Leading article: The case for a moratorium on oil drilling in the arctic is overwhelming

Share

The arguments against drilling for oil in the Arctic are so clear they should make themselves. Given that the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico proved such a challenge to technically-adept BP last year, the difficulty of shutting off a leak in a climate of sub-zero temperatures, which is pitch dark and frozen solid for six months of every 12, can only be imagined.

The potential damage to the environment is equally extreme. The Arctic is indescribably hostile, but also fragile – a pristine, wilderness ecosystem barely touched by human interference. As Cambridge University's Professor Peter Wadhams, one of the world's most respected polar scientists, warns in this newspaper today, an Arctic spill could prove uncontrollable, and its impact catastrophic. In such a context, the case for an absolute moratorium on Arctic drilling is overwhelming.

The alleged greed of big oil companies, and pressure from gung-ho local populations eager for a slice of the lucrative hydrocarbon action, are cited as risk factors by those campaigning against polar drilling. Yet it has to be acknowledged that the pressure for new oil sources is driven by valid fears over the risks that uncontrolled oil prices – and future oil shortages – carry for global stability.

Such concerns only make the argument for fossil-free alternatives, from nuclear power to renewable energy generation to biofuels, stronger than ever. Against the backdrop of galloping growth in developing economies and a global population set to rise by a third by 2050, it is the development of sustainable energy supplies that must be the priority, not the false promise of Arctic oil.

Proponents of Arctic drilling may point to technological advances, strict regulatory regimes and careful monitoring in an attempt to bolster their argument. But they are missing the point. First, accidents can never be absolutely avoided. More important, the impact of any accident is exponentially more destructive than anything similar in warmer waters. The nature of the interaction between oil and ice will see the oil absorbed deep into ice packs – locked beyond detection, let alone the reach of clean-up operations – and potentially dumped thousands of miles away, months later, with no warning.

If Deepwater Horizon taught us anything, it was that regulation does not stop oil spills and does not help clean them up. The risks in the Arctic are simply too great. It would be grossly irresponsible to go ahead.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
SPONSORED FEATURES
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Head Porter / Concierge

£16000 - £28000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This award winning Property Man...

Recruitment Genius: Credit Controller

£16000 - £20000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Are you a a young, dynamic pers...

SThree: Trainee Recruitment Consultant - Birmingham

£18000 - £23000 per annum + Uncapped OTE: SThree: SThree Trainee Recruitment C...

Recruitment Genius: Interactive / Mobile Developer

£40000 - £45000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This digital production agency ...

Day In a Page

Read Next
The UCAS clearing house call centre in Cheltenham, England  

Ucas should share its data on students from poor backgrounds so we can get a clearer picture of social mobility

Conor Ryan
A study of 16 young women performing light office work showed that they were at risk of being over-chilled by air conditioning in summer  

It's not just air conditioning that's guilty of camouflage sexism

Mollie Goodfellow
Giants Club: After wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, Uganda’s giants flourish once again

Uganda's giants are flourishing once again

After the wholesale butchery of Idi Amin's regime, elephant populations are finally recovering
The London: After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

After 350 years, the riddle of Britain's exploding fleet is finally solved

Archaeologists will recover a crucial item from the wreck of the London which could help shed more light on what happened in the vessel's final seconds
Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

Airbus has patented a jet that could fly from London to New York in one hour

The invention involves turbojets and ramjets - a type of jet engine - and a rocket motor
10 best sun creams for kids

10 best sun creams for kids

Protect delicate and sensitive skin with products specially formulated for little ones
Tate Sensorium: New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art

Tate Sensorium

New exhibition at Tate Britain invites art lovers to taste, smell and hear art
Ashes 2015: Nice guy Steven Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

Nice guy Finn is making up for lost time – and quickly

He was man-of-the-match in the third Test following his recall to the England side
Ashes 2015: Remember Ashton Agar? The No 11 that nearly toppled England

Remember Ashton Agar?

The No 11 that nearly toppled England
Turkey-Kurdish conflict: Obama's deal with Ankara is a betrayal of Syrian Kurds and may not even weaken Isis

US betrayal of old ally brings limited reward

Since the accord, the Turks have only waged war on Kurds while no US bomber has used Incirlik airbase, says Patrick Cockburn
VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but doubts linger over security

'A gift from Egypt to the rest of the world'

VIPs gather for opening of second Suez Canal - but is it really needed?
Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Jeremy Corbyn dresses abysmally. That's a great thing because it's genuine

Fashion editor, Alexander Fury, applauds a man who clearly has more important things on his mind
The male menopause and intimations of mortality

Aches, pains and an inkling of mortality

So the male menopause is real, they say, but what would the Victorians, 'old' at 30, think of that, asks DJ Taylor
Man Booker Prize 2015: Anna Smaill - How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?

'How can I possibly be on the list with these writers I have idolised?'

Man Booker Prize nominee Anna Smaill on the rise of Kiwi lit
Bettany Hughes interview: The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems

Bettany Hughes interview

The historian on how Socrates would have solved Greece's problems
Art of the state: Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China

Art of the state

Pyongyang propaganda posters to be exhibited in China
Mildreds and Vanilla Black have given vegetarian food a makeover in new cookbooks

Vegetarian food gets a makeover

Long-time vegetarian Holly Williams tries to recreate some of the inventive recipes in Mildreds and Vanilla Black's new cookbooks