Arctic exploration is not new, just different – and safer | Don Brunell

Recently, activists paddled a flotilla of kayaks – made from petroleum products – into the Seattle harbor in an attempt to blockade a Shell Oil offshore drilling platform destined for the Arctic. Then activists in Portland suspended themselves from the St. Johns Bridge – using all sorts of equipment and supplies made from petroleum products – in an effort to stop Shell’s ice breaker from leaving a local shipyard.

Recently, activists paddled a flotilla of kayaks – made from petroleum products – into the Seattle harbor in an attempt to blockade a Shell Oil offshore drilling platform destined for the Arctic.

Then activists in Portland suspended themselves from the St. Johns Bridge – using all sorts of equipment and supplies made from petroleum products – in an effort to stop Shell’s ice breaker from leaving a local shipyard.

Their goal was to stop Arctic oil exploration.  But oil and gas exploration in the Arctic has been happening for nearly 50 years.  It is not new, it is just different – and safer.

Substantial oil deposits above the Arctic Circle were discovered nearly a century ago.  In 1923, President Warren G. Harding created Naval Petroleum Reserve Number 4 on Alaska’s North Slope to ensure our Navy had an adequate oil supply as it converted from coal-fired boilers on ships.

When the Trans Alaska pipeline was proposed, environmental activists predicted unimaginable devastation.  That didn’t happen.  Since 1977, nearly 17 billion barrels of oil have flowed through the 800-mile pipeline from Prudhoe Bay to Valdez, where it is shipped to Washington State oil refineries.  The flow was interrupted only once, in 2001, when a drunk with a hunting rifle put a bullet in pipeline.

As the Prudhoe Bay fields developed, wells were safely drilled in the Arctic Ocean.  Endicott Island, a 45-acre artificial island in Beaufort Sea, started producing oil in 1987.  Today, there are oil platforms in Cook Inlet just south of Anchorage and in the heart of one of the world’s most prolific salmon and halibut fisheries.

Oil companies have been careful to leave the lightest possible footprint.  Equipment and supplies are trucked over ice roads that disappear with the spring thaw.  Even parked trucks have drop cloths placed underneath them to protect the fragile Arctic tundra.

Wildlife continues to co-exist.  In its most recent survey, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game reported in 2011 that the state’s largest caribou herd had quadrupled since the pipeline was

The grounding of the Exxon Valdez, which spilled 10 million gallons of crude into Prince William Sound in 1989, is the textbook definition of what to avoid.  In the end, Exxon paid billions in fines, cleanup and restoration costs. Because of that disaster, double-hulled tankers are now required; tugs escort the tankers through narrow channels; and, cleanup equipment is pre-positioned to quickly respond.

So, is it safe to drill beneath Arctic ice?

There are Russian platforms using American technology in the Arctic Ocean. Despite the harsh winters and thick ice, liquefied natural gas and oil from beneath the ocean floor is being shipped year around from Sakhalin Island.

Shell, under the authorization of President Obama, is drilling off Alaska. Despite the marked drop in oil prices, Shell is investing billions to explore for oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean, which says a lot about its importance to America’s future energy supply.

A 2008 U.S. Geological Survey estimated that areas north of the Arctic Circle have 90 billion barrels of recoverable oil, which represents 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered crude.  Much of it is offshore.

American oil companies are using new technology, equipment, training and extensive environmental safeguards, and their operations are subject to intensive government oversight.

Is it foolproof?  No.  But every form of energy production has an environmental impact.

Big solar arrays and massive farms of wind turbines cover thousands of acres of wildlife habitat and have been deadly to birds caught in their paths.

We need a mix of energy supplies to meet our needs and fuel our economic growth.

The key is to act as wisely and carefully as possible.

 

More in Business

Lt. Dan needs lots of helping hands

Gary Sinise formed the “Lt. Dan Band” in early 2004 and they began entertaining troops serving at home and abroad. Sinise often raised the money to pay the band and fund its travel.

New Enumclaw wine bar aims for broad audience

Bordeaux Wine Bar is scheduled to be open Wednesdays through Sundays.

Streamlining regulations makes more housing affordable

There were over 21,000 people homeless in Washington State last year.

Water pressure mounting in West as population spikes

What is happening in California with water allocation disputes is a harbinger of what is to come in our state as well.

Railroads implementing positive track

While the investigation continues into the deadly AMTRAK derailment near Dupont, the clock continues to tick on the implementation of Positive Track Control (PTC). The deadline is Dec. 31, 2018.

Keep the holiday spirit all year long | Don Brunell

During the holidays, our thoughts naturally turn to giving — not just giving gifts, but donating our time and money to charities, disasters and community programs.

Finding balance in occupational licensing

Recently, the Institute for Justice (Institute) determined state licensing barriers for lower-income workers and aspiring entrepreneurs not only hurts people trying to establish themselves in a profession, but annually drives consumer prices up by $203 billion.

Remember 1993

Twenty-five years ago, business took a beating in Olympia. The swing to the left in the 1992 general election was swift and potent. It drove higher costs to employers and more government regulations.

Remembering Ed Carlson, Vietnam POW

Since last Veteran’s Day, Ken Burns’ in-depth documentary on the Vietnam War has aired. It is a powerful reminder of an unpopular war in which many “baby boomers” fought and died.

Rural prosperity essential to Washington

While Seattle is growing rapidly, our rural areas continue to struggle. They don’t have the corporate giants such as Amazon, Microsoft and Boeing creating jobs and economic opportunities. Farms are predominantly family-owned.

Amazon’s plan reminiscent Boeing’s Chicago move

Last year, Seattle Times aerospace reporter Dominic Gates wrote about the similarities and differences between Boeing’s corporate office move to Chicago and Amazon’s plan for a second headquarters.

LiveLocal98022 meeting cancelled

Bob Green, the night’s speaker, notified the organization he couldn’t attend due to an illness.