The Galleon - Portsmouth's Student Newspaper



Big oil and thin ice

Oil drilling has brought damage and destruction across the world, from Alaska to West Africa to the Middle East. Now the energy supermajors like BP, Shell and ExxonMobil are aiming their drills north of the Arctic Circle, to the alarm of environmentalists.

The Arctic is estimated to hold at least 32 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas reserves and the region is becoming more accessible as global warming melts sea ice, paving the way for the lucrative but extremely destructive drilling of one of Earth’s last wildernesses.

Obviously, drilling for oil in deposits that are only accessible as a result of melting sea ice in the first place perpetuates the problem, since burning the oil drilled there will just lead to more ice melting, and at a faster rate.

Therefore, if big oil successfully moves into the Arctic, we’ll see global warming begetting global warming; a vicious circle that won’t end until the profits run dry, and by that point we’ll have even higher sea levels, destruction of arctic habitats, ocean current pollution and more to contend with while supermajors count their billions.

Despite this knowledge, administrations are giving the green light to wanton destruction across the board. On 9th October, the European Parliament’s industry committee rejected a proposed moratorium on offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic, overruling a contrary vote by its own environment committee, which leaves little doubt about its priorities.

As if anybody needed further convincing of the unscrupulousness of the oil industry, Russian oil giant Gazprom drove off protesters who had occupied its first Arctic oil rig on 24th August with jets of icy water and thrown objects, say Reuters. Evidently, with Government so deep in the pockets of energy lobbyists that they turn a blind eye to assault, the task of stopping this reckless, harebrained undertaking lies with popular campaigners.

Thankfully, this is where the tables can turn. On 17th October Shell announced that they were scrapping plans to commence drilling within 2012. Whether this was due to a six month campaign by Greenpeace or to “technical difficulties” depends on which side you ask, but at the least confirms that a large popular outcry can affect and has affected big oil’s plans.

However, the plans of Shell and their competitors have only so far been delayed, not stopped, and without more environmental campaigning from street level, the Arctic is only one Gulf of Mexico-style oil spill from unparalleled and permanent harm.

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