From Green Right Now Reports

Many environmental groups responded to the BP oil disaster in the Gulf of Mexico by calling not just for the clean up at hand, but also for the U.S. revoke its recent approval of offshore drilling in certain arctic regions.

The gulf calamity raised the spectre of what could be an even worse outcome in the pristine arctic where rescue crews and supplies could be thousands of miles away when/if a spill occurred.

Greenpeace raises a question about arctic drilling using spilled oil (Photo: Greenpeace)

Greenpeace raises a question about arctic drilling using spilled oil (Photo: Greenpeace)

Today, Greenpeace provided a visual for this so-far unanswered plea. Using oil collected from the BP spill, activists painted “Arctic Next?” on a Shell Oil vessel docked in Houston. The drilling supply ship is scheduled to go to Alaska this summer as part of Shell’s exploratory drilling operations there.

This environmental moment may have been too renegade for some tastes. But Greenpeace is just one of many environmental organizations raising this question. Mainstream groups such as the Natural Resources Defense Council and the World Wildlife Fund, also oppose offshore arctic oil drilling and protested when the Obama Administration opened certain areas for drilling earlier this year. Drilling in remote waters in the fragile arctic region is folly, they say, because rescue and clean up operations would be extremely difficult in that harsh climate.

A spill in arctic waters would not just add insult to injury to animals already bearing the brunt of climate change as their habitats melt, it could harm seafood supplies that help feed the world.

“More than half of the fish caught in the United States each year come from the Bering Sea. And nearby, in Russia, the Kamchatka Peninsula’s river systems host the greatest diversity and concentration of salmonoid fish on Earth and produce up to one-quarter of all wild Pacific salmon,” according to the World Wildlife Fund.

After the BP blowout in the gulf, WWF called on President Obama to reconsider its decision to allow exploratory drilling off Alaska’s North Slope.

“We’re asking President Obama and Interior Secretary Salazar to affirm that there will be no new drill bits sunk into U.S. waters until we understand what went wrong in the gulf, and can be certain it won’t happen in the Arctic,” said Tom Dillon, WWF’s senior vice president for field programs in a May 4 statement.

“The Gulf of Mexico has every technology available to cope with an oil spill that is now threatening to cripple the economic and ecological health of the entire gulf region. By comparison, there is no adequate plan and even less equipment for responding to a blowout in the Arctic Ocean. It would be dangerously irresponsible to allow new drilling until we understand what went wrong in the gulf and have safeguards in place to protect the Arctic.”

Why worry? The Alaskan offshore sites are some 140 miles off the coast in areas that experience gale force winds, moving sea ice, and  protracted darkness — all of which make both drilling and rescue operations riskier.

“A spill in the Gulf of Mexico is a bit like having a heart attack in New York City where you have every known resource to try and fix it,” said William Eichbaum, WWF’s vice president of marine and arctic policy. “A spill in the Arctic is like having a heart attack at the North Pole. Unless Santa Claus shows up, you’re not going to get help anytime soon.”