On today’s podcast, I brought on one of SUFB’s volunteers to discuss Shell indefinitely postponing its plans to drill for oil in the Arctic. Within the past two weeks, Shell announced that it would cease all of its operations in the Arctic region. Over the past few years, the company has spent an estimated $7 billion searching for oil off the coast of Alaska. Though the reasoning behind it seems to be a “cut your losses” kind of idea, spending that amount of money and coming up with nothing is a huge blow to Shell and the industry.
As Nate and I discussed in the podcast, it was most likely a combination of factors that ultimately led to this decision. The company’s statements claim that the economic climate and the regulations they faced were the primary drivers for this move. However, the backlash from the environmental community seemed to play a role as well. All of these scenarios just made it more trouble than it was worth for Shell to drill for oil up north.
This doesn’t necessarily represent an end to Arctic drilling, though. Five or ten years from now, if oil prices rebound, regulations lessen, or the environmental community puts up less opposition, oil companies including Shell will most likely revive these Arctic drilling operations. And the interesting thing about this issue is that while it’s a huge win for earth’s climate and natural resources, it’s an immense loss for the local Alaska economies that rely on oil and gas money for jobs and funding. As Nate mentioned, it’s the epitome of the entire environmental sustainability vs. economic growth argument.
Whether you agree that the two are mutually exclusive or not, sometimes tradeoffs do need to be made and a decision for one can have negative consequences for the other. And while many of these large oil and gas companies may ultimately shift towards more sustainable products, such as wind or solar energy, we probably won’t see much progress in the next few years. Therefore, we need to remain as vocal as possible about the detrimental impacts of drilling for oil in the Arctic Ocean. It’s a temporary solution to the energy crisis with very possible, permanent, and damaging side effects.
More about Nathan Johnson
Nathan Johnson is a Texas A&M graduate with a Master’s in Marine Biology who currently works for a small environmental nonprofit down in Galveston and helps out with the SUFB podcasts and blogs. He had done some reading this past week on the Shell decision, so I thought it’d be good to bring him in and get another perspective besides my own on the issue.