News / Europe

Greens Oppose Russia's Arctic Energy Plans

A drilling rig at the Val Gamburtseva oil fields in Russia's Arctic Far North (File)
A drilling rig at the Val Gamburtseva oil fields in Russia's Arctic Far North (File)
James Brooke

After last summer's oil spill in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, environmentalists are increasingly alarmed by Russia's massive oil and gas drilling plans for the Arctic.

While the Antarctic increasingly looks like a science and tourism park, the Arctic may increasingly look like an industrial park.

Russia already draws almost one quarter of its exports from the Arctic.  Now, President Dmitry Medvedev has set a goal of making the Arctic Russia's 'top strategic resource base" by 2020.

To get there, Russia is embarking on $50 billion worth of Arctic energy projects - oil and gas drilling platforms, oil shipping terminals and liquefied natural gas plants.  But after last summer's massive offshore oil spill in the warm waters of the Gulf of Mexico, environmentalists are asking Russia to take time to improve safety and pollution controls in its far north.  

The executive director of the American environmental group Pacific Environment, David Gordon, talked at a recent Arctic conference in Moscow.

"We need to make sure we have the safety measures in place before we allow Arctic drilling to move forward," said Gordon.

In the event of an Arctic spill, he said, the dark winters, the extreme cold weather and the long distances from population centers would make cleanup operations much harder than the efforts last summer in the Gulf of Mexico.

"The numbers for the Gulf spill and the response to it are just staggering - 25,000 people responded to it, 3,800 vessels responded to it," Gordon said.  "They used 10 million feet of boom.  And none of that is available in the Arctic."

Russian PM Vladimir Putin at a Cabinet meeting in Moscow, 25 Oct 2010
Russian PM Vladimir Putin at a Cabinet meeting in Moscow, 25 Oct 2010

Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, a frequent visitor to Russia's polar regions, promised at the Arctic conference that "not a single industrial project in the Russian Arctic will be implemented without due consideration for the most stringent environmental requirements."

Noting the Arctic will soon become a major energy source and  transportation corridor, he warned, "An irresponsible attitude towards the Arctic could spell global problems, rather than global advantages, in the near future."

A few days later, he signed five new Arctic oil and gas offshore drilling licenses.  

At the conference, Vladimir Mulyak, a vice president of Russia's privately owned Lukoil oil company, said the BP spill was a clear warning for energy companies working in the Arctic.

Arctic drillers, he said, would pay more attention to pollution controls and to duplicating safety systems.  This would make projects more expensive, but Mulyak predicted Lukoil's Arctic projects will remain profitable.

On December 2, Lukoil is expected to bid for rights to exploit two Russian Arctic fields that are believed to hold about two-billion barrels of oil.  Last year, Lukoil built an Arctic terminal capable of pumping half a million barrels a day into oil tankers built with especially thick, ice resistant hulls.

Twenty one years ago, the massive Exxon Valdez oil spill in Alaska set an earlier generation of American environmentalists against energy production in the Arctic.  The WWF vice president for Marine and Arctic policy, Bill Eichbaum spoke at the conference in Moscow.

An April 1989 file photo of a bird being examined on an island in Prince William Sound, Alaska, after getting soaked in oil as a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska
An April 1989 file photo of a bird being examined on an island in Prince William Sound, Alaska, after getting soaked in oil as a result of the Exxon Valdez oil spill off Alaska

"The Arctic environment would be very severely impacted as compared with the Gulf," he said.  "A year and a half ago we commemorated the 20th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez spill, and I had rocks on my desk that had been dug up near the anniversary of the spill that were still covered with oil."

Most of the Arctic oil and gas reserves are believed to be in the relatively shallow waters of the continental shelf.  But WWF's Eichbaum was not moved.

"Those conditions will be even more hazardous in the Arctic.  Even if it is not deep water, it is hazardous water," said Eichbaum.

But the United States Geological Survey estimates that one quarter of the planet's undiscovered oil and gas reserves are in the Arctic.  To many attendees at the conference, exploitation of these reserves was not a question of "if", but a question of "how" and of "when."

You May Like

UN: 1 Million Somalis at Risk of Hunger

Group warns region is in dire need of humanitarian aid, with at least 200,000 children under age of five acutely malnourished as drought hits southern, central part of nation More

Human Rights Groups Allege Supression of Freedoms in Thailand

Thailand’s military, police have suppressed release of independent report assessing human rights in kingdom during first 100 days of latest coup More

Jennifer Lawrence Contacts FBI After Nude Photos Hacked

'Silver Linings Playbook' actress' photos were posted on image-sharing forum 4chan; Federal Bureau of Investigations is looking into matter More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forcesi
X
September 02, 2014 12:58 PM
A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video Ukraine Schools Resume Classes, Donate to Government Forces

A new school year has started in Ukraine but thousands of children in the war-torn east are unable to attend because of ongoing clashes with pro-Russia rebels. In Ukraine's capital, patriotic education has become the norm along with donations to support injured security forces fighting to take back rebel-held areas. VOA's Daniel Schearf reports from Kyiv.
Video

Video US Detainees Want Negotiators for Freedom in North Korea

The three U.S. detainees held in North Korea were permitted to speak with foreign media Monday. The government of Kim Jong Un restricted the topics of the questions, and the interviews in Pyongyang were limited to five minutes. Each of the men asked Washington to send a representative to Pyongyang to secure his release. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti has our story.
Video

Video Internet, Technology Offer New Tools for Journalists

The Internet and rapidly evolving technology is quickly changing how people receive news and how journalists deliver it. There are now more ways to tell a story than ever before. One school in Los Angeles is teaching the next generation of journalists with the help of a state-of-the-art newsroom. Elizabeth Lee has this report.
Video

Video Turkmen From Amerli Describe Survival of IS Siege

Over the past few weeks, hundreds of Shi'ite Turkmen have fled the town of Amerli seeking refuge in the northern city of Kirkuk. Despite recent military gains after U.S. airstrikes that were coordinated with Iraqi and Kurdish forces, the situation remains dire for Amerli’s residents. Sebastian Meyer went to Kirkuk for VOA to speak to those who managed to escape.
Video

Video West Africa Ebola Vaccine Trials Possible by Early 2015

A U.S. health agency is speeding up clinical trials of a possible vaccine against the deadly Ebola virus that so far has killed more than 1,500 people in West Africa. If successful, the next step would be a larger trial in countries where the outbreak is occurring. VOA's Carol Pearson has more.
Video

Video Survivors Commemorate 70th Anniversary of Nazi Liquidation of Jewish Ghetto

When the German Nazi army occupied the Polish city of Lodz in 1939, it marked the beginning of a long nightmare for the Jewish community that once made up one third of the population. Roughly 200,000 people were forced into the Lodz Ghetto. Less than 7,000 survived. As VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, some survivors gathered at the Union League Club in Chicago on the 70th anniversary of the liquidation of the Lodz Ghetto to remember those who suffered at the hands of the Nazi regime.
Video

Video Cost to Raise Child in US Continues to Rise

The cost of raising a child in the United States continues to rise. In its latest annual report, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says middle income families with a child born in 2013 can expect to spend more than $240,000 before that child turns 18. And sending that child to college more than doubles that amount. VOA’s Deborah Block visited with a couple with one child in Alexandria, Virginia, to learn if the report reflects their lifestyle.
Video

Video Chaotic Afghan Vote Recount Threatens Nation’s Future

Afghanistan’s troubled presidential election continues to be rocked by turmoil as an audit of the ballots drags on. The U.N. says the recount will not be completed before September 10. Observers say repeated disputes and delays are threatening the orderly transfer of power and could have dangerous consequences. VOA correspondent Meredith Buel reports.

AppleAndroid