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Arctic Drilling: A Giant Gamble for the Planet and Shell's Bottom Line
It’s a gamble—some would say a giant gamble. Before even one litre of oil has been found, the Anglo-Dutch Shell group is believed to have spent more than US$7 billion—just making preparations for its latest Arctic venture.
Shell is betting on finding the oil industry’s Holy Grail: according to 2008 estimates by the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic contains more than 20 percent of the world’s remaining hydrocarbon resources—including at least 90 billion barrels of oil.
If Shell does strike oil in big quantities maybe its gamble will pay off—and its anxious shareholders can look forward to handsome payouts.
Environmentalists and scientists say any further exploitation of fossil fuels must be halted in order to limit the rise in average global temperatures to within 2°C of pre-industrial levels and avert serious climate change.
Drilling conditions in the Arctic can be treacherous: in 2012 a Shell rig which had been drilling for oil in the Beaufort Sea off Alaska ran aground in a storm and had to scrapped. Any oil spill in the ecologically rich waters of the Arctic could be catastrophic.
Hillary Clinton, President Obama’s former secretary of state and now a presidential contender, criticizes Washington for allowing Shell to drill.
“The Arctic is a unique treasure,” she says. “Given what we know, it’s not worth the risk of drilling.”
Shell says its operations meet the highest standards. “We owe it to the Arctic, its inhabitants, and the world to work with great care as we search for oil and gas resources and develop those at the request of governments across the region,” the company says.
The financial rationale of Shell’s move is also being questioned. Drilling in the Arctic is an expensive business and involves complex logistical challenges.
Analysts say so-called unconventional oil—crude recovered from difficult environments such as the Arctic—needs to command a price of between US$70 and US$100 a barrel to make its recovery economical.
At present, though oil demand is strong, there are deep uncertainties about future economic growth, particularly in China. Oil is staying stubbornly below US$50 per barrel. The big oil producers such as Saudi Arabia have not, as in the past, lowered output in order to shore up prices.
A tentative agreement between western nations and Iran on nuclear issues is likely to mean new supplies of Iranian crude hitting the international market, putting further downward pressure on prices. Despite continue bombing and communal strife, Iraq is gearing up its oil production.
One of the major factors influencing the downward movement of oil prices over recent years has been the development of the U.S. fracking industry, with vast amounts of oil and gas recovered from shale deposits deep underground.
Perhaps Shell—and big producer countries like Saudi Arabia—foresee an end to the fracking boom.
As recovery from shale deposits becomes more difficult and prices remain low, fracking is not enjoying the explosive growth it saw a few years ago.
Some drilling sites in the U.S. states of Texas and North Dakota are being abandoned. Several of the smaller fracking companies—which borrowed large amounts during the good times to finance their operations—have gone bust.
But there is still a global glut of oil: the International Energy Agency says there is unlikely to be a rebound in oil prices any time soon.
The drilling season in the Arctic is brief: the days shorten quickly and the ice begins to form. Shell—and its shareholders—will be hoping for quick returns.
International negotiators preparing for the climate summit in Paris later this year are calling for urgent action to head off global warming. There are many who hope Shell’s exploration activities will not succeed—and that the Arctic hydrocarbons stay where they are, thousands of feet below the seabed.
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Cabin fever is often associated with being cooped up on a rainy weekend or stuck inside during a winter blizzard.
In reality, though, it can actually occur anytime you feel isolated or disconnected from the outside world.
What is cabin fever?<p>In popular expressions, cabin fever is used to explain feeling bored or listless because you've been stuck inside for a few hours or days. But that's not the reality of the symptoms.</p><p>Instead, cabin fever is a series of negative emotions and distressing sensations people may face if they're isolated or feeling cut off from the world.</p><p>These feelings of isolation and loneliness are more likely in times of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health-news/yes-covid-19-cases-are-rising-why-you-still-need-to-practice-social-distancing" target="_blank">social distancing</a>, self-quarantining during a <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/what-is-a-pandemic" target="_blank">pandemic</a>, or sheltering in place because of severe weather.</p><p>Indeed, cabin fever can lead to a series of symptoms that can be difficult to manage without proper coping techniques.</p><p>Cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological disorder, but that doesn't mean the feelings aren't real. The distress is very real. It can make fulfilling the requirements of everyday life difficult.</p>
What are the symptoms?<p>Symptoms of cabin fever go far beyond feeling bored or "stuck" at home. They're rooted in an intense feeling of isolation and may include:</p><ul><li>restlessness</li><li>decreased motivation</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irritability" target="_blank">irritability</a></li><li>hopelessness</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/unable-to-concentrate" target="_blank">difficulty concentrating</a></li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/irregular-sleep-wake-syndrome" target="_blank">irregular sleep patterns</a>, including sleepiness or sleeplessness</li><li>difficulty waking up</li><li><a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/lethargy" target="_blank">lethargy</a></li><li>distrust of people around you</li><li>lack of patience</li><li>persistent <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/depression-vs-sadness" target="_blank">sadness or depression<br></a></li></ul>
What can help you cope with cabin fever?<p>Because cabin fever isn't a recognized psychological condition, there's no standard "treatment." However, mental health professionals do recognize that the symptoms are very real.</p><p>The coping mechanism that works best for you will have a lot to do with your personal situation and the reason you're secluded in the first place.</p><p>Finding meaningful ways to engage your brain and occupy your time can help alleviate the distress and irritability that cabin fever brings.</p><p>The following ideas are a good place to start.</p>
When to get help<p>Cabin fever is often a fleeting feeling. You may feel irritable or frustrated for a few hours, but having a virtual chat with a friend or finding a task to distract your mind may help erase the frustrations you felt earlier.</p><p>Sometimes, however, the feelings may grow stronger, and no coping mechanisms may be able to successfully help you eliminate your feelings of isolation, sadness, or depression.</p><p>What's more, if your time indoors is prolonged by outside forces, like weather or extended shelter-in-place orders from your local government, feelings of <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/anxiety" target="_blank">anxiety</a> and fear are valid.</p><p>In fact, anxiety may be at the root of some cabin fever symptoms. This may make symptoms worse.</p><p>If you feel that your symptoms are getting worse, consider reaching out to a mental health professional who can help you understand what you're experiencing. Together, you can identify ways to overcome the feelings and anxiety.</p><p>Of course, if you're in isolation or practicing social distancing, you'll need to look for alternative means for seeing a mental health expert.</p><p>Telehealth options may be available to connect you with your therapist if you already have one. If you don't, reach out to your doctor for recommendations about mental health specialists who can connect with you online.</p><p>If you don't want to talk to a therapist, <a href="https://www.healthline.com/health/depression/top-iphone-android-apps" target="_blank">smartphone apps for depression</a> may provide a complementary option for addressing your cabin fever symptoms.</p>
The bottom line<p>Isolation isn't a natural state for many people. We are, for the most part, social animals. We enjoy each other's company. That's what can make staying at home for extended periods of time difficult.</p><p>However, whether you're sheltering at home to avoid dangerous weather conditions or heeding the guidelines to help minimize the spread of a disease, staying at home is often an important thing we must do for ourselves and our communities.</p><p>If and when it's necessary, finding ways to engage your brain and occupy your time may help bat back cabin fever and the feelings of isolation and restlessness that often accompany it.</p>
Pope Francis spoke about the novel coronavirus, suggesting that the global pandemic might be one of nature's responses to the man-made climate crisis.