The US government has recently given the Royal Dutch Shell company the right to drill in search for an estimated 90 billion barrels of oil and natural gas underneath the Arctic Ocean. This comes in the wake of the White House campaign “Act on Climate”. Throughout both of his terms, President Obama has been securing his legacy as an advocate for the environment which is why many people don’t understand his approval of Arctic drilling.
Analysts are saying the US will need the Arctic oil and gas as we transition to more capable and efficient renewable energy sources. But at what cost? Drilling is high risk, especially in an area like the arctic that is mostly untouched by humans. There is always a chance of an oil spill that would be devastating for the ecological health of the region. The environmental risks are huge, there are many species of whale, fish, birds, and polar bears that would be impacted by increased drilling sites. A catastrophic spill would be nearly impossible to clean up in these freezing waters.
Although there are political and economic benefits, not having to rely on foreign oil and economic growth, the environmental implications are huge and go beyond possible spills in the arctic. An influx of oil would only further the United States dependence on fossil fuels. This new fossil fuel source will only inhibit and prolong the transition to renewable energy sources.
Economists and Environmentalists and policy makers need to get together to analyze the costs (ecological destruction, cost of drilling, opportunity cost of not using renewable energy, health affects) and benefits (economic and political) to arctic drilling before any further wells are made.