I recently got, as my husband would say, “all hippie” and joined hundreds of residents of my current hometown at a city council meeting to oppose drilling for oil off our coast. We were successful and our council unanimously agreed that it’s a bad idea. But this is just a small town passing a “resolution” that they disagree with the idea; the problem is that the idea is coming from a ‘big’ town – Washington, D.C.
Federal law CAN be swayed by public outcry, but it seems the years of ‘outcrying’ against “big oil” (in the form of petitions, rallies, legal opposition) is not loud enough yet; while we were still basking in our local success, news broke that the Obama administration greenlighted Royal Dutch Shell Plc. to start drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast in the Chukchi Sea.
I promised these posts would be quick and dirty – we all know oil is dirty, so it’s just on me to ensure this is quick.
With that in mind, I won’t even get into the hazards to marine life (to include fish, mammals, birds, endangered species, and everything else that drilling disrupts and that a spill will destroy) or the environmental injustice being served to the Inupiat people whose lives depend on the survival of this ecosystem and whose people have been divided by the prospect of financial support in exchange for support of drilling. Not getting into it (psst: click here or here or here if you want to get into it).
I also won’t get into “proved reserves” (the catalyst for oil companies to find oil to keep their stock prices up), or the fact that Dutch Shell’s previous attempt in 2012 was halted when its main drilling rig ran aground and was declared a “total loss” after a risky voyage (made during insane weather conditions to avoid a large tax Alaska could’ve imposed if the vessel had stayed longer); or one of its subcontracted vessel’s 8 felony charges including major safety and pollution violations; or one of its tugboat’s numerous unreported system failures. Not getting into it (psst: click here for a great NYT article that really gets into it).
I will get into this: oil drilling is stupid. There are smarter ways to harness energy – we all know it and we have the intellect to delve into them. “We” do – but dirty oil and gas’s shareholders, stakeholders, executives and lobbyists will not stand for clean energy – all their major investments are still in oil and they need to reap what they’ve sowed.
The only thing stopping a complete overhaul of our energy research and development is politics, read: money. Oil and gas lobbyists have greased up our politicians for years – on both sides of the aisle.
According to Audubon Alaska, producing and burning reserves projected in the Arctic could release 15.8 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere – equivalent to the CO2 released by all forms of transportation in the US over 9 years.
Bill McKibben (the man behind 350.org and “Do the Math”) publicized in 2012 that we can emit 565 more gigatons of carbon dioxide and still stay below the 2 degrees Celsius of warming that the earth can manage before we reach a tipping point and shit gets real (not that all the heatwaves, hurricanes, fires and droughts we’re already experiencing aren’t real enough for most of us!).
BUT, burning the fossil fuels currently in reserves by corporations would emit 2,795 gigatons of carbon dioxide (just a tad over 565, wouldn’t you say?). Bottom line, the reserves the corporations already hold need to stay underground and drilling for even more is just insanity!
With all the emphasis being placed on math in our public schools, I’m counting on the next generations to be a little better at it.
Seriously good reads here: