Our little jar of marmite on board the Arctic Sunrise has polarized the crew – you either love it or you loath it. There’s no middle ground and, for some reason, it’s a popular topic of discussion over breakfast in the mess.
So this morning’s news that Denmark has banned marmite caused a bit of a stir, and also raised the obvious question: If Denmark is banning marmite because it contains added vitamins – why not ban risky deep sea oil drilling because an Arctic oil spill would release all manner of toxic chemicals and be near impossible to clean up?
The Cairn Energy oil rig we are confronting right now here in the freezing waters near Greenland is set to drill four exploratory wells in the dangerous waters between Canada and Greenland.
In 2010, Cairn stressed that its drillings off Greenland were in relatively shallow waters of around 300m, and so in no way comparable to the deep water Macondo well that ruptured in the Gulf of Mexico. This year, however, Cairn intends to drill at far greater depths than before. With the exception of two potential drill sites, all its wells will be at extremely risky depths of between 900m and 1,530m.
Yesterday we obtained a series of documents under a Freedom of Information request that show the UK government has been saying privately what we've been saying publicly: An Arctic oil spill would be all but impossible to clear up.
In one email exchange, government officials told the energy secretary Chris Huhne: "It is difficult to get assistance in case of pollution problems in such areas, and near impossible to make good damage caused."
Another document reports that "considerable challenges remain. The most significant of these is environmental - and the possibility of a second Gulf of Mexico type event ... The Arctic ecosystem is particularly vulnerable, and emergency responses would be slower and harder than in the Gulf of Mexico due to the area's remoteness and the difficulty of operating in sub-zero temperatures." (Download part one and part two of the FOI documents.)
So it seems that everyone is agreed. Arctic drilling is an outrageous and unnecessary gamble that has to stop.
It’s little wonder then perhaps that Cairn Energy has thus far refused to release it’s spill recovery plan for its Arctic operations.
Take action now and challenge Cairn to make its plans public!