Shell Oil, the British/Dutch oil conglomerate is going to drill in the Arctic this August. It is big news up north. Today, July 27, 2012, The Anchorage Daily News lead story was all about their project.
Shell leased the lands in the waning days of the Bush presidency and has spent 4 years and 4 billion dollars getting ready to drill in the Arctic off Alaska. It was big news up here when the Obama administration allowed the project. The Sierra Club and various environmental groups are understandably disappointed with Mr. Obama.
Every Shell misstep has made the news…and now the project is threatened by lingering ice along the coast in the Arctic. Hmmm. Don’t tell Al Gore…he predicted the Arctic would be ice free in Summer by 2015.
I’m not a big fan of Arctic offshore drilling…but I am pretty confident the feds and Shell are going to do a good job. I’d rather see the onshore areas developed first…which, of course, means the third rail of environmental politics, ANWR.
The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge is an area of Northeast Alaska that is so large it is difficult to comprehend. The picture above and the map below are both from the US Fish and Wildlife Site.
That’s a lot of wilderness. The road shown on the western edge of the map is the only road from Fairbanks to the North Slope. It is over 500 miles from Fairbanks to the coastal plane of the Refuge…and there is only one road….and it stops at Deadhorse (who said oil guys have no sense of humor), the town that supports the oil industry on the slope.
There is one North- South road and there are no East West roads that cross Alaska….the entire state with a few exceptions is wilderness. The area that the oil interests would disturb is about the size of Manhattan Island….an island of development in all that wilderness.
I would prefer for ANWR to be developed now and the offshore properties later. I think the environmental risks are lower and the potential for success is higher when the drilling is done from an onshore location. Unfortunately, that is a political impossibility…so I guess I’ll look and watch Shell drill…and hope they find something big.