Drilling in the Arctic: Is it worth it?


Shell Oil Company released a statement earlier this month with a plan to drill off the coast of Alaska in 2015. Some argue this could potentially lower gas prices, we have to think about the environmental impact this has. The long-term cost of damages such as oil spills, bleaching of the coral reefs and rising sea levels are just a few of the impacts.

According to Global Issues, global warming is still a controversial issue, it is clear that the oceans are being impacted. The energy used to drill in the Arctic and the outcome of more oil circulating throughout the world will cause an increase in climate change, creating devastating results.

In the Arctic, polar ice caps are melting, causing species like polar bears to lose their homes and dwindle in numbers. In the tropics, coral reefs are becoming bleached. This means that the warm temperature of the water is killing them, resulting in loss of color, life and other fish around them.

At University of San Diego we pride ourselves on being an environmentally friendly school, ranking 14th most sustainable university in the country. We have Living Learning Community groups dedicated to sustainability and the natural world, organizations dedicated to going green and we promote lowering consumption of water and energy.

Apart from that, we have taken steps to differentiate ourselves as a green campus with stations to refill water bottles, waste reduction, water recycling and a community garden. While we are college students and often need fuel for our cars, it is important to know where our gas is coming from and the effects it’s having on our planet.

GreenPeace is an independent global organization that is acting to protect and conserve the environment. They emphasize the threat that oil companies pose by drilling in the Arctic. On June 27, 2013, GreenPeace released a YouTube video title Save the Arctic from Shell and Gazprom to expose Shell Oil Company’s plan to drill into the Arctic.

Shell released their contingency plan if an oil spill were to occur. They have spent hundreds of millions of dollars on the plan, which is able to stop the leak within 60 minutes.

Nonetheless, the timeliness of their response to the accident does not compensate for the pollution and destruction it would cause to the waters and species. For example, 16,000 miles of coastline were affected by the British Petroleum oil spills and the waters are still contaminated.

One of the fears drilling has created is the impact this situation will have on the Arctic and the potential further damage it could do, there are different fears as well.

It could not only create potential harm, it also promotes global warming. According to the National Geographic, each year the sea level rises 0.15 inches, which doesn’t seem like a lot, but it adds up.

If gas companies funded or put efforts into researching and developing alternative fuels, like those made of algae, it could potentially make them more affordable and lessen the possibilities of a warmer ocean and the loss of species across the globe.
Biology professor Dr. Joanna Thomas spoke on this different approach to offshore drilling.

“A lot of the climate change we see today and the melting of the ice caps is caused by combustibles.” Thomas said. “Offshore drilling is expensive; it would be a better use of funds if Shell used the money from offshore drilling to research the creation of alternative fuel in order to make it more affordable.”

Offshore drilling is expensive, but it does boost the economy. It creates jobs and gives the United States a greater sense of security in its oil supply. In a time where gas prices and unemployment rates are high, offshore drilling does sound appealing.

Economics professor Dr. Alan Gin provided more insight on the business side of offshore drilling.

“With offshore drilling, comes more oil,” Gin said. “If our oil supply increases, that would reduce our dependence on foreign oil. This could potentially lower gas prices.”

An oil spill damages our oceans, which contain a lot of the life on Earth.

The cost of global warming is high with rising sea levels that could inundate islands and coasts, blistering summers and icy winters, and the extinction of many species due to habitat loss or extreme temperature change.

Having security in our oil supply would be beneficial, the cost of cleaning up an oil spill is far greater, as is paying for the damages done to the Earth via fossil fuels and pollution.