Photo by AntarcticBoy | flickr.comWe’ve all been reminded of the disastrous effects that the oil industry can have on our planet. Not only does it massively contribute to climate change, but spills and leaks can also cause ecological failures, further leading to the demise of our planet. The BP/Exxon-Valdez spill has been counted as one of the worst oil spills to date – but an investigation into Russia’s tundra might make you think otherwise.

An estimation of 5 million tonnes of oil is spilled into the tundra every year, an equivalent of one Deepwater Horizon-sized spill every two months. This might even be a conservative estimate, as the Russian Economic Development Industry reported 20 million tons of oil spillage last year

This problem has largely gone without media attention, and with faulty reason. Since most of the leaks in Russia are from rusty pipelines and oil wells, spilling into surrounding environments and poisoning the flora and fauna it encounters. This literally happens every day, with leaks of less than 8 tonnes allowed to occur without financial penalty.

Russia’s spills account for 1-4% of their oil production per year – a percentage that’s rather high, considering other countries in similar geographic locations. Canada only had 11 reported pipeline leaks and 7,700 tonnes of spillage, whereas Russia logged 110,000 spills.

Even worse, Russian oil companies are now looking to expand their industry outwards, despite their inability to deal with technological failures. The Russian government has even acknowledged that they do not have the required technology to appropriately develop the Arctic fields these companies aim to investigate, making the ordeal rather risky.

The externality of ecosystem services in Russia’s oil industry may lead to future failures in their entire system. The inability to deal with these leaks and spills, especially after events like the BP oil spill or the Chernobyl nuclear disaster, should raise alarms and lead to a more precautionary approach to oil exploration and production.