Arctic Drilling and Tar Sands: Two Faces of Extreme Oil Extraction – Greenpeace


Blog post by Mark Worthing at The Witness, Greenpeace USA

If you thought that British Petroleum’s oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico was a horrific disaster, imagine that under meters of ice in waters only navigable for four months of the year. Imagine that where the temperatures would send hell through an ice age. Imagine that 70 kilometers from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

But where the devil is afraid to go, Royal Dutch Shell is not.  And neither is Greenpeace.

We see the drive to drill for oil in the Arctic as yet another great leap backwards in to our dark cultural addiction to fossil fuels.  It is this irrational desperation that has led us to scraping the bottom of the ocean at the end of earth’s habitable and inhabitable reaches – the high arctic.

As a Canadian I am familiar with this desperation. The Alberta Tar Sands pushes the envelop in it’s own way. It’s another example of extreme-extraction methods that the oil producers of this world are willing to do in order to maintain an industrial status quo that is hooked on risky behavior.

4 years ago I took action to stop this risky behavior at Shell Canada’s Albion Tar Sands open pit mine. I suppose we drew a line in the sand when we shut down the operation for 31 hours. We were protesting the destruction of the largest remaining Boreal forest that Shell, and others, is carelessly carving off the surface of the earth to expose the sandy tar-like petroleum product called bitumen.

It is Bitumen that they hope to refine and pipe 1100 kilometers across the territory of many unwilling indigenous populations of British Columbia via Enbridge’s Northern Gateway pipeline project. Ultimately crude oil super tankers will endanger the Central Coast of British Columbia, where I live, to carry this dirty oil to the markets in Asia. By taking action, I suppose I was drawing a line in the sand.

I now find myself in the Gulf of Alaska aboard the MV Esperanza. The ship is heading to the Arctic where we’ll shine a spotlight on who and what Shell puts at risk as it begins to drill in the Alaskan Arctic. There we’ll add our voice to millions of others. Enough is enough. The age of oil is over.  It’s time to draw a line in the ice.



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