News / Europe

Oil Giants Eye Arctic Reserves

Henry Ridgwell
As oil giant Shell calls a temporary halt to its exploration activities in the Arctic because of concerns over safety, lawmakers in Britain are urging international governments to seek a moratorium on offshore drilling in the region.  Environmentalists say an oil spill could cause catastrophic, irreversible damage.  But with global energy demands set to rise, some say it’s time to look at such ‘unconventional resources.’ 

Last winter in the Arctic, the Russian tanker ‘Renda’ carved its way to the remote Alaskan port of Nome.

Not long ago this voyage - made in December and January - would have been impossible.  The warming climate means thinner ice.  More and more vessels are plying these routes year-round.  Many of them are involved in the search for oil and gas.  The U.S. Geological Survey estimates there are 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil beneath the United States' Arctic waters alone.

Oil giants, including state-owned Russian firm Rosneft and Royal Dutch Shell, have already spent billions of dollars prospecting for hydrocarbons.

But Glada Lahn from the policy institute Chatham House, says climate change can create problems as well as opportunities.

“With the warming temperatures in the Arctic, the frequency of ice breaking off, that speeds up and so you perhaps have more icebergs in the way of operations," said Lahn. "The other problem is increasing severity of storms and as the ice retreats from the coastlines, there’s more chance of larger waves leading to coastal erosion and damage to infrastructure.”

Corporate video animations posted on the Internet by Shell illustrate the company’s drilling activities in the Arctic.  Shell has abandoned its Arctic exploration until after the coming winter, citing the failure of a key piece of safety equipment.

According to analyst Glada Lahn, safety will be the key to any successful oil exploration in the Arctic.

“It’s been more difficult in the U.S. and Canada.  The memories of Deepwater Horizon, and even before that Exxon Valdez, are still fresh in people’s minds, and so there’s been a lot more public scrutiny of the companies’ spill response plans, for instance,” said Lahn.

VOA did approach Shell for an interview but the company said no one was available.

After political problems appeared to have derailed the deal, it appears a joint venture between Rosneft and BP to drill in the Arctic could be back on.

But not all oil giants are joining the rush.  The CEO of the French firm Total recently said “a leak would do too much damage to the image of the company.”

This handout photo taken by Greenpeace on August 25, 2012 shows Greenpeace activists holding a banner in front of the Gazprom 'Prirazlomnaya' oil drilling platform during their protest in the Barents Sea as the Gazprom support boat secures the area.This handout photo taken by Greenpeace on August 25, 2012 shows Greenpeace activists holding a banner in front of the Gazprom 'Prirazlomnaya' oil drilling platform during their protest in the Barents Sea as the Gazprom support boat secures the area.
x
This handout photo taken by Greenpeace on August 25, 2012 shows Greenpeace activists holding a banner in front of the Gazprom 'Prirazlomnaya' oil drilling platform during their protest in the Barents Sea as the Gazprom support boat secures the area.
This handout photo taken by Greenpeace on August 25, 2012 shows Greenpeace activists holding a banner in front of the Gazprom 'Prirazlomnaya' oil drilling platform during their protest in the Barents Sea as the Gazprom support boat secures the area.
In August activists from the environmental group "Greenpeace" chained themselves to a Russian ship working from Gazprom’s Prirazlomnaya rig in the Barents Sea.

"This is a peaceful attempt by us as Greenpeace to try to bring some sanity and some urgency, to get Gazprom, Shell, and other companies that are thinking about drilling in the Arctic to stop, to reconsider and understand the consequences of that action that will destroy our children's and grandchildren's future," said  Greenpeace Executive Director Kumi Naidoo.

Scientists warn that a big oil spill in the Arctic would remain for decades in a kind of ‘ice-and-oil sandwich.’

Nevertheless oil companies like Shell say it will be necessary in the coming decades to look at unconventional resources such as the Arctic.

Environmental campaigners say that in such a pristine environment, the risks are simply too high.

You May Like

Beloved Lion Killing Sparks Virtual, Real Life Outrage

Twitter, as usual, was epicenter for anger directed at Palmer, with some questioning his manhood, calling for him to be released into the wild More

Video Booming London Property Market a Haven for Dirty Money

Billions of dollars from proceeds of crime, especially from Russia, being laundered through London property market, according to anti-corruption activists More

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

One former Scout leader thinks organization will move past political, social debate, get back to its primary focus of turning boys into good citizens More

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’i
X
July 29, 2015 9:34 PM
Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Booming London Property a ‘Haven for Dirty Money’

Billions of dollars of so-called ‘dirty money’ from the proceeds of crime - especially from Russia - are being laundered through the London property market, according to anti-corruption activists. As Henry Ridgwell reports from the British capital, the government has pledged to crack down on the practice.
Video

Video Scouts' Decision on Gays Meets Acceptance in Founder's Hometown

Ottawa, Illinois, is the hometown of W.D. Boyce, who founded the Boy Scouts of America in 1910. In Ottawa, where Scouting remains an important part of the legacy of the community, the end of the organization's ban on openly gay adult leaders was seen as inevitable. VOA's Kane Farabaugh reports.
Video

Video 'Metal Muscles' Flex a New Bionic Hand

Artificial limbs, including the most complex of them – the human hand – are getting more life-like and useful due to constant advances in tiny hydraulic, pneumatic and electric motors called actuators. But now, as VOA’s George Putic reports, scientists in Germany say the future of the prosthetic hand may lie not in motors but in wires that can ‘remember’ their shape.
Video

Video Russia Accused of Abusing Interpol to Pursue Opponents

A British pro-democracy group has accused Russia of abusing the global law enforcement agency Interpol by requesting the arrest and extradition of political opponents. A new report by the group notes such requests can mean the accused are unable to travel and are often unable to open bank accounts. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video 'Positive Atmosphere' Points Toward TPP Trade Deal in Hawaii

Talks on a major new trade agreement among 12 Pacific Rim nations are said to be nearing completion in Hawaii. Some trade experts say the "positive atmosphere" at the discussions could mean a deal is within reach, but there is still hard bargaining to be done over many issues and products, including U.S. drugs and Japanese rice. VOA's Jim Randle reports.
Video

Video Genome Initiative Urgently Moves to Freeze DNA Before Species Go Extinct

Earth is in the midst of its sixth mass extinction. The last such event was caused by an asteroid 66 million years ago. It killed off the dinosaurs and practically everything else. So scientists are in a race against time to classify the estimated 11 million species alive today. So far only 2 million are described by science, and researchers are worried many will disappear before they even have a name. VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports.
Video

Video Scientists: One-Dose Malaria Cure is Possible

Scientists have long been trying to develop an effective protection and cure for malaria - one of the deadliest diseases that affects people in tropical areas, especially children. As the World Health Organization announces plans to begin clinical trials of a promising new vaccine, scientists in South Africa report that they too are at an important threshold. George Putic reports, they are testing a compound that could be a single-dose cure for malaria.
Video

Video 'New York' Magazine Features 35 Cosby Accusers

The latest issue of 'New York' magazine features 35 women who say they were drugged and raped by film and television celebrity Bill Cosby. The women are aged from 44 to 80 and come from different walks of life and races. The magazine interviewed each of them separately, but Zlatica Hoke reports their stories are similar.
Video

Video US Calls Fight Against Human Trafficking a Must Win

The United States is promising not to give up its fight against what Secretary of State John Kerry calls the “scourge” of modern slavery. Officials released the country’s annual human trafficking report Monday – a report that’s being met with some criticism. VOA’s National Security correspondent Jeff Seldin has more from the State Department.
Video

Video Washington DC Underground Streetcar Station to Become Arts Venue

Abandoned more than 50 years ago, the underground streetcar station in Washington D.C.’s historic DuPont Circle district is about to be reborn. The plan calls for turning the spacious underground platforms - once meant to be a transportation hub, - into a unique space for art exhibitions, presentations, concerts and even a film set. Roman Mamonov has more from beneath the streets of the U.S. capital. Joy Wagner narrates his report.
Video

Video Europe’s Twin Crises Collide in Greece as Migrant Numbers Soar

Greece has replaced Italy as the main gateway for migrants into Europe, with more than 100,000 arrivals in the first six months of 2015. Many want to move further into Europe and escape Greece’s economic crisis, but they face widespread dangers on the journey overland through the Balkans. VOA's Henry Ridgwell reports.
Video

Video Stink Intensifies as Lebanon’s Trash Crisis Continues

After the closure of a major rubbish dump a week ago, the streets of Beirut are filling up with trash. Having failed to draw up a plan B, politicians are struggling to deal with the problem. John Owens has more for VOA from Beirut.
Video

Video Paris Rolls Out Blueprint to Fight Climate Change

A U.N. climate conference in December aims to produce an ambitious agreement to fight heat-trapping greenhouse gases. But many local governments are not waiting, and have drafted their own climate action plans. That’s the case with Paris — which is getting special attention, since it’s hosting the climate summit. Lisa Bryant takes a look for VOA at the transformation of the French capital into an eco-city.
Video

Video Racially Diverse Spider-Man Takes Center Stage

Whether it’s in a comic book or on the big screen, fans have always known the man behind the Spider-Man mask as Peter Parker. But that is changing, at least in the comic book world. Marvel Comics announced that a character called Miles Morales will replace Peter Parker as Spider-Man in a new comic book series. He is half Latino, half African American, and he is quite popular among comic book fans. Correspondent Elizabeth Lee reports from Los Angeles.
Video

Video Historic Symbol Is Theme of Vibrant New Show

A new exhibit in Washington is paying tribute to the American flag with a wide and eclectic selection of artwork that uses the historic symbol as its central theme. VOA’s Julie Taboh was at the DC Chamber of Commerce for the show’s opening.

VOA Blogs