Don't Look Now,
But there was
just a Mass Exodus
companies from the Arctic
With the departure of a
company from the Chukchi Sea,
still holds a drilling lease in U.S. Arctic waters.
Here's why an
Arctic oil boom never happened
and why it
probably never will.
Now that Spanish oil company Repsol
relinquished the last of its 93 leases
in the Chukchi Sea, only one leaseholder is left -
Shell. Why the company is holding onto a single
lease after losing billions of dollars and any
reputation for competence it might have had is
But the fact remains:
drilling in the
Arctic is dangerous and expensive for oil
companies, catastrophic for the environment, and
unwelcome by the communities who live there.
Once upon a time, way
back in the 1980s and 1990s, oil companies rushed to
purchase leases to explore and drill in the U.S.
Arctic. It looked like a gold rush.
The companies vied
rabidly for parcels in the
north of Alaska, expecting gushing oil wells and
massive piles of money. But within a couple years,
all the oil companies were gone.
No gushers, and
definitely no piles of money, unless you count the
billions of dollars the oil companies wasted on
their abandoned leases.
Fast forward to early
2008, with oil companies once again lined up ahead
of a giant lease sale. Industry giants like Shell,
Conoco Phillips, and Statoil, as well as lesser
known like Repsol and Eni Petroleum, again shelled
out to the tune of $2.8 billion just to purchase
They then spent millions
maintaining those leases for years, exploring and
bungling any effort to find - let alone extract -
oil in U.S. Arctic waters.
The most famous of all the mishaps in
the Arctic is
effort in 2012,
a $7 billion debacle that ended up with a grounded
rig, a stranded crew being rescued by the Coast
Guard, and not a single drop of oil.
It would have
been comical if the stakes hadn't been so high.
And then, of course,
there was this:
Activists in Portland blockade a Shell ship from
joining its fleet in 2015.
The activists remained suspended from the St. Johns
Bridge for 48 hours,
capturing the world's attention and putting the
focus on the movement
to stop Shell from drilling in the Arctic.
From the start, oil
companies have whined that U.S. rules and
regulations have stood in their way in the Chukchi
And now that oil prices
have stalled at half of what they were a couple
years ago, going through the costly and complicated
effort of finding and drilling for oil in a place
covered by ice nine months a year doesn't make much
But the fact is, it
never has made sense and it never will.
As companies like
and BP have proved time and time again, oil spills
are not preventable, and a spill in the Arctic -
with its rough seas, extreme conditions, and ice
cover - would pretty much be
impossible to clean
French oil company Total has pledged
not to even go to the Arctic because of the
“reputational risk” a spill there would cause
Furthermore, as people who call the
Arctic home have said for years,
they don't want oil
companies coming in
and potentially destroying their livelihoods. And
drilling for oil anywhere is dangerous to us all, as
climate change continues its march to catastrophic
Why would we spend billions of
dollars to access oil from the most extreme
environments on the planet when we could - and
should - be investing in the renewable energy
sources of the future?
Right now, we have the power to end
new leases in the Arctic - as well as the Gulf of
Mexico, which has suffered
the destruction and
of the oil and gas industry for far too long.
We can tell President
Obama that it's time to
stop new offshore
drilling in American waters.
Now that Repsol has joined almost
everybody else in getting out of the Arctic, it's a
party of one up there, with Shell acting all weird
and dancing alone on
its one tiny lease.
Hey Shell, can we call
you a cab?