As Royal Dutch Shell continues to make perfectly clear, industry is not prepared to safely explore for oil in the pristine waters of America’s Arctic. Shell’s Arctic operations have been called the “gold standard” of the oil industry and if this is the best they’ve got, the industry is not Arctic ready.
Beyond the arguments of the Arctic being a harsh, dangerous, infrastructure-less environment, the question remains, does it make economic sense to drill for oil in this remote region now for barrels of oil in 10 years? In 12 years, cars will be averaging 54.5 mpg. Energy efficiency and a growing renewable fuel market are also making headway. U.S. oil production hit its highest level in 20 years in 2012 and it is projected to increase an additional 14 percent this year—without the extreme oil of the Arctic. In 10 years, will Americans need the extreme oil of the Arctic that Shell is so desperately seeking?
What happens in the Arctic doesn’t stay in the Arctic. In addition to the potentially catastrophic local impacts, climate pollution from drilling in the region, especially black carbon emissions from the drill fleet accelerates Arctic warming and melting. Black carbon, which was reported this week to be the second-largest human contributor to climate change after CO2. It is even worse when this pollution is emitted in the Arctic where it has direct effects on ice.