Greenpeace activists occupy Arctic oil rig

Feature story - September 1, 2010
Our activists are suspended 15 meters above the frigid Arctic waters of Baffin Bay. They have taken up position on the drilling rig Stena Don to call for a ban on deep sea oil drilling in the Arctic, and demand that ‘wild cat’ oil company Cairn energy stop drilling, pack up and go home. The banner? “Hands off the Arctic, go beyond oil!”

Climbers occupy Cairn Energy oil rig in the Arctic

Early this morning, our climbers left the Esperanza and headed out into the misty Arctic waters of Baffin Bay, off Greenland, and headed straight for the drilling rig, which is being operated by a British company Cairn Energy. They had to outrun Danish Navy commandos before climbing up the inside of the rig and hanging from it in tents suspended from ropes. They have enough supplies to stay in their hanging tents for several days.

If they are able to halt the drilling for just a short time, Cairn Energy will struggle to meet a tight deadline to complete its exploration before winter ice conditions force it to abandon the search for oil off Greenland until next year.

The Esperanza, has been anchored between the Stena Don rig and Stena Forth drill ship, which are 20 miles apart, for nine days now. A Danish Thetis-class warship has stayed in close vicinity throughout.

The fragile environment west of Disko Island is known as Iceberg Alley due to the plentiful icebergs and tough conditions. This has deterred oil companies from attempting exploration there in recent years, but the world’s oil giants are watching the Cairn project with great interest.

If Cairn is successful the Arctic could be flooded with oil companies, all trying to operate in hazardous polar conditions. Analysts are expecting a whole new Arctic oil rush, with Exxon, Chevron and other energy giants already buying up licenses to drill in the area. The implications for the area, which has populations of blue whales, polar bears, seals and migratory birds, could be devastating.

None of this has to happen. We have the great chance to go beyond oil by launching an Energy Revolution, ending fossil fuel subsidies, increasing the support for clean energy and launching strong laws and policies that limit global warming pollution – all that is needed is the political will to do so.

New Zealand also under threat

Recently the New Zealand Government has announced plans to open massive tracts of our oceans to offshore oil drilling. 

Energy Minister Gerry Browlee has already permitted dangerous deep sea oil exploration directly off the East Coast of the North Island, and tagged many other areas in New Zealand's waters for further oil exploration soon to be announced.

Like the proposal to open our best conservation land for mining, new oil exploration in NZ waters is a move in the wrong direction for New Zealand.

Expansion of oil and coal extraction threatens our unique environment, the climate and the clean and green reputation that underpins New Zealand's economy. Our Government is struggling to understand the urgent need for a new economic vision. New Zealand deserves a clean energy vision from our Government. In the Energy [R]evolution report Greenpeace has shown that this can be done.