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

Multimedia Obama Defends Immigration Action

Obama says with his executive action on immigration, enforcement resources will be focused on 'felons, not families; criminals, not children' More

US-Led Airstrikes in Syria Kill Over 900: Monitoring Group

British-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights says the toll includes more than 50 civilians, five of them women and eight of them children More

Report: Obama Broadens US Combat Role in Afghanistan

The New York Times says resident Barack Obama has signed a classified order extending the role of US troops in Afghanistan for another year 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.
New Skateboard Defies Gravityi
X
November 21, 2014 5:07 AM
A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video New Skateboard Defies Gravity

A futuristic dream only a couple of decades ago, the hoverboard – a skateboard that floats above the ground - has finally been made possible. While still not ready for mass production, it promises to become a cool mode of transport... at least over some surfaces. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Impact US Oil Extraction

With the price of oil now less than $80 a barrel, motorists throughout the United States are benefiting from gas prices below $3 a gallon. But as VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports, the decreasing price of petroleum has a downside for the hydraulic fracturing industry in the United States.
Video

Video Tensions Build on Korean Peninsula Amid Military Drills

It has been another tense week on the Korean peninsula as Pyongyang threatened to again test nuclear weapons while the U.S. and South Korean forces held joint military exercises in a show of force. VOA’s Brian Padden reports from the Kunsan Air Base in South Korea.
Video

Video Mama Sarah Obama Honored at UN Women’s Entrepreneurship Day

President Barack Obama's step-grandmother is in the United States to raise money to build a $12 million school and hospital center in Kogelo, Kenya, the birthplace of the president's father, Barack Obama, Sr. She was honored for her decades of work to aid poor Kenyans at a Women's Entrepreneurship Day at the United Nations.
Video

Video Gay Evangelicals Argue That Bible Does Not Condemn Homosexuality

More than 30 U.S. states now recognize same-sex marriages, and an increasing number of mainline American churches are blessing them. But evangelical church members- which account for around 30 percent of the U.S. adult population - believe the Bible unequivocally condemns homosexuality. VOA's Jerome Socolovsky reports that gay, lesbian, bisexual and transgender evangelicals are coming out. Backed by a prominent evangelical scholar, they argue that the traditional reading of the bible is wrong.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.

All About America

AppleAndroid