Shell suspends Arctic oil drilling for the year

by Michael Smith (Veshengro)

February 27, 2013 Royal Dutch Shell announced that it was setting "pause" on its exploratory drilling activities in the Arctic for 2013.

Shell's operations are currently under review by the federal government after the oil company suffered numerous setbacks during last year's opening attempt to drill exploratory wells in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, including running its drilling rig aground on Sitkalidak Island in southern Alaska in late December.

"We've made progress in Alaska, but this is a long-term program that we are pursuing in a safe and measured way," said the director of Shell's Upstream Americas, Marvin Odum. "Our decision to pause in 2013 will give us time to ensure the readiness of all our equipment and people following the drilling season in 2012." In all, Shell has spent $4.5 billion on drilling in the Arctic.

But environmentalists see Shell's decision as further vindication that drilling in the Arctic was a bad idea to begin with, and that Shell – despite assurances – was in no way prepared for Arctic conditions.

"This is the first thing Shell's done right in Alaska – calling it quits," Phil Radford, Greenpeace USA Executive Director, said.

"Shell was supposed to be the best of the best, but the long list of mishaps and near-disasters is a clear indication even the 'best' companies can't succeed in Arctic drilling. Secretary Salazar and President Obama gave drilling a chance; now the responsible decision is to make Arctic drilling off limits, forever."

Environmental groups have long been critical of the Obama Administration for giving Shell the go-ahead in the first place.

"With no infrastructure or ability to clean up an oil spill in ice and Shell's continual laundry lists of mishaps and failures, it is a no brainer to suspend drilling in the Arctic," said Cindy Shogan, Executive Director of the Alaska Wilderness League. "If President Obama truly wants to address his climate change legacy, saying no to Arctic Ocean drilling would be a huge first step."

The Arctic is undergoing vast ecological changes, as global warming from fossil fuels heats up the region about twice as much as the rest of the world. Seasonal arctic sea ice is shrinking – with a new record set last year for ice extent – while wildlife and local people attempt to adapt to rapid changes.

Global warming aside, however, drilling for oil, much like the exploitation of the Athabascan Tar Sand, and fracking for gas and oil, is a dangerous idea and detrimental for the environment.

We must simply get away from our love affair, aka dependence on oil, gas and coal, and look at renewables, including creating natural gas, aka methane, via digesters and such efforts, to use that gas, as it is being done already in countries such as Germany. It can be done because it is being done.

The excuses by the British government, as well as the US and Canadian governments, that it could not work in our countries is a lie and they know it. It is all about keeping deep in the pockets of the oil, gas and coal industry for it is they that pay nice facilitation payments to many of the politicians that are always coming up with those excuses.

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, caused by BP, should have given all an idea as to how dangerous oil drilling and production in in environmental sensitive area and that we must find alternatives to oil.

With the reserves of oil in the Arabian sands running out, and also in other places where it was more or less easy to extract oil, those areas of deep sea drilling, and others, are too expensive and that in more than one sense of the word.

The oil will be thus that most will not be able to afford the gasoline and other products made from it and on an environmental scale it is a disaster waiting to happen. The answer is there but the powers-that-be do not want to see it. No money in it for them.

© 2013