Shell’s arctic dream starts to falter

Shell’s drilling platform runs aground of the Alaskan coast.

By Anders Lorenzen

After a year dominated by having Greenpeace on their backs, oil giant Shell would had hoped for a gentler and more quiet introduction to 2013, but it wasn’t to be. On New Years Day it’s drilling platform Kulluk ran aground near the Kodiak Island in the Alaskan waters on it’s way back from the Arctic, where it spent the summer and meant to conduct arctic drilling.

This latest setback for the oil giant is ironic as Greenpeace have spent 2012 campaigning against drilling in the arctic, but Shell seem to be doing all the work themselves to destroy their arctic dream. The House Sustainable Energy and Environment Coalition, an environmental committee within the US Congress consisting of 45 democrats are demanding an inquiry into Shell’s oil drilling programme and Ed Markey who sits on the Congress Natural Resources Committee, and expected to run for John Kerry’s vacant senator position, (if Kerry as expected will be presented as the new Secretary of State), said: “Oil companies keep saying they can conquer the Arctic, but the Arctic keeps disagreeing with the oil companies,”. Obama action on this will undoubtedly be intensely monitored and his environmental credentials judged on this as he prepares to enter a second term where he has promised to put climate change as top three of his priorities.

Shell’s arctic drilling programme  was scheduled to begin during the summer months of 2012 but they have been forced to delay it due to problems with equipment (this time an oil drilling vessel ran aground) the constant pressure from Greenpeace over both drilling and the lack of a constructive and realistic oil spill response plan and for them unexpected weather and ice conditions. But if Shell thinks it’s bad now it could turn even worse. Luckily for Shell and the environment around the Kodiak Island, the 143.000 gallons worth of diesel fuel on the platform is still there, and despite damage to the Kulluk nothing has of yet leaked. But if it were too, environmental campaigners and advocates, and local authorities would be asking the question that if Shell cannot avoid an oil spill in these conditions what hope does it have in the Arctic, in a much tougher environment. So far Shell have not wanted to make any comment about withdrawing from the Arctic or how long they anticipate the rescue mission could take, which begs the question that do they actually know. Shell has invested over $4 billion in in their arctic drilling project and so far has nothing to show for it and a growing concern about the future of the project.

Subedited by Charlotte Paton

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