This morning, two polar bears scaled the Statoil oil rig West Hercules bound for the world’s northernmost drilling sites in the Arctic. Just a few hours later the Norwegian state-owned oil company announced that these frontier drillings will not take place this year. And just now, ConocoPhillips announced that they too will be cancelling 2014 drilling plans north of Alaska due to 'regulatory uncertainties.'
That’s fantastic news for the Arctic environment and the almost 3 million strong global movement demanding a total ban on industrial fishing and oil drilling in this fragile region. The good news from Statoil and ConocoPhillips of course doesn’t go far enough, but any setback the oil industry is suffering in their plans to exploit the Arctic is one step closer to making it permanent.
Of course, this is not the only setback the industry had faced. Around a month ago Shell announced that after its year of almost comical mishaps in the Alaskan Arctic, the company is shelving drilling plans for 2013 in the same region. In the wake of Shell’s dubious efforts, Statoil shortly after announced they too would have to reconsider drilling in the Chukchi Sea.
Elsewhere, the situation is unfortunately different. The setback in the US part of the Arctic stands in contrast to the Russian offshore development where oil companies no doubt expect minimal interference from the government. Gazprom is expected to begin oil production on its Prirazlomnoye oil field in the fourth quarter of this year and Rosneft is teaming up with Statoil for future exploitation.
Still, that’s three companies in a month coming to terms with reality. Arctic governments should take the hint from these three strikes and rule all oil drilling out of the Arctic.