This morning two polar bears scaled Norwegian oil company Statoil’s rig bound for the world’s northernmost drilling sites in the Arctic this summer. Just a few hours later Statoil announced that their Arctic drilling will not take place this year. ConocoPhillips announced today that they too will be cancelling 2014 Arctic drilling plans north of Alaska due to “regulatory irregularities”.
That’s fantastic news for the Arctic environment and the nearly 3 million strong global movement demanding a total ban on oil drilling and industrial fishing in this fragile region. Although Statoil, ConocoPhillips and all oil companies should commit to no Arctic drilling ever, any setback the oil industry suffers in their plans to exploit the Arctic is one step closer to making it permanent.
In February, Shell announced they will shelve drilling plans for 2013 in the same region after a year of comical mishaps in the Alaskan Arctic. In the wake of Shell’s dubious efforts, Statoil shortly after announced they too would have to reconsider drilling in the Chukchi Sea.
Elsewhere, the situation is unfortunately different. The setback in the US part of the Arctic stands in contrast to the Russian offshore development where oil companies no doubt expect minimal interference from the government. Gazprom is expected to begin oil production on its Prirazlomnoye oil field in the fourth quarter of this year and Rosneft is teaming up with Statoil for future exploitation.
Still, that’s three companies in a month coming to terms with reality. Arctic governments should take the hint from these three strikes and rule all oil drilling out of the Arctic.