Potential Oil Spill Concerns Arise As Shell Begins Arctic Drilling

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There is increasing concern that Shell’s presence in the Arctic will lead to an oil spill, as the company begins to drill in the Chukcki Sea off the shore of Alaska.

Shell is no stranger to the Chukchi Sea. In 1988, the firm spent $300 million to drill for oil only to find dry holes.

Today Shell’s technology is more advanced, but that does not mean it can protect against potentially disastrous spills. A report by the Department of Interior—specifically the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management—found a 75 percent chance of a large oil spill in the Arctic should drilling occur.

The search for oil in the Arctic is viewed as a necessity by the oil industry. According to the U.S. Geological Service, there are potentially 90 billion barrels of oil under the Arctic ice. The National Petroleum Council, comprised mostly of oil and gas companies, released a report earlier this year highlighted the usefulness of depending on Arctic oil:

Arctic exploration today may provide a material impact to U.S. oil production in the future, potentially averting decline, improving U.S. energy security, and benefiting the local and overall U.S. economy.

Erik Milito, director of upstream at the oil industry-funded American Petroleum Institute, argued on behalf of Arctic drilling as essential for U.S. energy security:

The safe and responsible development of oil and natural gas in the Arctic is critical to our economy and national security…Failure to develop these resources would put America’s global energy leadership at risk at a time when Russia and other Arctic nations are forging ahead.

Although, a 2012 report co-written by API’s Arctic Oil Spill task force found, in spite of some advantages, “logistical challenges” in responding to an oil spill.

John Deans, a Greenpeace Arctic campaigner specialist, told Firedoglake an oil spill in the Arctic would be a “catastrophe.” Moreover, he said risky extractions, such as tar sands, are slightly similar to drilling in the Arctic, yet the latter carries more risks.

“With the Arctic, it is another extreme extraction. The environmental risks are so much higher and difficult to deal with,” Deans said. (more…)