Shell Races Toward Arctic Oil Without Any Way to Clean Up a Spill

Drilling in the Arctic, one of the most trecherous and sensitive regions on Earth, has long been a contentious political and environmental issue. Recently however, President Obama gave the green light to off-shore Arctic drilling in the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas, in spite of concerned local opposition and environmental groups, who argue that an oil spill in the Arctic would make the BP Gulf oil spill of 2010 look like child’s play.

Fair warnings and potential eco-disaster aside, Shell doesn’t seem too concerned. In fact, the global energy giant is so confident that it continues to send up drilling vessels to the Arctic — without any clean up barge.  Shell’s oil spill barge, the 37 year old Arctic Challenger, instead remains in Washington state after failing to pass Coast Guard inspection. The Arctic Challenger failed to pass inspection on numerous counts, including a lack of proper electrical wiring, concern over the ship’s fire protection system and piping. The ship also failed in its “ability to withstand a ’100-year storm,’” however, Shell operators believe the ability for the vessel to withstand a 10-year storm is adequate.

Unfortunately for Shell, and for those living in the area slated for drilling, a so-called “100 year storm” is not as unlikely as we’d like to think. Climate change continues to significantly alter weather patterns across the globe, increasing both the duration and severity of storms, and it would behoove Shell not to slow down and pay closer attention to current weather trends. Robert Papp, head of the U.S. Coast Guard, has said that “if [an oil spill] were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing. We’re starting from ground zero today.”  The Center for American Progress also expressed concern over rash drilling in the Arctic, commenting that the severe lack of infrastructure and roadways leaves the area helpless should an oil spill occur.

The Arctic, a wondrous place filled with vibrant animal and marine life, is the last predominantly untouched area of the planet. Yet the insatiable thirst for fossil fuels continues to push politicians and companies to take ever increasingly dangerous measures to drill for more oil in areas that should remain protected. And the data is not in Shell’s favor. Oil spills are all too common and unpredictable Arctic waters will only increase the odds of a spill happening. The tragic part of this scenario is that a devastating spill in this region is not only likely, but it may never get cleaned up should one happen, leaving an untainted ecosystem irreparably damaged.

We’re now in a dire catch 22 : the more the planet warms, the more arctic ice sheets melt, exposing unchartered ocean for drilling. The faster this process occurs, the faster companies like Shell can begin doing business in areas that should remain untouched. Inevitably, this entire cycle only leads to more CO2 being released into the atmosphere, therefore continuing the global warming cycle. While the warning signs are loud and clear, it doesn’t appear that Shell, or other fossil fuel conglomerates, care to listen — and on many levels, neither do we.

Related Stories:

The Fight for the Arctic

Survival Against All Odds: Animals of the Arctic

Shell Oil Sues Environmentalists Over Arctic Drilling

Photo Credit: Hannes Grobe, Alfred Wegener Institute


Rhiannon Bloomfield

Disgusting, not surprised they won't take responsibility for anything. And its so sickening they are drilling oil there.

Anita Wisch
Anita Wisch4 years ago

When will we DEMAND that businesses look at what damage they will do to the environment, before we give them permits to rape and pillage our earth?

Heather Marvin
Heather Marv4 years ago


JT Smith4 years ago

Like I said, I agree with the concept; but the best way for Shell, et al, to no longer have a customer base is to completely get off of petroleum in the first place. And while that's a noble goal (and one that WILL have to be done eventually, anyway, whether anyone likes it or not), it's a LOT easier said than done. Basically, until the supply of crude completely runs out (or the world FINALLY gets off it's bum and off of petroleum on its own, whichever comes first), Big Oil has the world by the cajones, and knows it. Which is why they're constantly fighting so hard against being regulated. And, of course, money can invariably buy many politicians, regardless of what party they're affiliated with.

JT Smith4 years ago

Another problem is that the Big Oil companies do not just sell to us through their own service stations. They all sell crude to each other as well. And none of that takes into account all of the other myriad products (e.g. lighter fluid, EVERY plastic you can imagine, wax [97% is petroleum based as it's cheaper to produce than organics like beeswax and soy wax][I also worked for a candle-making supply company for 3 years in the warehouse and had to deal with the raw materials, too], vinyl, tar, off-brand vehicular fluids, etc, etc, etc) that are also made from petroleum products which are not advertised as to just who the original supplier of the crude was. Especially since, like the independent convenience stores, they don't always buy from the same company even when they go through the same distributor.

JT Smith4 years ago

While I agree with the concept of boycotting Shell, it's really a lot harder than it sounds. Yes, never going to a Shell station for anything is one way. The problem, unfortunately, is multi-fold. For one, there's all of the smaller fuel stations (e.g. the mom & pop ones), convenience store chains like Turkey Hill, Wawa, et al, and the other completely independent fuel stations. They do NOT typically buy the same brand of fuel every week because they don't have to. They'll use the same distributor, but I know from personally working for a small convenience store chain that one week they'll be getting Citgo, the next will be Exxon-Mobile, the next could be Citgo again, and then the next two weeks could be Shell followed by BP, etc. Because the smaller independents aren't tied to a specific brand, they'll do what the rest of us typically do and just go for the cheapest one for the given week. And the customer has zero way of knowing just which one they're really putting in their tanks.

Rochelle Hunter
Rochelle Hunter4 years ago

I stopped going to shell even to buy something to drink. There is one right on the corner and I drive an extra 3 miles to use another station. The more we stop using there products maybe they will get the idea when they don't have any customers.

Sonny Honrado
Sonny Honrado4 years ago

Prevent oil spill, keep Shell out of the Artic.

Luvenia V.
Luvenia V.4 years ago

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Magyar Girl
Past Member 4 years ago

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