Arctic drilling plan shakier than Keith Richards after a bender, says London insurance firm

by Travis Nichols

April 13, 2012

Yesterday, an oil slick appeared between two of Shells rigs off the Louisiana coast, and while the international oil giant sent out a press release calling the blob an orphan sheen, something that it was in no way responsible for, youll forgive us for being more than a bit skeptical. Why? Because by now everyone knows theres no such thing as safe oil drilling, especially in fragile environments like the Gulf. If Shell cant keep its rigs in check there (or in Nigeria), then what chance do they have in the Arctic, one of the remotest, harshest environments in the world? Not much of a chance, it turns out. In a bit of fortuitous timing, the venerable insurance firm, Lloyds of London, declared yesterday that Shells plan to drill for Arctic oil this summer is a unique and hard-to-manage risk to the fragile ecosystem.
The environmental consequences of disasters in the Arctic have the potential to be worse than in other regions. The resilience of the Arctics ecosystems in terms of withstanding risk events is weak, and political sensitivity to a disaster is high. As a result, companies operating in the Arctic face significant reputational risk.
Lloyds is famous for assessing singular risks, and their warning about Shells plans for the Arctic is a wake-up call for anyone who believes the oil companys spin that there is such a thing as clean oil extraction. There isnt. How can we tell? With Lloyds track record for insuring celebrity body parts, their declaration tells us that a Shell-caused disaster in the Arctic is now MORE likely than: Head & Shoulders rep Troy Polamalu getting hazed (hair insured for 1 million) Bruce Springsteen taking up menthols (voice is insured for 6 million) British food critic Egon Ronay burning his tongue (taste buds insured for 400k) Heidi Klum taking a wrong turn on the ski slopes (legs insured for 2.2 million) Keith Richards not dying (hands insured for 1.6 million) Troubling. Shell is going into the Arctic this summer, and its just a matter of time before we see reports of another orphan sheen appearing, this one in the polar bears backyard. The international oil giant knows its risking one of the last pristine places on earth in order to power global warming (What, you thought it sucking up a global commodity would affect your gas prices? Hardly), which is why its trying to do such risky work under cover of darkness. The last thing they want is you to know what they're up to. Which is why Greenpeace is dedicated to taking the company on. After Greenpeace New Zealand activists occupied one of Shells ships in New Zealand in February (with Lucy Lawless leading the charge), the company deployed its team of slick lawyers to keep us from further exposing their work. But despite Shells attempts to suppress opposition, our campaign continues. And we need your help! Tell Shell that an environmental disaster in the Arctic isnt a risk worth taking.

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