Environment: A ‘dose of truth’ on Arctic oil drilling


Oil company execs sit through 15-minute session staged by Greenpeace activists

By Bob Berwyn

SUMMIT COUNTY — European Greenpeace activists staged some classic political theater in Denmark this week (Nov. 2011), when they lured oil execs to a false-flag environmental presentation about oil drilling off the shore of northeast Greenland.

Working in Copenhagen during a meeting called by the Greenland Bureau of Mineral and Petroleum, the group set up its own presentation, then told oil company executives that the venue for the official meeting had been changed. Click here to read the Greenpeace blog post on the meeting.

The anti-drilling advocates then led the representatives from Shell, BP, ConocoPhillips, Statoil and NunaOil into the alternate room. Along with coffee and cake, the activists gave a 15-minute presentation on the potential financial pitfalls and the environmental risks of drilling in an as-yet untouched area along the northeast coast of Greenland.

“We only prepared a 15-minute presentation,” said Greenpeace organizer Jon Burgwald. “I thought they’d start leaving. If we’d known they were going to stay for the whole meeting, we would have made a longer presentation,” Burgwald said.

Among other topics, the Greenpeace staffers showed how oil exploration in the region has cost one company huge financial losses. After spending $1 billion on test drilling, all it had to show was a big reservoir of water, according to Burgwald.

“We wanted to present a financial argument,” he said, explaining that the idea was to give the oil company execs a realistic idea of what their return on investment might be.

Additional information was presented on the potential environmental and social consequences of drilling in the remote area.

“What the oil companies have shown is that they’re really good at ignoring all information on those consequences,” Burgwald said, adding that the meeting was staged to ensure that they had the undivided attention of the oil company representatives for at least a few minutes.

Burgwald said he was somewhat surprised that the oil company representatives stayed for the entire meeting, seemingly unaware that they’d been duped into attending an environmental information session instead of the official government presentation they were expecting.

Similar to issues relating to oil drilling off Alaska’s Arctic coast, European activists are concerned that there is no adequate cleanup response plan for spills in the harsh Arctic environment — especially if the oil gets into the ice.

In that case, the official response calls for cutting the ice into chunks and then towing it to climate-controlled warehouses, where the oil could be removed.

“It would be ridiculous if it weren’t that serious,” Burgwald said.

In general, the window for drilling and cleanup operations is so short that a spill could potentially be left unattended for eight or nine months if it were to occur near the end of the operational season, he said.


3 thoughts on “Environment: A ‘dose of truth’ on Arctic oil drilling

  1. The oil companies don’t care. That’s the impression I get out of this. The really sad part, they wouldn’t clean up after themselves. After all, out of sight, out of mind, because it’s cheaper that way. All one has to do is look around everywhere the oil drilling takes place, as they kick the can down the road as far as clean-up is concerned. The $$$$ rules, equals power, and, clean-up is left for someone else to handle, which is usually the host country, if then.

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