Shell won approval from the U.S. government for its oil spill response plan for work the Chukchi Sea off the coast of Alaska. Washington said it welcomed the "science-based" approach to oil exploration in the arctic waters, where production levels could reach around 700,000 barrels per day. More than 400 pages of information from Shell and approval from federal agencies charged with ensuring the safety of offshore energy developments, however, did little to discourage environmental groups from waging war.
Shell said it has plans to drill as many as six wells in the Chukchi Sea, a remote region thousands of miles away from the nearest Coast Guard station. The supermajor managed to show the U.S. Interior Department's Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement that it could move ahead safely in the arctic waters. Greenpeace, however, felt differently and managed to occupy the Noble Discoverer drill ship at Port Taranaki in New Zealand before it set off for Alaskan waters.
Changing weather plans are exposing vast unexplored oil and natural gas deposits. Last year, Cairn came up empty handed during its exploration campaign off the coast of Greenland, where the government laid out a 214-page oil spill response plan. Nearly two years and a handful of drilling success stories later, however, the disastrous Deepwater Horizon spill still weighs on the minds of activists concerned about the safety of oil campaigns.
The United States lifted its ban on offshore oil work less than a year after the gulf oil spill. Two years later, Shell laid out a 450-page report complete with schematics and ocean salinity assessments to convince the Obama administration that drilling in areas never drilled before is safe and responsible yet Greenpeace complains some of those plans looks like a child drew them.
The Obama administration has said it's taking an "all-of-the-above" approach to domestic energy. This includes oil exploration campaigns in the arctic as much as it does opening up the eastern coast to wind energy development. On one side of the debate are the energy hawks like the API who say there's no such thing as too much drilling. On the other side of the debate are groups like Greenpeace, who use sensationalism to highlight their case against oil and natural gas development. In the middle, however, lies the "cautious approach" that Interior Secretary Ken Salazar spoke of when highlighting Shell's oil-spill response plan. Just as there's no easy fix to higher gasoline prices, there's no immediate end in sight to the carbon-based economy. Greenpeace only last year decided to go green with its flagship Rainbow Warrior, after all. Instead of tweeting their arrest for burglary in New Zealand, it should instead wage a high-profile campaign for green energy rather than demonstrate against something one federal government, 400 pages of schematics and a team of engineers consider safe.
Sound energy policies are pragmatic energy polices. There's no good way to protest your way to a carbon-free economy.
By. Daniel J. Graeber of Oilprice.com