Sea ice in the Arctic Circle is currently melting at a pace far greater than scientists had originally projected. While this is bad news for the planet — sea ice helps reflect the sun’s rays and keeps the arctic cooler — it has created new paths for the oil industry to exploit the resources hidden deep under the icy water.
Drilling activities in the Arctic have currently stalled, but this stall isn’t going to last forever. The Arctic is estimated to hold about 13% of the world’s oil reserves, and at least one-third of the total oil within U.S. territory. This means that the oil companies don’t need to worry with drilling on foreign lands or about the prospect of not hitting a massive payday. They will return.
That’s the problem – they will return. According to a new report by the National Research Council, that is a very scary scenario for both the climate and the environment. The report says that increased drilling and the placement of oil pipelines make oil spills a question of “when,” not “if.”
The report lays out two very specific themes with regards to Arctic drilling. The first is that there is no discernable oil spill response plan, and the second is that the history of oil companies tells us with great certainty that there will be a massive spill as a result of the increased activity in the region.