Shell Suspends Arctic Drilling ... For Now


Environmentalists cheered the news this week, as MarketWatch reported:

Royal Dutch Shell PLC (RDSA, RDSA.LN, RDSB, RDSB.LN) said Monday it would push back to next year its plans to explore for oil in Alaska's Arctic offshore after a key oil-containment system was damaged during a test.

The delay is a major setback for the Anglo-Dutch oil company, which has spent six years and $4.5 billion in a bid to open up one of the world's last great oil frontiers, which geologists say contains vast amounts of oil and gas.

Shell's effort had been hampered by delays due to regulatory issues, mishaps and persistent sea ice, but it had expected to drill wells to depths where they might strike oil before harsh weather set in between late September and late October. Now, the company will have to focus solely on drilling the initial stages of the exploration wells, known as "top holes," reaching a limited depth. Shell said it would concentrate on drilling as many of these as possible before winter ice takes hold.

The Sierra Club's Michael Brune responded, with a lengthy and on-point "I told you so":

Shell's announcement is recognition of what we've been saying all along--the company cannot safely drill in our Arctic waters. Shell's disturbing trend of failing to meet safety and pollution requirements comes against a backdrop of shifting ice floes and other reminders of the dangers and difficulty of drilling in the Arctic. 

The extreme conditions of the Arctic have resulted in a delicate natural balance that has allowed wildlife and local communities to survive for generations. Oil drilling here could damage Arctic waters and wildlife for decades and end Alaska Natives' ancient subsistence way of life.

Realizing the dangers of drilling in this pristine and harsh environment, more than a million people have spoken out in opposition to Shell's drilling plans over the past months. The truth is that we don't need to open this irreplaceable area to drilling. Instead we should focus on making our cars cleaner and more efficient, expanding our transportation choices and investing in clean energy innovation.

The Polar Bear Seas, special places in the Western Arctic and the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge should be protected, not given away to Big Oil.

Of course despite our better judgement, Shell will be back again next year and the threats will still be as present as ever. If you're interested in learning more about what's at stake, check out Arctic Voices edited by Subhankar Banerjee and his website ClimateStorytellers

AlterNet / By Tara Lohan

Posted at September 19, 2012, 10:25am

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