Shell capitalises on climate change

For Royal Dutch Shell, the melting of ice sheets in the Arctic seas, driven by man-made climate change, is just another opportunity to be exploited. The company has lucrative plans to drill in the Arctic's Chukchi Sea this summer.

The US government has given the go ahead for Shell to resume exploratory Arctic drilling operations for the first time since 2012 when its tow boat lost control of the ‘Kulluk’ rig due to a failure of the towing equipment, threatening an oil spill. The rig settled off the shore of an uninhabited Alaskan island. The incident happened as the rig was being removed at the end of the drilling season. An incident similar to BP's Deep Water Horizon disaster would be much more catastrophic in the Arctic if it could not be stopped before the close of the season when the sea refreezes.

On 14 May the first of two oil rigs moved into Terminal 5 of the Port of Seattle despite widespread opposition. Hundreds of environmental activists in kayaks and other vessels attempted to block the rig, but were prevented from doing so by a police ‘safety cordon’. Shell and the port’s owners, Foss Maritime, ignored the late objection of Seattle's Mayor, Ed Murray, to the project. Murray announced on 4 May that the port did not have the correct permit to host the rigs. Without the correct permit, both Shell and Foss Maritime face a fine which can rise to a maximum of $500 a day. This is an insignificant amount to a megacorporation like Shell who, according to an estimate by the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, could produce as much as 4.3 billion barrels of oil from the area. While the two year contract with Foss Maritime is worth $13m, the total fine is merely a small added operational cost in the lucrative oil industry. Both companies are appealing the decision.

The Arctic has become the new frontier for the imperialist oil grab - a characteristic of the energy crisis linked to the capitalist economic crisis. In the short-sighted rush for profits, climate change and habitat destruction are of little concern.

Cal Shaw


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