Situation Normal

Shell Loses Control Of Arctic Drilling Rig In Alaskan Harbor

The same as it ever was – Shell attempts to scuttle into the Arctic on the cheap, ignorant of conditions to waiting for them in unforgiving northern ice.

Notice in this article that the Coast Guard has refused to certify Shell’s oil-spill response barge, still hunkered down in Washington state, due to inadequacies in fire control equipment, electrical wiring and piping, and overall unsuitability for operation in stormy Arctic seas.

There is no oil spill response technology in the Arctic, where oil on the ice can never be recovered. And yet, we blithely allow an oil spill, uh… er…, drilling industry carte blanche in the most dynamic maritime environment on Earth.

Exxon with all its billions of oily dollars could not clean up Prince William Sound after a spill that happened in the most advantageous weather conditions. They finally slunk away with their tail between their legs, hauling the critically damaged Exxon Valdez behind them to hide in ignominy, ultimately to limp off to anonymous dismantlement on a far away, heavily polluted beach, outside the glaring eye of public scrutiny.

How insane is it to destroy fragile Arctic environments to keep Highway 1 clogged with oil consumers, to keep the commuting public addicted to work far from home, to keep the unending stream of consumption flowing from open pit mines to landfills, to maintain an impossibly growing economy in a world of finite resources.



“Every mammal on this planet instinctively develops a natural equilibrium with the surrounding environment, but you humans do not. You move to an area, and you multiply, and multiply, until every natural resource is consumed. The only way you can survive is to spread to another area. There is another organism on this planet that follows the same pattern. A virus. Human beings are a disease, a cancer of this planet, you are a plague, and we are the cure.” Agent Smith, The Matrix

What I Learned from the Exxon Valdez

It’s been twenty-three years since I woke up and heard the radio announcer say, “The Exxon Valdez is on the rocks of Bligh Reef and leaking oil.”

Those of us who lived in Valdez and worked through the next three years of industrial strength oil-spill clean-up would have been shocked in disbelief to know that twenty-three years later nothing will have changed.

As I write, Shell is unceremoniously towing two rusting drilling platforms into Arctic waters far more forbidding than the gentle inlets and bays of Prince William Sound 1,000 miles south, where Valdez is the northernmost ice-free port in North America. The fragile rigs face winters of crushing ice constantly on the move, creating craggy pressure ridges as the ice is thrust back and forth by winds and currents. Just like the Deepwater Horizon, they will be drilling holes in deep pools of crude oil and bringing it to the surface, through ever-shifting ice, in waters replete with marine mammals and fish.

An oil spill in the Arctic is nothing like an oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, even the Deepwater Horizon oil spill. There is no industrial infrastructure in the Far North, no roads, no deep water ports, no airports, no oil spill equipment, no thousands of volunteers for clean-up crews. There is, however, plenty of ice, snow, temperatures to 60 below zero. Do you know what happens to machinery at 60 below? It stops, unless you keep it running 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. And if it stops, it’s unlikely it will start again until Summer, such as it is. Metal becomes brittle and breaks. Plastic and rubber solidify and crumble. Diesel oil congeals. Propone turns to liquid. Pour out a cup of coffee in the open air and it vaporizes with a WHOOSH! before it hits the ice. It’s a strange, dark, icy world, where nothing is as it is in the Lower 48.

And yet, the oil execs say, “Trust us.” Just as Exxon did so many times in 1989.

The one lesson we learned in Prince William Sound is that once the oil is out of the bottle, there’s no putting it back in. This was in Alaska’s banana belt, with temperate rain forests gracing the shores, warm summer weather, an international airport in Anchorage just 250 miles away, smaller airports nearby in Valdez, Cordova and Kodiak. A highway from Anchorage to Valdez. Oil spill equipment stockpiled at the Alyeska Marine Terminal Facility.

None of this exists in the Chuckchi and Beaufort Seas.

Drilling for oil in the Arctic is just one more environmental disaster waiting to happen.

When do we say, “Enough?’

Won’t we ever say, “No more?”

Science is not ruled by consensus

“Most climate scientists say the steady increase in the concentrations of human-generated greenhouse gases like CO2 play a decisive role in this climate change, by trapping ever-more solar energy in the home planet’s atmosphere.”

This sentence demonstrates the danger of interpretation of science by non-scientists.

“Greenhouse” gases do not trap heat in the atmosphere. They absorb energy at certain wavelengths and reradiate it in all directions, some down to Earth, some out in space.

Recent satellite measurements show that heat energy leaving the Earth’s atmosphere to space is much greater than that predicted by global climate models, and adopted by the IPCC in their prognostocations. This means that all of their “predictions” of future climate are called to question, including those parroted by “most scientists.”

Fortunately, science does not advance by consensus. If ten scientists are wrong and one scientist is right, do we ignore the correct interpretation of data anyway? The findings of one scientist can completely negate the findings of hundreds. It is the data, methodology and conclusions that are critical in scientific investigation, not the number of scientists who agree.

Whether or not Antarctica respond to climate variation has no bearing on the source of climate change. Antarctica and the Arctic have been changing for millennia with no help from human society.

Climate variation is natural, spurred and limited by natural cycles within the biosphere.