Photo by Felix Clay / Greenpeace
It’s not often that you meet a life size polar bear on your way into work but that is what greeted staff at Cairn Energy in Edinburgh this morning. The Scottish oil and explorer is being targeted by Greenpeace as part of an ongoing campaign to stop the company from exploring in the waters of the Arctic off Greenland.
Several activists – along with the bear – blockaded the entrance to Cairn’s office. Earlier in the day, Geenpeace along with other environment organisations WWF and Friends of the Earth wrote to Sir Bill Gammell, Cairn’s CEO, demanding he publishes the company’s emergency response plan to any incident or accident in the Arctic. Activists from the group scaled one of the rigs Cairn was using last year in Greenland and managed to stop work there for a bit.
Wikileaks has an impeccable sense of timing. As Hilary Clinton meets counterparts from Arctic nations in Greenland to talk about oil, the whistle blowing website publishes a raft of cables showing just how much international tension the country’s natural resources have provoked.
The cables make for fascinating reading, and tell a tale of US perceptions of Russian paranoia and aggression in the territory. They claim:
In this week’s readers’ Q&A session, Michael Bromwich, director of the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement, answers your questions.
In this second post, he discusses the reliability of blowout preventers (BOPs), the future of drilling in Alaska, and whether commercial concerns dictate his decision making.
Earlier, he talked about how his organisation balances safety concerns with political ones, what technological improvements have been made since the BP oil spill and whether new regulations on BOPs will delay the issue of new permits.
Next week, Steve Cunningham, chief executive of Landis+Gyr, the world’s biggest smart meter maker, will be in the hotseat. Email your questions to email@example.com by the end of Sunday, April 17th.
But for now, over to Michael:
While Royal Dutch Shell waits to hear from the US government on whether it will be permitted to drill in Alaska next year, environmentalists are stepping up their campaign for a “no” vote.
The Pew Environment Group is the latest to speak out against drilling in the arctic. It has released the most comprehensive analysis done on the challenges to preventing and containing spills in the area. Highlights include noting that darkness, extreme weather and shifting sea ice could delay efforts to stop an oil blowout in the US Arctic Ocean for six months or more.
Cairn Energy has been forced to suspend its operations on one of its rigs in the Arctic after four Greenpeace campaigners scaled the rig early on Tuesday morning in a bid to stall oil drilling in the region.
The UK oil and gas explorer has plans to drill four wells in the waters of Baffin Bay Basin, off Greenland’s west coast, but the recent BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has raised fears over the risks of offshore drilling.
Cairn announced last week that its first well had shown evidence of hydrocarbons.
A Greenpeace ship, the Esperanza, has been in a stand-off with the Danish navy off Greenland for the past few days. Many environmentalists argue that Arctic drilling is fraught with risks, from drifting icebergs to hostile weather, but as oil companies scramble to find new reserves around the world to meet demand its reserves have caught they eye of the industry.
Nothing like the words “Arctic” and “oil drilling” to get the environmental campaigners excited.
Add banks to the mix, and you have the perfect mix for a modern day witch-hunt.
The latest targets are Cairn Energy and the Royal Bank of Scotland. In a joint press release, PLATFORM, Friends of the Earth Scotland and the World Development Movement on Tuesday said they “condemn [the] link between public money and Cairn’s Arctic drilling – RBS provided loan to oil company one month before it acquired rig for arctic drilling.”
The amount in question is a reported $100m lent by RBS – majority owned by UK taxpayers – last December.
The (first) problem with their point, however, is that RBS is a corporate broker to Cairn -so the $100m is likely to be just a fraction of the total it lent to the oil company last year. There seems to be no evidence to show that this particular $100m and the Arctic drilling are linked.
Secondly, the environmentalists’ outrage at taxpayer money financing oil drilling bizarrely stops with the Arctic. Drilling in Rajasthan – where Cairn in fact gets most of its oil – doesn’t seem to be a problem. Yet why is it less acceptable to drill near barely-populated frozen landmass than in the middle of India, where actual people may be affected by the drilling operations?
Maybe because polar bears are much cuter than people?