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Next Oil Victim: Alaska

In what comes as a surprise to no one with any semblance of common sense or critical thinking skills, Shell’s Arctic drilling rig ran aground off of the Alaskan coast, just as experts predicted, on the evening of December 31st—a fitting way to end 2012, and begin 2013.

Fortunately, the Coast Guard did not report any visible sheen on the water, signaling that no oil has leaked into the ocean. The Alaskan coast dodged an ecological and environmental disaster, and Shell dodged losing about 139,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 12,000 gallons of lubrication oil and hydraulic fluid.

No harm, no foul, right? Wrong.

The rig, the Kulluk—one of two rigs that Shell used to test drill wells off the North Slope of Alaska—wrenched free from tow ships by fierce arctic swells and gale force winds. The incident is the latest example proving concerns over the ill-preparedness of oil companies and the incredible risks of Arctic drilling.

Now, it is one thing to go into a situation and experience bad luck and have unforeseeable consequences as a result, but it is another thing entirely to go into a situation after being warned of the dangers and the extreme likelihood of failure and experience, to no one’s surprise, complete and utter failure.

This is exactly what Shell did—they were warned by scientists and environment advocacy groups of the dangers to not only their equipment but also the environment, yet pressed on in their continual pursuit of more oil, and more money. Further, Shell has spent the last six years and over $4 billion in its effort to convert the region into a major oil frontier, but has been crippled by a series of blunders and dumb mistakes.

In September, Shell Oil experienced a failure of an oil spill containment dome on one of its ships off the coast of Alaska. Greenpeace issued a statement after that incident, and almost poetically, can be applied to the most recent Shell disgrace: “We can now see what a monumentally reckless gamble this was.

The company has nothing to show for it except a series of almost farcical safety mishaps that has left its reputation in tatters. Investors must now be asking whether investing such vast sums of money trying to exploit the fragile Arctic is really worth it.”

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