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'Demented': Oil Giant Refreezing Rapidly Melting Permafrost So It Can Keep Climate-Killing Arctic Drilling Alive

The effort represented such "mindless idiocy" for many that 350.org ran a "help us out with this caption" contest in response.

An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape outside Prudhoe Bay in North Slope borough, Alaska. "New absurdities from Big Oil," said the Energy Watch Group, which advocates for renewable energy, in response to the reporting. "What do you do when the Arctic is melting, threatening your drilling infrastructure—but you really don't want to stop drilling? Right, cooling the ground beneath the infrastructure and keep on drilling." (Photo illustration: Original by Bonnie Jo Mount/via Getty Images/with overlay)

An oil pipeline stretches across the landscape outside Prudhoe Bay in North Slope borough, Alaska. "New absurdities from Big Oil," said the Energy Watch Group, which advocates for renewable energy, in response to the reporting. "What do you do when the Arctic is melting, threatening your drilling infrastructure—but you really don't want to stop drilling? Right, cooling the ground beneath the infrastructure and keep on drilling." (Photo illustration: Original by Bonnie Jo Mount/via Getty Images/with overlay)

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:

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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:

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.

Ari Phillips, a writer for the Environmental Intregrity Project, had just one word for it: "Demented."

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