To the alarm of environmental groups, oil giant Shell announced on Thursday it was making plans to be able to resume the hunt for oil in Arctic waters in 2014.
On a call with reporters, chief financial officer Simon Henry said, "Our focus would be very much on the Chukchi [Sea], which is by far the biggest prize; that is the multi-billion barrel prize," he said.
“Clearly, we would like to drill as soon as possible, so we are putting the building blocks in place. There remains a permitting and regulatory process through which we need to go, before we can confirm a decision to actually drill in 2014,” said Henry.
In February, Shell announced it was suspending its 2013 Arctic drilling program following a mishap-laden year in which its "ships have caught fire, run aground, lost control and become the subject of criminal investigation," proving, according to Greenpeace International’s Arctic oil campaign Ben Ayliff, that "it is completely unfit to drill in the remote Arctic, a place of unrivaled beauty where any spill would be an environmental disaster."
Echoing Ayliff's warning, Miyoko Sakashita, Oceans Director at the Center for Biological Diversity, warned that "drilling in the Arctic is just asking for disaster, and it should be put off limits."
"In the remote frozen Arctic, it’s impossible to clean up and oil spill and the risks of an accident are so much greater in the harsh weather and ice," Sakashita said in a statement to Common Dreams. "We already saw the danger with Shell’s folly last year when its drill ship cut loose and ran aground. The Arctic is a home to endangered polar bears and whales, and a drill rig in their icy home is a nail in the coffin.