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

Katrina Brought Enduring Changes to New Orleans

The city’s recovery is the result of the people and culture the city is famous for, as well as newcomers and start-up industries More

China to Open Stock Markets to Pension Funds

In unprecedented move, government to soon allow local pension funds to invest up to $94 billion in domestic shares More

Magical Photo Slides Show Native Americans in Late 1800s

Walter McClintock spent 20 years photographing the Blackfoot Indians and their vanishing culture at the dawn of the modern age 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.
Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalatesi
X
August 27, 2015 2:08 AM
Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Colombians Flee Venezuela as Border Crisis Escalates

Hundreds of Colombians have fled Venezuela since last week, amid an escalating border crisis between the two countries. Last week, Venezuelan President Nicolas Maduro ordered the closure of a key border crossing after smugglers injured three Venezuelan soldiers and a civilian. The president also ordered the deportation of Colombians who are in Venezuela illegally. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Is China's Economic Data Accurate?

Some investors say China's wild stock market gyrations have been made worse by worries about the reliability of that nation's economic data. And some critics say the reports can mislead investors by painting an unrealistically-strong picture of the economy. A key China scholar says Beijing is not fudging ((manipulating)) the numbers, but that the economy is evolving quickly from smoke-stack industries to services, and the ways of tracking new economic activity are falling behind the change. V
Video

Video Next to Iran, Climate at Forefront of Obama Agenda

President Barack Obama this week announced new initiatives aimed at making it easier for Americans to access renewable energy sources such as solar and wind. Obama is not slowing down when it comes to pushing through climate change measures, an issue he says is the greatest threat to the country’s national security. VOA correspondent Aru Pande has more from the White House.
Video

Video Shipping Containers Provide Experimental Housing

Housing prices around the San Francisco Bay area are out of reach for many people, so some young entrepreneurs, artists and tech industry workers are creating their own houses using converted shipping containers. But as VOA's Mike O’Sullivan reports from Oakland, the effort requires ingenuity and dealing with restrictive local laws.
Video

Video Arctic Draws International Competition for Oil

A new geopolitical “Great Game” is underway in earth’s northernmost region, the Arctic, where Russia has claimed a large area for resource development and President Barack Obama recently approved Shell Oil Company’s test-drilling project in an area under U.S. control. Greg Flakus reports.
Video

Video Philippine Maritime Police: Chinese Fishermen a Threat to Country’s Security

China and the Philippines both claim maritime rights in the South China Sea.  That includes the right to fish in those waters. Jason Strother reports on how the Philippines is catching Chinese nationals it says are illegal poachers. He has the story from Palawan province.
Video

Video Technique May Eliminate Drill-and-Fill Dental Care

Many people dread visiting dentists because they're afraid of drills. Now, however, a technology developed by a British firm promises to eliminate the need for mechanical cleaning of dental cavities by speeding a natural process of tooth repair. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video China's Spratly Island Building Said to Light Up the Night 'Like A City'

Southeast Asian countries claim China has illegally seized territory in the Spratly islands. It is especially a concern for a Philippine mayor who says Beijing is occupying parts of his municipality. Jason Strother reports from the capital of Palawan province, Puerto Princesa.
Video

Video Ages-old Ice Reveals Secrets of Climate Change

Ice caps don't just exist at the world's poles. There are also tropical ice caps, and the largest sits atop the Peruvian Andes - but it is melting, quickly, and may be gone within the next 20 years. George Putic reports scientists are now rushing to take samples to get at the valuable information about climate change locked in the ice.
Video

Video French Experiment in Integrating Roma Under Threat

Plans to destroy France’s oldest slum have sparked an outcry on the part of its Roma residents. As Lisa Bryant reports from the Paris suburb of La Courneuve, rights groups argue the community is a fledgling experiment on integrating Roma who are often outcasts in many parts of Europe.
Video

Video Kenyans Turn to Agriculture for Business

Each year Kenyan universities continue to churn out graduates for the job market despite the already existing high rate of unemployment among youth in the country. Some of these young men and women have realized that agriculture can be as rewarding as any other business or job, and they are resorting to agribusiness in large numbers as a way of tackling unemployment. Rael Ombuor reports for VOA.
Video

Video First Women Graduate Elite Army Ranger School

Two women are making history for the U.S. Army by proving they are among the toughest of the tough. VOA's Carla Babb reports from Fort Benning, Georgia as 94 men and those two women rise as graduates of the difficult Ranger school.

VOA Blogs