Protesters target Shell in Seattle over Arctic plansJune 2015
Shell’s plans for oil drilling in the Arctic have encountered determined protests on land and sea at the US west coast port of Seattle.
The most spectacular demonstrations have been by the “kayaktavists”, a group in wetsuits and life jackets who took to the water in kayaks, canoes, paddleboards and other vessels for their Paddle in Seattle campaign.
Annie Leonard, executive director of Greenpeace USA, said one case for the protests was that today’s energy companies should concentrate on renewable sources, not dirty fuels.
Alli Harvey, of the Sierra Club, a 123-year-old US environmental organisation now running the Our Wild America campaign to protect natural landscapes, said: “The only safe place for these dirty fuels is in the ground.”
An additional fear is that an Arctic oil spill would be an environmental disaster.
The protesters targeted Seattle because Shell’s Polar Pioneer drilling rig is docked in the port before transfer to the oilfield off Alaska’s northern coast. A second rig, the Noble Discoverer, is due to be brought to Seattle.
More than two years ago various hold-ups, including an oil rig fire and safety failures, stalled Shell’s Arctic drilling plans.
The company has now spent about $6bn (£3.8bn, €5.3bn) on exploring the Arctic, which is thought to hold 20% of the world’s untapped oil and gas.
Shell estimates: “This amounts to around 400 billion barrels of oil equivalent, ten times the total oil and gas produced in the North Sea to date. Developing Arctic resources could be essential to securing energy supplies for the future, but it will mean balancing economic, environmental and social challenges.”
Shell has conditional approval from the US Department of the Interior to explore the Arctic. To start drilling it needs permits from the federal government and the state of Alaska.
Police and coastguard officials reported the demonstrations were peaceful.
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