Coast Guard Testifies It’s Totally Unprepared for an Arctic Oil Spill: “We Have Zero to Operate With at Present.”

The U.S. Coast Guard’s top official says the organization is not prepared for a major oil spill in the Arctic, where oil companies are pushing to Congress and regulatory agencies to allow for more offshore drilling.

In a Senate hearing yesterday on Arctic drilling, USCG Admiral Robert Papp countered the oil industry’s claims that it would be prepared for an oil spill, saying:

“If this were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska, we’d have nothing.  We’re starting from ground zero today….  We have zero to operate with at present.”

By comparison, the coast guard says it had adequate resources to deal with last year’s spill by BP in the Gulf of Mexico. Even with the resources for a rapid response, the Macondo well still managed to leak five million barrels of oil over 86 days:

“One of the things that we learned from Deepwater Horizon is if you don’t think through what is the worst-possible case, it’s difficult for you to plan on how much equipment you’ll need,” he said. “We had to turn on the oil boom manufacturers around the world to supply us. We had to employ thousands of fishing boats to go out there and do skimming operations.

“Although private industry may assert they’re adequately prepared to respond to a spill, we must also determine what response capability our Coast Guard and nation needs so we can mount an adequate response as exploration advances towards production,” he said.

Shell Oil is looking to drill five new wells off the coast of Alaska. Ironically, reserves in the region are becoming easier to get because of melting sea ice due to climate change.

That irony seems to have escaped the Wall Street Journal, which ran an op-ed last week hailing climate change as an opportunity for “savvy investors” who see the opportunity for drilling due to melting sea ice and permafrost:

While most investors are focused on the economic potential of lower latitudes, the Arctic is—due to increased access from climate change—quietly undergoing a radical transformation that is attracting the attention of savvy investors. But the U.S. is asleep at the wheel, leaving some of the world’s largest oil, natural gas and mineral resources to be developed by others

Don’t worry though – the authors call for an “environmentally sustainable” approach to exacerbating climate change.

But when the rest of the Arctic tundra melts, opening up the area to all the “savvy investors” who want to suck the last remaining fossil fuel reserves out of the ground, the world will be in a mess even the coast guard can’t help clean up.

It’s sad when New Yorker cartoons are more realistic than our energy policy.


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