama, do your job on behalf of the native people, wildlife, the pristine waters and the American people, who are counting in you to safeguard the Arctic by pulling the plug on any Arctic drilling.

Whether it is drilling in the Artic or fracking in Pennsylvania the energy giants' only interested is in getting the most from extracting fossil fuels before the inevitable renewable energy period begins. The earth be damned.

Stop!!! Save the Artic - no drilling!!

Thanks for this informative article. Glad to see some rational statements from the likes of Lloyds of London, whom one would think would be glad to insure such expeditions—if they consider Arctic drilling risky, the risk must be off the charts! Maybe we are finally seeing a crack—we must keep pressing for sensible energy exploration policies, and a concentration on renewables. It is time to acknowledge that Nature is bigger than we are—that we cannot expect to win against a “Frankenstorm Sandy” or harsh polar conditions in any meaningful way. Surviving one or two short expeditions is simply false security.

I would like to hear more about this. Don't let them win. We don't need to damage the earth more we should be protecting her not killing her.

The Arctic is sacrosanct. It harbors hundred of bird and animal species and supplies vast amounts of the world's sea food generating billions in profits annually. No other industry should ever be allowed to trespass in this area, it should be declared untouchable to dirty destructive industries such as; oil,gas,and mining. Leave it alone, Shell, go home.

BP blow-out in the Gulf of Mexico should be enough of a warning!

Keep Oil Companies out of the Atric!!!!!!!
Clayton Foster

Please keep oil drilling out of the Arctic!

Does it make economic sense to drill for oil in this remote region now for barrels of oil in 10 years? Please STOP the drilling in the Arctic Ocean!

Does it make economic sense to drill for oil in this remote region now for barrels of oil in 10 years? Please STOP the drilling in the Arctic Ocean!

To the Obama Administration,

Your desire for energy independence is at the cost of the environment, and that's not ok.

Keep the oil companies out of the Arctic.

In this time of senseless killing with guns on the land, we don't need more senseless slaughter and pollution of our waters. If they go up 20 feet due to the permafrost melting, who will be affected? Everyone. We have to STOP drilling in the seas! Unless of course, the plan is to commit genocide of those who elected the officials by making air and water so toxic we can't live...

We are OVERDUE for implementing alternative energy sources. The Arctic should in no way, shape or form, be tampered with! Those who do will be sorry, as for Mother Nature is nothing to be beckoned with!

Please stop the drilling. We're losing so much of our natural beauty and wildlife. Please preserved what we have left. There are other alternatives. Make them use them. Thank you.

We don't know what we are doing or where we are going.
The US political system , if you can't eat it , blow it up or fuck it , they don't know what to do with it.
And the really upsetting thing is we the GB laid the ground rules!

Please stay out of the Arctic, didn't Deep Horizon teach them anything.... it is all about corporate greed. Obviously it is not safe for many reasons. Drilling in the Arctic does not make sense and poses too great a risk!

http://thinkprogress.org/climate/2013/01/08/1410401/look-map-reveals-how...

Here is a map that says more than 10,000 words could .. about the possibilities of success or failures of drilling in arctic waters. And i would like to see you start referencing it in your articles

It is a given that all the giant oil companies act like the 3 Stooges at times, i.e., they make silly mistakes and bluff and bluster to cover them .. like BP did in the Gulf, and like Shell did with the Kullak. Because they are so large, their silly mistakes and neither silly nor petty, but they cost society and our environment big time.

The saving grace in the Gulf is as the map shows: many, many places to ask for and receive help. In the Arctic ... at this time of year, it could be months before any help arrives, and a blow-out only 10 to 20% the size of Deepwater Horizon's would (not could, but would) take several thousand percent as long to contain ...as the map shows. It is 2000 sea miles to the nearest Coast Guard station and the two south Alaska Coast Guard stations are currently ill prepared to do anything to contain an Arctic (or any) oil spill.

And 2ndly... altho i prefer NO drilling in the Arctic Sea, if such should happen, i want to see them take 100% responsibility for all costs of repairing the damage they cause, even if it means wiping out all the holdings of the corporation officers and board of directors (i know, i know, corporations are structured so real people are currently not responsible for the actions of the corporations they govern ... still .....if it isn't pushed, it will never change).

Good point about the lack of help and how impossible it is to reach the impacted areas. As to your last comment, I don't thing we should allow Arctic drilling the remotest existence--just flat out and forever "NO" should always be our focus. Let's not give a spark to their greedy stupidity. Let's leave "if such should happen." You and all us good, intelligent, concern, focused people will make push the flat out "NO" option--there is no other.

If the greed and selfishness continue as it is, it surely will be the downfall of this great country.
Let's see if we can find politicians that serve with the interest of the people and not themselves.

It is also a political fight as Russia plans to drill. Their are other countries that are staking claims to the newly ice free region.

No drilling in the Arctic.

Drilling must not be done in the Arctic because it is unsafe to do so. Until oil companies can prove that it is safe to drill in the Arctic, there should be no drilling in the Arctic.

NO!

The Arctic MUST be protected. Oil companies are not to be trusted. History shows this to
be true.

Shell and any other oil companies should not be allowed to drill for oil in the pristine American Arctic waters. The President needs to stop this.

I do not want any more drilling in the Arctic or anywhere. We have the technology to do better for the world.

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