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.
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Without wanting to go in depth on a massive 289-page report, a few themes jump out.
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?
The FT’s Lex published a column on Friday on the Vedanta/Cairn Energy deal:
Anil Agarwal has never lacked ambition. So while his Vedanta Resources’ pursuit of a controlling stake in Bombay-listed Cairn India, 62 per cent controlled by London-listed Cairn Energy, was unexpected, it should not have been too surprising. Details of the approach by the London-listed and India-centred Vedanta are sketchy, but India’s largest onshore oilfield is the sort of thing that would appeal to the billionaire.
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Following Bloomberg’s story on Thursday morning that Vedanta Resources is in talks “to purchase assets or take a multibillion-dollar equity stake in Cairn Energy Plc, a UK oil and gas exploration company”, Cairn confirmed the following:
The board of Cairn Energy PLC (“Cairn”) notes the media speculation and confirms that discussions are taking place with a third party in respect of the disposal of an interest in Cairn India Limited.
The full statement is on the company’s website.