How To Purchase the Arctic With Only $4 Billion


Written by Brian Merchant

Do you happen to head up a massive multinational oil concern? Curious just how much it’d cost you to snag the long-desired right to drill in the Arctic? Well, have I got a number for you: $4 billion. That’s about how much you’ll have to fork over to wage a successful all-out lobbying campaign on multiple fronts. Thankfully, if you’re a respectable Big Oil outfit, $4 billion is probably what you dig up between the couch cushions when you’re doing laundry.

So let’s say that you’re, oh, some giant oil conglomerate called ‘Shell.’ Here’s all you’ll have to do to get drilling access to one of the most sensitive, pristine, and traditionally protected areas in the US:

First, in D.C., where you’ve got to convince a surprisingly eager moderate Democratic president that there’s a bounty of oil up there, and that it can be extracted “safely.”

Your crack team of three dozen lobbyists will do full court press, sidling up to environmentalist coalitions and wheeling and dealing with Democrat insiders. Pretend that you want to fight climate change, join “anti-global warming groups,” and get inside access to how the opposition works. Hold your tongue when necessary, sated by the knowledge you will soon make fools of them all.

Second, you’ll have to go to the front lines, in Alaska, where there’s a long legacy of conservationism in the local Eskimo communities. The Eskimo leader, in fact, is a fierce opponent of oil drilling—and rightfully so, because that stuff is almost certain to wash up on his homeland’s shores at some point. But no matter.

Deploy your best company stooge, and have him go on a “charm offensive,” getting to know the locals and dumping money into the community. Meanwhile, slowly undermine that feisty leader by “funding local colleges, village parties and whaling equipment.” By the time that silly ol’ Eskimo figures out that you’ve bought off the town’s opposition, he’ll have little choice but to negotiate a deal.

Third, you wait. There are PR problems with some other oil spill down south, and the president will probably want to cite your project as proof that he’s pro-drilling when he’s campaigning. But it’s just a matter of time, and you’ll know it. Nothing can stand up to the kind of cash you’re throwing around. Not piddly green groups or whiny progressives. No, they’ll all be forced to cower from the sheer might of your capital.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism puts it this way: “Recognising the blunt force power of Shell’s lobbying blitz, environmental groups have backed off, … choosing to focus on projects where victory is more feasible.”

Congratulations, ‘Shell’! You’ve just earned yourself the first rights to drill in the Arctic, one of the last remaining refuges from human resource extraction out there. It will be incredibly tough to clean up oil from the inevitable spills, and ecosystems are sure to be devastated, but who cares? The government will foot most of the bill for that, anyways. The important thing is that you’ve won. That you’ve kicked off perhaps the last great oily gold rush of our times. To the Arctic!

To get the rest of the facts on Shell’s lobbying blitz, see the New York Times and the Bureau of Investigative Journalism—but that’s pretty much exactly how it went down.

This post was originally published by TreeHugger.


Related Stories:

Endangered Beluga Whales At Risk From Destructive Oil and Gas Drilling

One Million for the Arctic

Big Oil’s Profits Show They Don’t Need Tax Breaks


Photo from knowmoore via flickr


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Cheryl B.
Cheryl B5 years ago


Nicholas Hi
Nicholas Hi5 years ago

It's true that climate change is natural, but we may be increasing the effects. It may seem cruel, but polar bears drowning is part of an evolutionary process. Humans are in more danger from climate change as we have slowed down evolution for ourselves.

Shan D.
Shan D5 years ago

Nikolas K.: HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!! Wow. You are one seriously weird person. You believe in pyramid power, and think you're going to "transmutate" into... something. And then you try to call me out on something I *have* noticed for myself, and no CNN needed! I'm Canadian, I don't watch CNN or any other American news, and I've lived enough decades and seen enough climate change for myself to know that it's happening and whether it's natural or not, humans are NOT helping by polluting so much. Polar bears ARE drowning; there are reputable CBC news sources and reliable witnesses to testify to that.

What is this "photon belt that increases our vibration" nonsense? Anything you can point to in a peer-reviewed scientific journal? No? Didn't think so. Yes, I'm aware of the sunspot cycle, and that it has an effect on our weather patterns. We've had periods of warming and cooling. But when you add the effects of man-made pollution, you get a whole different situation that nature can't correct by itself without doing irreparable harm to the ecosystem we have.

Have fun in Russia. Not sure what "research" you mean to do there. I didn't know there were Russians who were into pyramid power and vibrations...

Nikolas Karman
Nikolas K5 years ago

Shan d this so called global warming is a an event that happens on a cyclic event such as happening now when our planet passes through the photon belt that increases our vibration and nature plays an important part in this process, your theory that polar bears are dying out is flawed and when was the last time you visited this region to check out the facts. everyones an expert (means drop of liquid under pressure in Latin) on the subject because CNN told them this global warming myth stories are true. majority of people re very conditioned today by television which is just part of the process to keep people from thinking for themselves. So please before you attack people just think of what your saying and provide the evidence to support it.
I do my research and in fact i'm leaving soon for Russia where i will continue it.

Angela N.
Angela N5 years ago

thank you =]

Rosie Lopez
Rosie Lopez5 years ago


Lost Account
Past Member 5 years ago

Wish I had the money to buy it so it could be left alone....

Amie K.
Amie K5 years ago

Elaine: For the record, there wasn't much snow to speak of in Vail this year. I grew up in that area and still have many friends there so I've heard about it all winter and honestly for the past several winters. At this rate there won't BE any skiing in CO within a decade or so at most.

So as usual, you are full of it. Wouldn't you be happier on some RWNJ site instead of Care2 anyway?

Diana S.
Diana S5 years ago

The impact of any spill in the conditions found here would obviously be devastating and nearly impossible to contain or recover from. Do we even need to mention the severe impact on the environment that all the construction, drilling, tons of workers needing housing, etc would cause, even if everything goes exactly as planned? Human beings are not the masters of all we survey that we would like to think we are, but we are the masters of the unintended consequence, and this project is ripe for lots of them. None of them fully reversible.