10 Reasons Why Obama Should Ban Arctic Oil Drilling

The Arctic Ocean, along with the Beaufort and Chuckchi seas, is home to endangered bowhead whales, gray whales, beluga whales, walrus, seals and many hundreds of species of birds. It is one of the most unique marine ecosystems in the world, the place that provides habitat for America’s entire population of polar bears.

The Arctic Ocean also plays a critical role in regulating the world’s climate. But this role is changing rapidly, because the Arctic is warming at about twice the rate of the rest of the world. As sea ice declines, sea levels rise. Polar bears and walruses lose the ice on which they live. Native people who live in the region are watching rising seas engulf their villages and limit their traditional means of survival through hunting and fishing.

Oil companies want to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic, and currently the Shell Oil Company has been granted the right to explore drilling options. The Obama administration has the power to stop Shell in its tracks. Here are 10 reasons why it should:

1) We don’t need Arctic oil. America is producing more oil and gas than ever before. Plus, as Barack Obama said when he was a candidate way back in 2008, “We could save all the oil that they’re talking about getting off drilling if everybody was just inflating their tires…and getting regular tune-ups.”

2) It’s almost impossible to clean up an oil spill when it’s on ice. Says Alaska Wilderness League (AWL), “An oil spill in the Arctic Ocean would not only be impossible to clean up, but it also would likely become an environmental catastrophe. During the winter months, Arctic seas are covered by sea ice sheets up to 25 feet thick and are extremely difficult to navigate. If a spill started as winter ice sets in, it would be impossible to reach the oil—which means that oil would continue to gush into the sea and under the ice for up to eight months. Where there is drilling, there is spilling!

3) The Arctic Ocean is prone to hurricane-force storms. That includes 20 foot swells, sub-zero temperatures and months of darkness. Even operating oil drilling equipment in these conditions is challenging, let alone cleaning up after a spill or other accident.

4) Oil drilling disrupts wild animals. The Arctic region hosts millions of animals: birds, caribou, bears, whales, wolves, foxes, muskoxen and more. It has been called America’s Serengeti for the abundance of wildlife that both live there and migrate to and from it. Building oil rigs and pipelines, transporting oil and dealing with oil spills interrupts animal migration patterns, makes it difficult for wildlife to breed and kills animals that come in contact with spilled oil.

5) Shell Oil Company has a history of problems. Notes AWL, “Since 2012, Shell’s drilling attempts have been hampered by a total lack of preparedness and major risks, including its drill rig running aground, an engine fire, and more than $1 million in fines for clean air violations.” Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC) prepared this run down of “Shell Oil’s string of failures.”

6) There’s no infrastructure in place when (not if) an emergency response is needed. When Shell’s systems fail, and they inevitably will, the nearest collection of clean-up equipment is 2,000 miles away, in Seattle. NRDC also points out that there are few shipping ports or landing strips nearby, so getting clean-up crews to the site of a spill or explosion would be nearly impossible, especially in the dead of winter.

7) Oil rigs blow up. Remember the Deepwater Horizon oil disaster in 2010? That should have been an easy one to contain, given its location in the Gulf of Mexico, where temperatures are warm and where rescue crews were more easily available. Instead, it burned for 87 days, and killed 11 people in the process.

8) Climate change is caused in part by burning oil. Exploiting oil that may lie under the Arctic Ocean could release 15.8 billion tons of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere when burned. That’s equivalent to the emissions from all U.S. transportation modes in the U.S. over a 9 year time period.

9) The polar ice cap needs protection. The polar ice cap functions as the “air conditioner” for the entire Northern Hemisphere. But burning oil, gas and other fossil fuels is heating up the planet so quickly that the ice is rapidly melting.  It doesn’t make sense to drill for oil in a region that is suffering so badly from the consequences of burning that oil.

10) Instead of subsidizing oil development, let’s support efficiency, solar and wind. Our priority as a nation needs to be first, to ensure that our economy is operating as efficiently as possible. That includes everything from pumping up our tires to insulating homes and buildings to replacing outdated appliances and equipment with the most efficient options available. Thereafter, as a nation, let’s make a commitment to transition to solar and wind as quickly as possible. There is no reason in the world to subsidize oil development when we still have work to do to make renewable fuels cheaper and more available for all.

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62 comments

Siyus Copetallus
Siyus Copetallus3 years ago

Thank you for sharing!

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Nikki Davey
Nikki Davey3 years ago

Thanks

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Jim Ven
Jim Ven3 years ago

thanks for the article.

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sandra vito
Sandra Vito3 years ago

terrible decision!! gracias

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Elena Poensgen
Elena Poensgen3 years ago

Thank you

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S J.
S J3 years ago

thanks for sharing

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

All Arctic Drilling should be banned. Thank you for caring and sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

Great work Greenpeace keep up the great fight, with you all the way.Thank you for caring and sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

Hasn't Barack Obama just spent a week up there, searching more into climate change. Thank you for caring and sharing.

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Glennis Whitney
Glennis W3 years ago

Great article. Thank you for caring and sharing.

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