On August 27th, oil giant Shell began exploratory drilling in the Chukchi Sea, in addition to another drilling rig being anchored in the Beaufort Sea. This marks the first time an oil drill has touched the sea floor in two decades.
Shell received a waiver from U.S. air pollution regulations regarding the generators on its drill ship, which allowed for the drilling to begin. Further, Shell is required to tow its repurposed oil recovery barge into Barrow, Alaska after it passes the U.S. Coast Guard inspection before any drilling into the oil-bearing zone can commence.
The U.S. Coast Guard is skeptical of the oil recovery barge though, raising a range of concerns from fire protection systems to whether the barge will be able to withstand Arctic seas.
Assuming everything goes according to plan for Shell, the new drilling represents policies which still perceive oil drilling as a legitimate form of accessing energy resources, and choose oil as a viable energy producer.
Granted, the Obama administration has proposed and implemented energy plans which do require energy from oil during the initial stages, and this oil is from a domestic source. However, new drilling also suggests that Shell intends to be in the Alaskan seas for a longer period of time than most environmental advocates would prefer.
The new drilling also comes on the heels of verified, credible reports showing the Arctic ice caps melting at extremely alarming rates, and being caused by man-made influences, i.e. greenhouse gas emissions. While it is clear that Shell isn’t very concerned about the long term effects of not only oil drilling, but using oil as an energy source, governmental policy needs to be. Given the plans set forth by President Obama are fairly good for the environment, the country needs to hold the Obama administration accountable and continue to pressure the government for clean energy solutions.
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