Shell’s Kulluk Rig Grounding Proves Folly of Arctic Oil Drilling, Again

Oil giant Royal Dutch Shell spent a good portion of 2012 defending allegations that the company wasn’t “arctic ready.”  The disaster that occurred with their offshore drilling rig Kulluk on New Year’s Eve only served to prove that the company is not to be trusted.

Tug crews towing the floating Kulluk rig in the Arctic Ocean off the coast of Alaska lost connection with the vessel during a storm on December 31. Kulluk subsequently washed ashore with the waves. The U.S. Coast Guard says that the Shell vessel currently does not appear to be leaking, but it is estimated to have about 150,000 gallons of diesel fuel aboard.

In response to Shell’s failures to safely operate this vessel, as well as their countless failures in recent history, Sierra Club Executive Director Michael Brune issued the following statement

In just one year, Shell has proven over and over again that they are completely incapable of safely drilling in the Arctic. Their ships have caught fire and lost control, they’ve damaged their own spill containment equipment, and they’ve been caught entirely unprepared for the challenges of the Arctic…This is the last straw.  We should judge Shell not by their assurances or their PR tactics, but by their record – and Shell’s record clearly demonstrates that letting them operate in the Arctic is an invitation for disaster.

The Sierra Club is calling on the Obama administration to immediately revoke Shell’s Arctic drilling permits. NRDC, the Wilderness Society and other groups are expected to issue similar requests this week. 

Shell's Arctic Oil Spill Gear "Crushed Like a Beer Can" In Simple Test

Royal Dutch Shell, the massive multinational oil company, badly wants to be ready to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean next summer. This year, the company's plans to begin drilling in the treacherous seas of the Arctic were thwarted by its late start and repeated failures to get even basic oil spill response equipment into place. 

But the full extent of the company's failed attempts to test oil spill response gear was recently revealed by Seattle's NPR radio affiliate KUOW. Shell has faced repeated criticism and regulatory scrutiny over its cavalier attitude towards Arctic drilling, and the KUOW investigation makes clear why Shell is not “Arctic Ready” by a long shot.

Documents obtained by KUOW through FOIA requests indicate that Shell's oil spill response gear failed spectacularly in tests this fall in the relatively tranquil waters of Puget Sound. 

The containment dome - which Shell sought to assure federal regulators would be adequate to cap a blowout in the event of emergency at its Arctic operations - failed miserably in tests.  The dome “breached like a whale” after malfunctioning, and then sank 120 feet. When the crew of the Arctic Challenger recovered the 20-foot-tall containment dome, they found that it had “crushed like a beer can” under pressure.

Climate Skeptic Attacks PBS For Not Reporting Irrelevant Information

Recently, PBS found itself on the wrong side of the climate change discussion, when it chose to air a one-sided, misinformation-laden interview with climate skeptic Anthony Watts. During the interview for PBS’s Newshour, no attempt was made to air a differing opinion from a credible source, leaving Watts’ incorrect statements to be aired unchallenged.

Perhaps in an attempt to “balance” their one-sided interview with Watts, last week Newshour aired a segment titled “Arctic Icecap Shrinks to Record Low Level,” in which Walt Meier from the National Snow and Ice Data Center discussed the implications, dangers, and causes of the Arctic ice melt. These causes and concerns have been documented in studies and articles all across the world, so there is no room for debate on this issue when the facts clearly show that the arctic ice caps are melting at a record.

But apparently for climate skeptics, one one-sided story isn’t enough to keep them happy for very long, and they have now decided to attack PBS for ignoring their talking points about melting polar ice caps.

400 PPM Carbon Dioxide Concentrations Breach The Arctic

There's a saying that trouble comes in threes. Earlier this week, the International Energy Administration announced that emissions reached a record high last year, increasing by 1 Gt worldwide. At the Bonn climate talks, experts have warned that the window to curb a global temperature rise of more than 2 degrees is swiftly drawing to a close.

To cap it off, NOAA released the news that carbon dioxide levels have reached a new milestone this spring, tipping the scales over 400 ppm, a concentration the world hasn't seen in the last 800,000 years.

Scientists are seeing these high concentrations at their northernmost stations in the Arctic. Remote sites measure the gas in Alaska, Canada, Iceland, Finland, Norway, and also an island in the North Pacific, Mauna Loa, which has been recording ambient CO2 concentrations since 1959 (and produced the now-famous Keeling curve).

The global average is still around 395 ppm, but the Arctic is seen as an important indicator for global conditions to come, since it is an ecosystem that is much more sensitive to changing conditions.

The northern sites in our monitoring network tell us what is coming soon to the globe as a whole,” said Pieter Tans, an atmospheric scientist with NOAA’s Earth System Research Laboratory (ESRL) in Boulder, Colo. “We will likely see global average CO2 concentrations reach 400 ppm about 2016.”

American Petroleum Institute's Jack Gerard Fact Checked By Activists During Speech

Guest post by Connor Gibson, cross-posted from Polluterwatch.

Two days ago, President Obama denied the permit for the destructive Keystone XL tar sands pipeline, much to the dismay of Big Oil's top lobbyist and propagandist. Speaking at the National Press Club to an audience dominated by oil, coal and nuclear representatives and lobbyists, American Petroleum Institute (API) president Jack Gerard continued to lash out at President Obama over the pipeline decision. However, activists attending their event fact checked Jack's big oil talking points.

Shortly after asking the president, “what are you thinking?!” a group of activists stood and delivered a call-and-response “fact check” over Gerard's speech – see the full Fact Check video. After the event, PolluterWatch's Connor Gibson approached Jack Gerard on camera and repeatedly asked him how much the American Petroleum Institute (API) is spending on its new “Vote 4 Energy” advertising campaign (which, as Mr. Gerard has absurdly claimed, is “not an advertising campaign”). Jack refused to answer:

Vote 4 Energy, which was mocked by a parody commercial during its public release, is the American Petroleum Institute's newest money dump to pretend that most Americans support politicians who represent Big Oil more than their own constituents. Wrapping its talking points in patriotic rhetoric, API's real intent is to continue getting billions of taxpayer dollars each year to corporations like ExxonMobil, Shell and Chevron, which rank among the most profitable companies in the world

Arctic Starts Annual Melt, Balancing on Thin Ice

Arctic ice has maxed out for the year and is starting its slow melt into summer in much worse shape than normal, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Centre.

If you look only at the extent of Arctic sea ice, things are not as bad as they have been in recent years. Ice cover is five per cent higher this year than in the record low 2006, even if it is four per cent lower than the 1979 to 2000 average.

But ice thickness is another story, and that seems to be all bad news.

Arctic tourists evacuated amid melting and unprecedented warming

If the 21 tourists evacuated from the Baffin Islands yesterday weren't convinced that we're near a climate change tipping point they are now.

According to a Canwest new service story out this morning the tourists were evacuated from the Auyuittuq National Park:

“Thawing permafrost, eroding lakeshores, a melting glacier and fears of flash floods at a national park on Baffin Island have forced the evacuation of 21 tourists and led officials to declare much of the wilderness reserve off-limits until geologists and ice experts can assess what appear to be the latest dramatic effects of climate change in Canada's Arctic.”

Judge tells US to decide on polar bears, poll tells presidential hopefuls to gird for action

A federal judge has rejected the Bush Administration’s bid for further delay and ordered it to decide by May 15 whether to provide protection for polar bears whose Arctic habitat is melting due to global warming.

The decision could also lead to restrictions on oil and gas exploration offshore Alaska and curbs on greenhouse emissions.

Meanwhile, a new poll has found that two-thirds of adult Americans believe the next president should do something about climate change, pronto.

Arctic Tipping Point?

Scientists are suggesting that the Arctic thaw may have reached its tipping point and that Arctic ice may disappear in the summer, decades before it was anticipated to happen.

They caution that that this is not alarmist, as tipping points can be reversed but they do say that many models have underestimated the speed of which Arctic ice is melting.

Scientists ‘stunned’ as Arctic sea ice shrinks to 30-year low

Arctic ice has melted to its lowest recorded level, with scientists and researchers blaming rising concentrations of greenhouse gases, which have pushed up temperatures from one to four degrees.


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