the taste of oil
We all know the price we pay at the pump is far from the true cost of oil. We casually slide the nozzle into our tanks and oscillate between comments about the staggering jump or all time low cost of gasoline. What we rarely consider is the route in which each drop of oil takes to appear effortlessly at the pump for our disposal. The global population is increasing, and in return, so is the demand on Earth’s natural resources.
Drilling in the arctic circle is what they are calling ‘hot’. Personally, I think it’s a rather icy venture but then again my daily life doesn’t exactly parallel with Sir Bill Gammell, chairman and founder of Carin Energy. The Scottish company Carin, which launched its campaign in 2007, lost over $1.2bn last year when none of the four oil wells found commercial quantities of oil along Greenland’s coastline. Although a substantial loss, this defeat has not slowed their campaign. Along with Carin, fellow oil tycoons Shell, Statoil and the Danish companies Dong and Maersk Oil are in talks with the Greenlandic government about the upcoming licensing round, which will sell plots of sea floor to the highest bidder.
The United States Geological Survey calculates that the Arctic has about 13 percent of the worlds undiscovered conventional oil and about 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas. Despite a seemingly large wealth of oil and natural gases, energy costs of extraction could be twice as most onshore operations. Cost, feasibility and the potential harm to these pristine environments are crucial questions, and they are not all being addressed. The battle between the global oil industries and the environmental groups grows stronger yet. Many believe that drilling and mining the fragile arctic landscape could have irreversible damage to a crucial part of our worlds ecosystems. Contrarily, the oil companies think that Greenland and its surrounding seas are sitting upon the world’s largest undiscovered oil, and they are anxious to capitalize on it.
Greenland’s vast and seemingly empty landscape is three times the size of texas. Its size and stature many seem big for the 57,000 people who inhabit the island, however a number of important other species thrive upon the icy wilderness. Heavily dependent upon Denmark for subsides and governmental regulation, the Greenlandic nation strives for a leap in independence. Greenland’s prime minister Kuupik Kleist states, “We are heavily dependent on grants from the outside. Half of the public budgets are derived form money from Denmark and the European Union. It’s no wonder that we are focusing very strongly on economic self sufficiency.” Selling plots of sea floor for $2bn, the Prime Minister is in favor of oil drilling, as he see’s it is the countries only way to financial independence.
Many implications of drilling in the arctic are at work. The potential of an oil spill could permanently change life on and around Greenland. Greenlanders depend solely on species from the land and sea, and if a spill were to rendered their oceans uninhabitable, it would take years for nature to regenerate. Another major factor is the short time frame in which drilling is actually possible. Due to the brutal and frozen winters, only three months a year present themselves as viable for drilling. There is a huge price tag to build and maintain the oil rigs stationed in the arctic waters while the sea’s are only ice free for a slim three months.
Steen Bangsgarrd, Greenland resident and Arctic Consultant mentions another important aspect of drilling in the arctic, “One thing that I haven’t heard mentioned or debated by the politicians, is the amount of people required to run an oil operation. It is said that if a country produces 1 million barrels of oil a day, which is not that much for an oil producing country, it takes 10,000 workers to cope. Then you have to look at the question of where do you get these people? And if you also get huge mining activities here and there and everywhere, you need more people to mine the aluminum. You can only find them from one place, and that is from outside Greenland..Because 2/3 of the Greenlandic population is unskilled and a large percent never graduate from high school. You have an unqualified workforce. So Greenland will have to look elsewhere. How will importing thousands of people with different cultural traditions affect Greenland’s future?”
History tends to repeat itself. Desperate for independence, countries become exploited and the natural resources destroyed. Will it also be true for the arctic?