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Excerpt: "Shell has created a 'safety zone' to keep protesters out of its drilling sites, but its unblinking, destructive quest for profit must be addressed by Obama to curb the very real threat climate change."

Activists protest against the Shell drilling rig Polar Pioneer in Seattle, Washington, on 16 May 2015. (photo: Jason Redmond/Reuters)
Activists protest against the Shell drilling rig Polar Pioneer in Seattle, Washington, on 16 May 2015. (photo: Jason Redmond/Reuters)


Shell's Arctic Drilling Is the Real Threat to the World, Not Kayaktivists

By Bill McKibben, Naomi Klein and Annie Leonard, Guardian UK

09 June 15

 

Oil firm has created a ‘safety zone’ to keep protesters out of its drilling sites but its unblinking, destructive quest for profit must be addressed by Obama and others

hell has one or two rivals for the title of Planet’s Most Irresponsible Company, but it’s definitely the most ironic.

The grand irony, of course, is that, having watched the Arctic melt as global temperatures rose, Shell was first in line to drill the newly melted waters for yet more oil which would raise the temperature some more.

But lately, the planetary-scale irony was compounded by one of a more local variety, contained in the phrase safety zone.

Here’s the backstory: In May, Shell convinced a federal judge in Alaska to enjoin Greenpeace from protesting too closely to Shell’s Arctic drilling vessels. This restricted area, or safety zone, was set at 500 yards (457 metres) while these vessels transit in Seattle’s Puget Sound. Then, last month, 500 kayaks congregated around one of Shell’s giant Arctic drilling rigs as it sat in Puget Sound, a David-and-Goliath picture that flew across the web. And a couple of brave souls peacefully suspended themselves from another one of its drilling vessels, as others had done a month earlier.

No one was hurt. But Shell didn’t like any of this, so the company, in a not-so-subtle attempt to intimidate opposing voices, decided to send out a copy of the Greenpeace injunction to 350.org and others who oppose its Arctic drilling plans.

Of course no court as yet has drawn a safety zone around the Arctic, even though a January study published in the journal Nature made it clear that if we open up the stores of gas and oil in the far north we won’t be able to protect the climate from dramatic change. Instead, Barack Obama invited Shell to drill.

The president argued on Twitter last week that he couldn’t stop all drilling the Arctic, but that’s way too easy. True, he can’t keep the Russians and Canadians from drilling in their territory, but in the US the decision was entirely up to him. He didn’t have to give the people who chanted “drill baby drill” at the GOP convention in 2008 what they wanted.

And there is something else too. The need for coordinated international action to stop climate change is exactly we have been having United Nations summits on the topic every year since 1990 – with a very important agreement set to be signed in Paris this December. Obama could be pushing right now to get a ban on Arctic drilling locked into that agreement – but draft texts make no mention of such a sensible plan.

In the meantime, there is no safety zone for wildlife and indigenous people when something goes wrong (and something will go wrong – if a pipeline can break under the beach in benign Santa Barbara, it’s only a matter of time before the Chukchi Sea wreaks some kind of havoc on Shell’s platforms). But even if Shell never spilled a drop, all the carbon it’s bringing up will eventually be spilled into the atmosphere – an atmosphere that’s already way past its safety zone, as CO2 emissions have spiked from 280 parts per million in the Holocene to more than 400 ppm today. You can see the effects already, even from Seattle: Washington is suffering through what the governor called an unprecedented drought, and last summer battled to contain the biggest wildfire in its history.

Shell has a long history of this kind of irresponsibility— this is the same company who worked hand in glove with the Nigerian military dictatorship that killed Ken Saro-Wiwa and eight other leaders for daring to stand up to Shell; there are drinking water wells in the Niger Delta where chemicals like benzene can be found at 900 times their safe levels. It is a company that announced in 2009 it would no longer invest in solar or wind power because it thought it could make more money from oil. It is, in the words of the former chief climate envoy for the UK, John Ashton, a “narcissistic, paranoid, and psychopathic” organisation.

In fact, in a world serious about protecting its people and its climate, there would be a safety zone several miles outside the edge of Earth’s atmosphere where Shell was not allowed, and a sign directing it to wreck Venus instead.

But, as usual, the rich and powerful are using the legal system to further exploit the planet. The language in the injunction is richly ironic: Shell was able to obtain “relief” because the threat it faced was “actual and imminent, not conjectural or theoretical.”

In Shell’s view, this apparently describes the peril posed by Americans in kayaks. By any honest reading, though, it’s an indictment of this multinational, one that is utterly undeterred by science in its ceaseless, unblinking quest for profit.

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Comments   

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+8 # PABLO DIABLO 2015-06-09 23:06
George W. Obama. What a disappointment
 
 
-8 # MidwestTom 2015-06-10 06:41
Another way to look at this is if this area contains anywhere near what the US Geological Survey projects, namely 25 Billion barrels of recoverable oil, it will lower the price of oil which will stop a lot of drilling in the lower 48 states.

Of all of oil companies, Shell is the most responsible from a safety and environmental viewpoint. They are known for spending at least 25% to 35% more per well than most of the others when drilling.

Russia too is drilling in their Arctic waters because of the vast quantities of oil that are supposed to be there. Why is Greenpeace not challenging Russian operations? They are far more accident prone.
 
 
+2 # dsepeczi 2015-06-10 13:14
Quoting MidwestTom:
Another way to look at this is if this area contains anywhere near what the US Geological Survey projects, namely 25 Billion barrels of recoverable oil, it will lower the price of oil which will stop a lot of drilling in the lower 48 states.

Of all of oil companies, Shell is the most responsible from a safety and environmental viewpoint. They are known for spending at least 25% to 35% more per well than most of the others when drilling.

Russia too is drilling in their Arctic waters because of the vast quantities of oil that are supposed to be there. Why is Greenpeace not challenging Russian operations? They are far more accident prone.


Actually, Greenpeace does go after Russia too. As for lowering the price of oil ... does that really matter if the planet becomes uninhabitable ? As for the other claim that it will stop the drilling in the US, that comment's truly laughable and we both know it. The drilling never stops. Finally, with regards to your claims that Shell is the most responsible of all of the oil companies ... that's hard to quantify either way since there aren't ANY oil companies that aren't responsible for some major leaks at one point or another but I will say that the "most responsible oil company" sure ruined Nigeria and, of course, tried to get out of their responsibility to pay for it.
 

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