Stopping Offshore Drilling

Help stop oil giants like Shell and Exxon from plundering the Arctic

As sea ice melts, open water in the Arctic makes oil extraction even easier. For corporations that have profited off of fossil fuels, that’s great news, but for the rest of us it’s devastating.

Polar Pioneer Arrives in Seattle

Seattle activists in kayaks raise a banner to protest Shell's Polar Pioneer drilling rig.

© N. Scott Trimble / Greenpeace

In September 2015, Shell retreated from its Arctic Ocean drilling operations, and in October 2015 the Obama administration announced plans to remove the Arctic from leasing opportunities for the next two years. But the Arctic Ocean still isn’t off limits for Shell or another oil company to move in and try to drill at a later date, especially with the former CEO of Exxon Rex Tillerson as Donald Trump’s Secretary of State. 

Now is the time to demand world leaders close the door on offshore Arctic oil extraction — for good.

In 2016, Arctic sea ice reached its fourth-lowest extent on record, continuing a stark downward trend. The lowest extent of Arctic sea ice on record was in 2012 and for the past eight years ice has continuously been melting at record rates.

If you ask the corporations that have profited off of fossil fuels, Arctic warming is great news. As sea ice melts, open water in the Arctic makes oil extraction possible where it wasn’t previously. There is a new oil rush, and it is happening at the top of the world. 

An Arctic Ocean oil rush would be nothing short of disastrous. Not only would more oil unleash even more global warming, it would put fragile ecosystems at greater risk from oil spills. And in a place where conditions are harsh and forbidding, chances of cleaning up a spill are slim to none.

Make no mistake, Shell might have pulled out, the entire global oil industry is chomping at the bit to get its drills into the Arctic Ocean, too. The Russian giant Gazprom is already drilling in Russian waters. Exxon, empowered by the Trump administration, is looking to follow suit. 

That’s why we’re continuing to keep the pressure on, demanding that leaders around the world take swift action to keep all Arctic offshore oil in the ground, not just for the next two years, but forever.

5 Reasons Not to Let Oil Companies Anywhere Near the Arctic

Shell’s repeated failures trying to drill in the Arctic are instructive for any oil company. Despite sinking $7 billion into its Arctic schemes, three years of activism and 7 million people emphatically proved to Shell that Arctic oil is the wrong move. 

  • In January 2014, the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals ruled that the U.S. Department of the Interior violated U.S. law when it opened the Chukchi Sea to oil drilling.
  • In 2013, Shell tried to bring an outdated drill rig called the Kulluk out of retirement to use in the Arctic. While being towed, the Kulluk broke free and ran aground near Kodiak Island. The crew had to be airlifted. In 2014, a U.S. Coast Guard investigation into the accident determined that Shell had been ill-prepared, its crew negligent, and its equipment full of design flaws.
  • In 2012, a gigantic ice floe temporarily canceled Shell’s Arctic oil plans after 36 hours of drilling. That same year, there were revelations that Shell was using substandard safety and cleanup equipment that it barely tested, a gamble that proved Shell had learned nothing from BP’s Deepwater Horizon blowout just two years earlier.
  • Shell finally canceled its 2012 Arctic drilling after a test caused an oil containment dome on one of its ships to be crushed like a beer can.
  • In a sign of things to come, Shell tried for years to dump its North Sea drilling platform, the Brent Spar. Finally, after immense public pressure capped by a tense occupation of the platform by Greenpeace activists, Shell caved in 1995, agreeing to dismantle the Brent Spar on land and recycle it.

Join the Fight to Save the Arctic

Drilling for oil in the Chukchi Sea was one of Shell’s most prized projects; the company’s $7 billion in sunk costs is testament to that. Their epic failure should be a lesson to the entire industry. 

While the Obama administration closing the door on Arctic drilling for at least the next two years is wonderful news, it’s ultimately a shallow fix. The Trump administration appears set on putting fossil fuels on life support, and it will be up to people like you to keep up the movement for a renewable energy future. 

 

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