Arctic warming profiteers

This video is called Exploring Oceans: Arctic.

By Ernst Wolff:

Melting ice in the Arctic unleashes race for profits

24 September 2012

Arctic sea ice extent dropped to the lowest level ever recorded, bottoming out at 3.41 million square kilometres (1.31 million square miles) on September 16, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center (NSIDC). That is 49 percent below the average minimum recorded during the 1980s and 1990s.

“Things are developing much faster than any scientific model has predicted,” said Dr. Morton Rasch, director of the monitoring programme of the Greenland ecosystem at the University of Aarhus in Denmark.

While these troubling statements tend to frighten most people, international investors are already rubbing their hands. The largest ice melt in the recent history of mankind means gaining access to a part of the world that was previously closed to them.

The Arctic region, once known as the “Eternal Ice”, contains huge fishing grounds and 20 percent of the world’s estimated oil and gas reserves. In addition, huge deposits of rare earths, copper, silver and gold are suspected.

Global warming has already led to a continual improvement of conditions for the exploitation of these previously untouched areas. Higher temperatures now make it possible to start work two weeks earlier in spring and end two weeks later in fall. The prospect of waterways being ice-free by the end of this decade promises to radically reduce hitherto high transport costs.

A look at Greenland shows how avidly investors are jumping at these unexpected opportunities. In 2010, there was only one single drilling site in the country. Today, more than 100 exploratory drillings are being carried out by several different companies, including NUNAOIL, DONG Energy, Chevron, ExxonMobil, Husky Energy and Cairn Energy.

None of these companies have the oversight necessary that would prevent another ecological disaster on par with the BP spill in 2010. This is in spite of the fact that the maritime area is covered with ice for six months of the year and an unexpected oil spill would be impossible to fight from October to May.

There would also be no chance of collecting any oil on the inaccessible coasts of Greenland, and the spilt oil itself would evaporate infinitely more slowly than, for example, in the Gulf of Mexico. That is why the municipal readiness chief in the region issued a warning in 2010. “If something happens,” he stated, “we would be lost. We could do nothing but watch.”

Unaffected by environmental concerns, international investors are currently focussing on a very different problem. China, which in contrast to Russia, the US and some European states, does not own any Arctic territory, has for some time been developing its activity in the region. …

In response to Chinese operations, Antonio Tajani, a vice president of the European Union, travelled to the Greenlandic capital of Nuuk in June and offered several hundred million euros in “development aid” in order to prevent the Greenland government from granting Chinese companies exclusive rights to Greenland commodities. In order to emphasize the offer, European Commission president Juan Manuel Barroso received Greenland’s prime minister, Kuupik Kleist, in Brussels.

The European Union, Japan and South Korea have already applied for permanent observer status on the Arctic Council. The institution was founded in 1996 as an exclusive forum of the Arctic coastal states. China followed suit this summer and demanded a place in the body that is rapidly gaining in importance. “We have grown from a mere forum to a decision-making body,” said the current president of the council, the Swedish Arctic ambassador, Gustav Lind.

Geostrategic considerations also play a major role in the current race for the Arctic. The coastal states and NATO are already building up military capability in the region. The US, whose military owns the world’s northernmost airbase in the Greenlandic town of Thule, is watching developments very closely. Melting Arctic snow will open up seaways via the polar route for China in the near future and thus provide the US’s biggest trade rival with new opportunities, both economically and militarily.

The dramatic acceleration of the melting snow in the Arctic has within a very short time released formidable forces of capitalism. The hunt for profits and geostrategic advantages is in full swing, and the logic of capitalist competition will not only lead to the ruining of one of the natural wonders of the world, but might possibly end in military conflict and ecological disasters, with catastrophic consequences for humanity.

Arctic Ice Melt, Psychopathic Capitalism and the Corporate Media: here.

Scientists united to issue an urgent warning on the increasing speed of climate change today, revealing that an area of Arctic sea ice bigger than the United States melted this year: here.

Greenland Ice Is Melting — Even from Below: Heat Flow from the Mantle Contributes to the Ice Melt: here.

4 thoughts on “Arctic warming profiteers

  1. September 25, 2012 9:01 pm

    Total warns against oil drilling in Arctic

    By Guy Chazan
    Oil drilling in the Arctic seas has become a highly contentious issue.©Getty

    Total SA says energy companies should not drill for crude in Arctic waters, marking the first time an oil major has publicly spoken out against offshore oil exploration in the region.

    Christophe de Margerie, Total’s chief executive, told the Financial Times the risk of an oil spill in such an environmentally sensitive area was simply too high. “Oil on Greenland would be a disaster,” he said in an interview. “A leak would do too much damage to the image of the company”.

    On this story

    Shell suffers fresh blow to Arctic hopes
    Analysis Energy – Drills, chills and spills
    MPs add voice to calls for caution in Arctic
    Shell woes deter others from US Arctic
    Arctic’s sea ice melts to record low

    On this topic

    Comment Fed, QE and oil
    Mexico hedges against oil price slide
    Watchdogs backtrack on oil reform
    CGGVeritas to buy Fugro unit for €1.2bn

    IN Oil & Gas

    Oil groups tussle for Colombia licences
    Europa drilling appeal is dismissed
    IGas ups UK drive with Providence deal
    Brazil forces Transocean to halt drilling

    Last week, Royal Dutch Shell had to postpone until next year an attempt to drill into oil-bearing rock off the Alaskan coast after a piece of safety equipment was damaged during testing. It has spent $4.5bn and seven years preparing to drill.

    ExxonMobil, ENI of Italy and Norway’s Statoil have also signed deals to explore for oil in Russia’s Arctic waters, while others have secured licences to drill off Greenland.

    Mr de Margerie emphasised that he was not opposed to Arctic exploration in principle. Total has a number of natural gas ventures in the region, including a stake in the vast Shtokman field in Russia’s Barents Sea. The Total chief executive said gas leaks were easier to deal with than oil spills.

    His comments were welcomed by environmental groups that are opposed to Big Oil’s presence in what they see as a near-pristine wilderness.

    “The rest of the oil industry should heed his warning,” said Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace’s Arctic campaign. “Given the risks, companies shouldn’t be touching the Arctic with a barge pole.”

    Shell declined to comment. It has said in the past that it is well prepared for spills, with round-the-clock response teams on Alaska’s North Slope and a fleet of specialised vessels that will be in place before drilling starts.

    According to a 2008 study by the US Geological Survey, the Arctic contains just over a fifth of the world’s undiscovered, recoverable oil and gas resources. The melting of the polar ice cap has made the area more accessible to the majors than ever before.

    The region’s challenges are formidable, however, ranging from icebergs the size of cities to storms, darkness and fierce cold. There is also no certainty of success: UK-listed explorer Cairn Energy spent $1bn exploring off Greenland and failed to find commercial volumes of oil.

    Total’s Arctic projects are concentrated in Russia. As well as its stake in Shtokman, it has interests in a number of onshore developments, such as a big liquefied natural gas venture in Russia’s far north known as Yamal LNG. It also operates a Siberian oilfield called Kharyaga.

    Gazprom announced in August that it was shelving Shtokman due to excessive costs. But Mr de Margerie said as far as he was concerned, it was still on. “Gazprom never told me in writing that the project is over,” he said. “Discussions are not … as active as I would like. [But] the reserves are still there.”

    Copyright The Financial Times Limited 2012


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