By Ashley Boreckyi.
Despite the risk of severely endangering marine life and destroying the environment, oil corporations have sadly been given the green light to expand drill sites in the Arctic.
A lawsuit has been filed against the Norwegian government for allowing oil companies such as corporate giant “Statoil” to drill. Statoil is a driving force in the exploration of the new drilling site, planning five to seven drillings this year.
In defending its plans, the company states that “new and significant discoveries are crucial in order to maintain production at the current level to 2030 and beyond.”
However the US Geological Survey estimates that only around 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil exists in the area, which at our current rate of consumption is only about three years’ worth. This is a pitiful amount of oil to be risking significant and irreversible damage to the environment and wildlife.
The Barents Sea in the Arctic Ocean is home to various marine life including fish, seals and seventeen different species of whale, including 90% of the world’s Narwhal population. These gentle giants dubbed the ‘unicorns of the sea’, number only around 75,000 and are dangerously close to being classified as a threatened species. Drilling in the area adds another potential threat to their already fragile existence.
Protests against oil drilling are not new. So why has there been such a huge public backlash this time? It boils down to a number of components, which have been simmering for some time and make up one very explosive recipe.
The first is the environment itself. The Arctic’s extreme weather, freezing temperatures and the presence of moving sea ice severely increase the risks of oil drilling, making it near impossible to clean up any oil spill that may occur. Temperatures are some of the coldest anywhere on earth and any oil that spills into the ocean runs the risk of being frozen under ice, making it impossible to remove and contaminating the surrounding waters. The result being numerous species of fish, whales and sea birds would severely suffer.
Secondly, there is a high likelihood of a spill occurring. The harsh conditions and ill-preparedness of the oil industry to deal with the risks and consequences of arctic drilling make a spill almost inevitable. The Exxon Valdez tanker spill – where twenty-five years on the region is still affected – is a pertinent example. Local populations of otters were severely harmed, the fragile orca population likely will never recover and there is still spilled oil remaining on land.
As a senior official from a Canadian firm specialising in oil-spill response warns, “There really is no solution or method today that we’re aware of that can actually recover spilled oil from the Arctic.”
The Arctic is also one of the areas most affected by global warming. With so many damning assessments of the situation, it is ludicrous the industry and the government would go ahead with this disastrous plan.
Please urge Norway, one of the most ecofriendly nations on earth, to do the right thing and not allow corporations like Statoil to drill in the precious Arctic. You can email the Norwegian Minister for Climate and the Environment with a firm but polite request here: [email protected]