Quantcast

Not Enough Ice to Drill the Arctic! Offshore Oil Drilling a 'Disaster Waiting to Happen'

Climate
Sea ice in the Arctic Ocean. NASA

Last month, the Trump administration approved the first offshore oil drilling development in federal Arctic waters, which environmentalists fear will ramp up carbon pollution that fuels climate change.

But here's the ultimate irony: Hilcorp Alaska's project—which involves building a 9-acre artificial drilling island in the shallow waters of the Beaufort Sea—has been delayed because of the effects of climate change, Alaska Public Media reported.


Hilcorp's Liberty Energy Project requires land-fast sea ice, or ice that's attached to the coastline each winter, as a foundation for the artificial island. The process involves pouring gravel through holes in the ice and through the water column to the sea floor and building the island structure from the bottom up.

But the region's unusual warmth has caused ice to form later and break up earlier, Andy Mahoney, a sea ice researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, explained to Alaska Public Media.

That means that the ice isn't simply thick enough to transport the construction materials. "To safely transport gravel offshore in the Arctic, the ice along the route of the ice road must be of adequate thickness," a spokesman for the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM), which oversees offshore leasing, told the Guardian. "Over the last few years, that thickness has not developed until unusually late in the season."

Hilcorp initially thought it would only need one year to build the gravel island, but now it is saying it could take two years to complete the project, Alaska Public Media reported.

In October, Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke touted that Hilcorp's oil and gas project was a part of his plan for "American energy dominance."

But environmentalists worry that it will further stress the increasingly fragile region. The Arctic is warming at a rate twice as fast as the rest of the globe. In recent years, we've seen more ice melting each summer, and less ice forming each winter. As EcoWatch mentioned previously, this past Arctic winter was the warmest on record, and the high temperatures likely affected the thickness of the area's ice. Arctic sea ice hit its second-lowest winter peak in the 39-year satellite record, measuring 14.48 million square kilometers on March 17—or just 60,000 square kilometers larger than the 2017 record, and 1.16 million square kilometers smaller than the 1981-2010 average.

An oil spill in the sensitive Beaufort Sea could also threaten polar bears and Arctic communities.

"Opening the Arctic to offshore oil drilling is a disaster waiting to happen" and will also be dangerous for the climate, Kristen Monsell, the Center for Biological Diversity's ocean legal director, said in press release emailed to EcoWatch. "This project sets us down a dangerous path of destroying the Arctic. An oil spill in the Arctic would be impossible to clean up and the region is already stressed by climate change."

"We'll keep fighting this project and any new ones that follow. We won't passively watch the oil industry and this inept administration harm Arctic wildlife and leave a legacy of climate chaos," Monsell concluded.

EcoWatch Daily Newsletter

Pick one of these nine activism styles, and you can start making change. YES! Illustrations by Delphine Lee

By Cathy Brown

Most of us have heard about UN researchers warning that we need to make dramatic changes in the next 12 years to limit our risk of extreme heat, drought, floods and poverty caused by climate change. Report after report about a bleak climate future can leave people in despair.

Read More Show Less
Jamie Grill Photography / Getty Images

Losing weight, improving heart health and decreasing your chances for metabolic diseases like diabetes may be as simple as cutting back on a handful of Oreos or saying no to a side of fries, according to a new study published in the journal The Lancet Diabetes & Endocrinology.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Golde Wallingford submitted this photo of "Pure Joy" to EcoWatch's first photo contest. Golde Wallingford

EcoWatch is pleased to announce our third photo contest!

Read More Show Less
A boy gives an impromptu speech about him not wanting to die in the next 10 years during the protest on July 15. The Scottish wing of the Extinction Rebellion environmental group of Scotland locked down Glasgow's Trongate for 12 hours in protest of climate change. Stewart Kirby / SOPA Images / LightRocket / Getty Images

It's important to remember that one person can make a difference. From teenagers to world-renowned scientists, individuals are inspiring positive shifts around the world. Maybe you won't become a hard-core activist, but this list of people below can inspire simple ways to kickstart better habits. Here are seven people advocating for a better planet.

Read More Show Less
A group of wind turbines in a field in Banffshire, Northeast Scotland. Universal Images Group / Getty Images

Scotland produced enough power from wind turbines in the first half of 2019, that it could power Scotland twice over. Put another way, it's enough energy to power all of Scotland and most of Northern England, according to the BBC — an impressive step for the United Kingdom, which pledged to be carbon neutral in 30 years.

Read More Show Less
Sponsored
Beekeeper Jeff Anderson works with members of his family in this photo from 2014. He once employed all of his adult children but can no longer afford to do so. CHRIS JORDAN-BLOCH / EARTHJUSTICE

By Jessica A. Knoblauch

It's been a particularly terrible summer for bees. Recently, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) announced it is allowing the bee-killing pesticide sulfoxaflor back on the market. And just a few weeks prior, the USDA announced it is suspending data collection for its annual honeybee survey, which tracks honeybee populations across the U.S., providing critical information to farmers and scientists.

Read More Show Less

tommaso79 / iStock / Getty Images Plus

By Rachel Licker

As a new mom, I've had to think about heat safety in many new ways since pregnant women and young children are among the most vulnerable to extreme heat.

Read More Show Less
Pexels

By Kris Gunnars, BSc

It's easy to get confused about which foods are healthy and which aren't.

Read More Show Less