One of Shell's drilling ships awaits final inspection in Seattle before sailing up to the Alaskan Arctic. Image courtesy of Elaine Thompson/Associated Press.
Today, two ships sit in a port in Seattle, WA. They are waiting to be inspected for the final time before receiving orders that their crews are fit to sail up the coast of the Pacific Northwest, along the Canadian coast and into the Arctic Circle. But after their journey, these two ships will represent much more than mere sea vessels: They are oil drilling rigs, and they will be facilitating the greatest expansion into domestic offshore drilling in U.S. history.
After years of hard-fought battles with native Eskimo communities, regulatory officials spanning the federal agencies of two Administrations, business interests, and environmental organizations, Shell Oil will soon begin drilling off the northern coast of the Alaskan Arctic, a region encompassing waters that had been protected until now. John Broder and Clifford Krauss wrote a fascinating piece for the New York Times last month chronicling the evolution of this project and the broader implications of President Obama’s energy and climate policy. I highly recommend reading it in full. As summer approaches and the largest offshore drilling project since the BP oil spill gets underway, we should keep Alaska’s motto in mind: “North Toward the Future.” Alaska’s future - and our Earth’s future - must change course. Drilling for more oil, especially in ecologically sensitive and culturally invaluable areas, is not the answer to our energy challenges. Investing heavily in renewable energy - sustainable resources like wind and solar that do not have the potential to devastate entire communities, cultures, ecosystems - is the true direction toward the future.