President Obama’s Bold Step Stops Arctic Oil Drilling

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If a person is really devoted to something it means they are focused on that particular  thing and work towards achieving its’ goals; whatever they may be. Of course, for a President of the United States it is virtually impossible to be exclusively devoted to any one thing or cause, unless of course it is a Republican president; they are typically exclusively devoted to war and enriching to the ultra-wealthy. Throughout President Barack Obama’s tenure in the White House, there were some ’causes’ that appeared to be set aside as if they were very low priorities, but over the past couple of years he has demonstrated that he is deeply devoted to combatting climate change and protecting the environment.

Whether it is working with China to set new carbon emission standards, vetoing the KeystoneXL pipeline approval legislation, setting new clean air standards, or pushing for greater investment in renewable energy sources, there is little doubt that Barack Obama is devoted to protecting the environment and combatting climate change. Now, in a stunning reversal from just a couple of months ago, President Obama has taken a huge, and absolute, step to reduce any future threats from the dirty oil industry to the North Alaskan coast and Arctic Ocean. This is a serious bit of good news for the environment and the war on global climate change that, curiously, corporate-owned mainstream media has failed to report or condemn.

On Friday, to little fanfare, the Obama Administration sent a very clear, and forceful, message to the oil industry that their dangerous plans to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean were futile. In one fell swoop, the President took a concrete step to reduce all current and future threats to the Arctic region. The Administration cancelled new lease sales in the so-called “Polar Bear Seas,” the Chukchi and Beaufort, just off the north Alaskan coast. He also issued a terse “absolutely not” reply to lease extension requests from Shell and other oil corporations such as BP that hold existing leases in the region; leases that are now likely not worth the paper they are printed on.

Prior to the announcement, the President’s Administration had focused on, and was devoted to, excluding some “high value” environmentally-threatened areas and pledged that any drilling would be subject to “very high” standards. In fact, the Administration previously gave Shell approval to start drilling and tentatively proposed allowing even more leasing in the Arctic Ocean and the Atlantic after 2017. But a few things happened in the past two months that made the President’s decision much easier to justify and frankly, necessary to protect the fragile environment and combat climate change.

First, Shell oil, in a rush to start drilling, was discovered to be using an oil spill containment system that was proven to fail prompting federal regulators to impose harsh restrictions on the company to only “preliminary shallow drill” in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska. Shortly thereafter, Mother Gaia interceded and unleashed a huge ice floe that forced Shell to halt drilling operations 70 miles off the North-West coast of Alaska. The vice president, Peter Slaiby, of Shell Alaska claimed that his company had learned a valuable lesson from the Deepwater Horizon disaster. Then, last year after a rash of Shell equipment failures, federal fines, and a BP-like drilling unit running aground, the corporation dramatically scaled-back its crusade to drill for crude in Arctic waters.

Of course, as the so-called Seattle Washington “kayaktivists” protesting Arctic drilling rightly cited that their protests and obstructionism was always more of a climate change issue due the fact that “new huge investments in dirty fuels cannot possibly be harmonized with the Administration’s stated drive to shift to a clean energy future.” But it was not just environmentalists’ pressure that emboldened the President to make the right decision; Shell’s significant international shareholders demanded that corporate leadership explain exactly how exploring and drilling for oil in a pristine environment “squared with limiting damage from global climate change.”

For at least a decade, intelligent people have said that until the folks controlling the money see the idiocy of allowing global warming to continue, there would be no substantive action. At an international gathering of Shell’s investors at The Hague, a whopping 98.9% of investor voted to support Shell’s decision to rethink the idea of Arctic drilling and interestingly, drilling for oil at all.

That nearly unanimous vote also demanded that Shell start reporting on whether, or how, its long-term business plans and current activities were compatible with a pledge by world’s governments to limit global warming to a 2C rise. Also, about 150 investors controlling billions upon billions of dollars in shares put a permanent ban on corporate bonuses for any industry activity that damages the climate. They also imposed a  requirement for Shell to start investing in renewable energy.

Shell had little option but to embrace the proposal; particularly after a four-and-a-half hour meeting dominated by 98.9 % of shareholders casting doubt on Shell’s climate change credentials and criticizing the international corporation’s continued efforts to extract fossil fuels instead of focusing on clean renewable energy sources. After Shell’s board or directors “accepted” the strident shareholder resolution, the fund manager for America’s largest public pension fund praised the company for “publicly recognizing that climate change posed a threat to the world and to Shell’s business,” and likely its reputation as an international corporation. For the record, the same resolution was passed a month earlier at BP; the corporation responsible for the DeepWater Horizon disaster.

President Obama has always claimed, often to severe criticism, that his Administration’s energy policy was “all of the above.” Now it is apparent that where combatting global climate change and protecting the environment and endangered wildlife is concerned, “all of the above” was just a nifty slogan and not a literal policy according to this latest action. When the President gave Shell permission to drill the Arctic a couple of months ago, he defended the move by claiming that drilling in the Arctic Ocean was inevitable.

Now that the President took the Arctic Ocean region completely off the table, it is obvious that the only inevitability is that he is devoted to doing everything within his Executive authority to combat global climate change and protect the environment. Coupled with all the other environmental protection actions and bold efforts to combat climate change, it is no wonder the Koch brothers and Republicans have spent no small amount of time and money to oppose this President; even though they have lost at every turn.

image: reuters