US environmental concerns “freeze” in the deep North.

The Kulluk off the Seattle waterfront. Photo by dnak |

As the polar ice caps melt, interest in the Arctic region is all the rage for the use of shipping lanes and for potential claim over potential oil reserves. Shell Oil Co. has been investigating this potential for the past fifty years and has now been given the green light for exploratory drilling in open water by the US federal government (and backed by an appeals court).

Despite numerous claims that Shell is ill-equipped to handle recovery efforts to combat spills, not to mention claims of insufficient knowledge of the Arctic ecosystem, the right to drill off the Alaskan coast has been granted for the ice-free summer. The Kulluk, a Canadian Arctic drill ship purchased by Shell years ago has been prepped (costing the company $100 million USD) and is now ready to make the journey North and begin what is inevitably to be one of the largest drilling campaigns in recent history.

Within the span of a decade, policy has changed from the ban on off-shore drilling set in place by George H.W. Bush to oil companies rolling over NGO’s and local communities on the road to further fossil fuel dependance.

While the imminent energy crisis is looming in the near future, harvesting more fossil fuels is a mere band-aid solution. As we’ve written about before, and as award-winning energy researchers have proclaimed, the investment in alternative energies is much needed.

In the case of the Arctic and its local communities, not all hope is lost. The implied drilling in the Arctic is still reliant on the discovery of oil reserves that would come from this summers’ exploration. Also, there are still groups and activists such as Greenpeace that are fighting to prevent such an environmental onslaught.  Greenpeace has a convenient webpage devoted to allowing users to contact Shell CEO Peter Voser in protest directly.

Corporations such as Shell will continue to abuse resource extraction unless there is enough of an opposition to inquire about regulations followed, and every new voice only strengthens that opposition.