Recently, Shell announced that they were going to withdraw their plans to drill in the Alaskan Arctic. The oil giant had been actively searching for oil in the area despite the efforts of environmentalists to prevent them from doing so.

The company spent $7bn on what they assumed would be a lucrative search. However, after their efforts to explore the Chukchi Sea this summer, they decided to scrap the project. This is estimated to set them back at least $4.1bn in future profits.

Shell’s official statement on the subject of discontinuing drilling was given by Marvin Oden, Director of Shell Upstream Americas: “Shell continues to see important exploration potential in the basin, and the area is likely to ultimately be of strategic importance to Alaska and the US. However, this is a clearly disappointing exploration outcome for this part of the basin … Shell will now cease further exploration activity in offshore Alaska for the foreseeable future. This decision reflects both the Burger J well result, the high costs associated with the project, and the challenging and unpredictable federal regulatory environment in offshore Alaska.”

Shell’s move to bow out of the Arctic project was not solely based on the lack of economic gain expected from the venture. Since the proposal of the project, environmentalists were outraged – particularly Greenpeace, the world’s leading environmental NGO. This stems from the devastation that would be caused to the area if an oil spill were to occur, as well as the drilling damaging the locals’ way of life, and the welfare of the precious ecosystems in the arctic being under threat. Furthermore, the Arctic is vital in regulating the earth’s climate, making drilling a direct threat to the battle against climate change.

In 2012, Greenpeace launched the Save The Arctic Campaign after reports showed that the arctic had lost 75 per cent of Summer Sea Ice. This boosted Greenpeace’s membership to seven million members. Celebrities such as Kate Moss, David Tennant and Emma Thompson also joined the campaign, and a polar bear puppet the size of a double decker bus was constructed outside Shell’s headquarters.

Greenpeace responded to Shell’s move to withdraw with UK executive director John Sauven stating that: “For three years we faced them down, and the people won”, as well as saying that Obama “should use his remaining months in office to say that no other oil company will be licenced to drill in the American Arctic”.

Date: OCTOBER 6, 2015

Image: Chief Yeoman Alphonso Braggs, US-Navy