In Opposition to Arctic Drilling
In response to: Shell Clears Major Hurdle in Its Bid for New Arctic Drilling (New York Times February 17, 2012)
It is clear that we have learned nothing from the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico. The environmental tragedy of last April presented itself as an excellent opportunity to end the reign of oil in America and start getting serious about alternative forms of energy. However, we seem to be ignoring the writing on the wall. Instead of investing in wind and solar technologies—which boast a 1.5 times more labor intensive industry than traditional fossil fuels and would allow for the expansion of the green job sector and the economy—Shell has spent more than $4 billion over five years studying ways to exploit the oil and natural gas resources believed to be beneath the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas off the north coast of Alaska. Alaska is one of the few wilderness areas left in America and it should be left untouched because of the vast biodiversity the region sustains and because of its intrinsic right to exist as a beautiful piece of North American terrain. The United States of America has to wake up and realize that the days of easy and cheap oil are over. It does not make any sense to continue an outdated process when new, innovative technologies have become not only available, but are becoming more and more affordable every day.
By choosing to invest $4 billion in offshore drilling instead of in the emerging, profitable industry of renewables, Shell must see obvious benefits to an antiquated method of extraction. This process must be very safe, low risk and require little governmental oversight…right? Today the Interior Department tentatively approved Shell’s oil spill response plan. This plan calls for boats, skimmers, booms, helicopters and barges to be on hand or at most an hour away from the drilling rigs in case of an emergency. One of the skimmers, a 300-footer, will have a 12,000-barrel hold capacity; another tanker will have 513,000-barrel storage capacity. There will also be a submarine-like, remotely operated vehicle on site in case the blowout preventer fails. The tool can attempt to activate a paralyzed preventer underwater. An aircraft will always be on hand in case of a spill. All in all, today the Interior Department approved a plan that includes boats, skimmers, booms, helicopters, barges, tankers, a submarine-like remotely operated vehicle…and an aircraft. Shouldn’t there be an easier way to energize our country?
The oil spill response plan is only the first step in a series of other permits Shell must obtain from the Environmental Protection Agency and the Department of Interior’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement. Wastewater discharge permits, along with specific well-drilling permits, and demonstrations of its well-capping technology being effective in the ice, wind and darkness of the Arctic are necessary to survive any court challenges to Shell’s drilling program.
There must be an easier way to obtain energy to sustain our country’s demand; one with less red tape, one that is safer and one that protects flagship species like bowhead whales, ice seals, walrus and polar bears. And there is. It is time to invest in wind and solar and end the reign of oil.