Continued shrinking of the Arctic ice cap by global warming, oil prices rising to record levels, and recent Arctic output estimates of up to 130 billion barrels of oil (BBC, 8/31/2011) are driving moves to open up the arctic to oil drilling. Shell, along with other oil companies, is now scrambling to put in multibillion dollar bids to lease land in the Arctic’s Beaufort and Chukchi Seas. The only thing standing in their way is the harsh environment and the need for President Obama’s approval.
But, despite the opposition from indigenous populations and marine mammalogists concerned about the noise, plus the Coast Guard’s worries about the lack of an adequate plan to contain spills, and just mere months after the BP oil spill, Obama was ready to approve Shell’s plans.
A recent NY Times article describes the constant lobbying by Shell - $40 million in the past four years, over 80% of that after Obama was elected - and the subsequent pressure on regulators by Obama to approve Shell’s drilling and oil spill contingency plans (5/23/2012).
“We never would have expected a Democratic president - let alone one seeking to be ‘transformative’ - to open up the Arctic Ocean for drilling,” said Michael Brune, executive director of the Sierra Club (NY Times, 5/23/2012).
This news comes just after the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration announced that the U.S. is experiencing the warmest year on record so far, with 2011 being the ninth warmest year since 1880 (USA Today, 5/8/2012).
With no plan in place to seriously address climate change, Obama continues to disappoint environmental activists worldwide with his continued “all of the above” strategy to meet our energy needs, which includes the largest expansion in domestic drilling since the 1960s.
Continuing to invest in this archaic method of drilling, extracting, and burning fossil fuels to create the energy demanded by a system based on perpetual economic growth and the maximization of corporate profits is effectively shutting the window of opportunity to transition away from polluting, unsustainable energy sources.
Furthermore, oil companies are set to profit at the risk of another catastrophic oil spill that will devastate a fragile habitat, home to endangered species and indigenous peoples that rely on the Arctic to support their way of life.
A massive green jobs program would put the millions of unemployed back to work, while meeting our energy needs and rapidly transitioning society to renewable energy sources.