Reporting out Monday detailing how oil giant ConocoPhilips' obsession with drilling in the arctic regions of Alaska is so intense that it has devised ways to artificially freeze rapidly melting permafrost to maintain its drilling operations has climate campaigners howling over the ironic—and destructive—absurdity of the situation.
According to journalist Nat Herz, reporting for the Guardian with support of Fund for Environmental Journalism (FEJ), "ConocoPhillips had a problem" as it continued to drill for oil and gas beyond the Arctic Circle:
It wanted to pump 160,000 more barrels of oil each day from a new project on Alaska's North Slope. But the fossil fuels it and others produce are leading to global heating, and the Arctic is melting. The firm's drilling infrastructure could be at risk atop thawing and unstable permafrost.
A recent environmental review of the project describes the company's solution: cooling devices that will chill the ground beneath its structures, insulating them from the effects of the climate crisis.
As Herz notes, "Critics of Arctic oil expansion argue that while companies can use technology to temporarily and locally dampen climate disruptions, the region's indigenous residents cannot."
The reaction to the story on social media was swift, with many pained by the irony so clearly evident in the company's efforts.
The global environmental group Greenpeace was among them:
Big Oil: 'So melting arctic ice means some of our drilling infrastructure won't be safe to use. Any ideas?'— Greenpeace (@Greenpeace) October 19, 2020
The Whole World: 'Stop drilling for oil?'
Oil Major: 'No, let's just install pipes to keep the ground cold and continue drilling'https://t.co/DsWdh5z7vl
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"New absurdities from Big Oil," said the Energy Watch Group, which advocates for renewable energy. "What do you do when the Arctic is melting, threatening your drilling infrastructure—but you really don't want to stop drilling?" it asked, offering this sarcastic answer: "Right, cooling the ground beneath the infrastructure and keep on drilling."
The climate action organization 350 Europe was so taken by the revelations that it tweeted:
We wanted to share this with a witty one-liner, but all we have is this:— 350.org Europe (@350Europe) October 19, 2020
Help us out with a caption?https://t.co/eRHiJQxVGL
Others online hardly needed an invitation.
"An oil company cooling the ground to keep it frozen so they can keep drilling as it melts from their recklessness is a whole new realm of mindless idiocy for a Monday morning," tweeted Brendan May, who chairs the sustainability advisory firm Robertsbridge.
"Leave it to #BigOil to deny #ClimateChange but then employ equipment to combat it so they can keep on drilling in the arctic," said the U.S.-based Western Values Project in response.
Imagine if this ingenuity and innovation was directed towards #cleanenergy technology instead of an industry that is delivering reduced returns and harming the planet. #energytransition #ClimateCrisis https://t.co/SS5uE2IGMm— Shamini Selvaratnam (@shaminis) October 19, 2020
Ari Phillips, a writer for the Environmental Intregrity Project, had just one word for it: "Demented."