Profiting from Climate Change? Oil & Gas Companies Rush to Drill and Mine the Arctic as Ice Melts

Arctic ice is melting at a record pace--but instead of trying to address climate change, global superpowers are rushing to drill, mine, and exploit the "new ground." 

The New York Times reports today that thanks to the increasing loss of sea ice, Big Oil Companies in the West are in a race with China to just "Drill, Baby, Drill" and "Mine, Baby, Mine" in the previously unexploited areas of the Arctic. Previously unexploited because the Arctic was covered by a near permanent layer of sea ice and land ice. That is no longer the case:

NUUK, Greenland — With Arctic ice melting at record pace, the world’s superpowers are increasingly jockeying for political influence and economic position in outposts like this one, previously regarded as barren wastelands. [...]

While the United States, Russia and several nations of the European Union have Arctic territory, China has none, and as a result, has been deploying its wealth and diplomatic clout to secure toeholds in the region. [...]

... Here, as well as in Alaska, Canada and Norway, oil and gas companies are still largely exploring, although experts estimate that more than 20 percent of the world’s oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic. Warmer weather has already extended the work season by a month in many locations, making access easier.

At one point this summer, 97 percent of the surface of Greenland’s massive ice sheet was melting. At current rates, Arctic waters could be ice-free in summer by the end of the decade, scientists say.

“Things are happening much faster than what any scientific model predicted,” said Dr. Morten Rasch, who runs the Greenland Ecosystem Monitoring program at Aarhus University in Denmark. [...]

And Chinese companies, some with close government ties, are investing heavily across the Arctic. In Canada, Chinese firms have acquired interests in two oil companies that could afford them access to Arctic drilling.

Indeed, despite setbacks, Big Oil is increasingly committed to drilling in the Arctic Ocean as this article from yesterday demonstrates:

WASHINGTON _ Although Shell Oil Co. is scrapping its plans to drill into potential oil reservoirs underneath the Chukchi and Beaufort seas this summer because of damaged spill-containment equipment, president Marvin Odum said the firm will not abandon its $5 billion quest for crude in the remote region.

Instead of seeking to penetrate underground zones that could contain hydrocarbons, Shell Oil Co. will focus on completing initial so-called “top-hole drilling” in the Arctic, effectively getting a 1,000-foot jump-start on its Arctic wells so they can be finished next year.

Why is this possible? Because of the loss of sea and land ice in the Arctic is in a downward death spiral:

The European Space Agency’s CryoSat-2 probe confirms what the Pan-Arctic Ice Ocean Modeling and Assimilation System (PIOMAS) at the Polar Science Center has been saying for years: Arctic sea ice volume has been collapsing faster than sea ice area (or extent) because the ice has been getting thinner and thinner.

In fact, the latest satellite CryoSat-2 data shows the rate of loss of Arctic sea ice is “50% higher than most scenarios outlined by polar scientists and suggests that global warming, triggered by rising greenhouse gas emissions, is beginning to have a major impact on the region,” as the UK Guardian reported in [January, 2012].

We could have an ice free Arctic Ocean in the summer by as early as 2016, but certainly long before previous climate models had predicted:

Given the estimated trend and the volume estimate for October–November of 2007 at less than 9,000 km3 (Kwok et al. 2009), one can project that at this rate it would take only 9 more years or until 2016 ± 3 years to reach a nearly ice-free Arctic Ocean in summer. Regardless of high uncertainty associated with such an estimate, it does provide a lower bound of the time range for projections of seasonal sea ice cover.

This pattern continues, as a record for loss of Arctic sea ice was set this year, beating the prior record set in 2007:

More than 600,000 square kilometres (sq km) more ice has melted in 2012 than was ever recorded by satellites before. {...]

"In the 1970s we had 8m sq km of sea ice. That has been halved. We need it in the summer. It has never decreased like this before".

"We knew the ice was getting thinner but I did not expect we'd lose this much this year. We broke the record by a lot", says the NSIDC scientist Julienne Stroeve.

"The acceleration of the loss of the extent of the ice is mostly because the ice has been so thin. This would explain why it has melted so much this year. By June the ice edge had pulled back to where it normally is in September," she says.

"The 2007 record was set when you had weather conditions which were perfect for melting. This year we didn't have those. It was mixed. So this suggests the ice has got to a point where it's so thin it doesn't matter what the weather is, it's going to melt in the summer. This could become the new normal," says Stroeve.

Meanwhile, in America, oil and gas companies continue to run ads and donating funds to politicians and front groups in stateswhere hydrofracking is occurring or proposed, as well as promote information on their websites, such as Chevron does, that we can produce all the "clean energy" from natural gas we want and "create jobs in America" at the same time.

Big oil is also spending big bucks this year on political "issue" ads attacking President Obama and other Democrats and promoting more drilling for oil and gas:

The Times reports that the fossil fuel industry--oil and gas--and its allies have spent nearly four times as much money as its competitors, almost all attacking the president, who, despite misgivings by environmentalists over his 'all-of-the-above' energy policies, is insufficiently pro-oil in their view. The report states:

"With nearly two months before Election Day on Nov. 6, estimated spending on television ads promoting coal and more oil and gas drilling or criticizing clean energy has exceeded $153 million this year, according to an analysis by The New York Times of 138 ads on energy issues broadcast this year by the presidential campaigns, political parties, energy companies, trade associations and third-party spenders.

"That tally is nearly four times the $41 million spent by clean-energy advocates, the Obama campaign and Democratic groups to defend the president’s energy record or raise concerns about global warming and air pollution."

The same oil companies that fund climate deniers at the Heartland Institute, who are planning a curriculum for our schools that will teach our kids climate change is at best, controversial and unproven:

Internal documents acquired by ThinkProgress Green reveal that the Heartland Institute, a right-wing think tank funded by the Koch brothers, Microsoft, and other top corporations, is planning to develop a “global warming curriculum” for elementary schoolchildren that presents climate science as “a major scientific controversy.” This effort, at a cost of $100,000 a year, will be developed by Dr. David E. Wojick, a coal-industry consultant.

How much more money will Big Oil spend to attack Democrats, attack clean alternative and renewable energy, fund climate deniers and seek to gain access to oil and gas in the Arctic? My guess: Whatever it takes. Oh, by the way, guess how heavily Big Oil is financing Romney's campaign? Officially the tally is $2,206,735. That is the highest amount for any single candidate running for any office this year. Off the books in anonymous contributions to Conservative SuperPacs? Your guess is as good as mine.

Booman Tribune / By Steven D. | Sourced from

Posted at September 20, 2012, 6:34am