Home / Energy / Approval of Arctic drilling comes just before Obama’s visit
FILE - In this April 17, 2015 file photo, with the Olympic Mountains in the background, a small boat crosses in front of the Transocean Polar Pioneer, a semi-submersible drilling unit that Royal Dutch Shell leases from Transocean Ltd., as it arrives in Port Angeles, Wash., aboard a transport ship after traveling across the Pacific before its eventual Arctic destination. The U.S. government on Monday gave Shell the final permit it needs to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska's northwest coast for the first time in more than two decades. (Daniella Beccaria/seattlepi.com via AP, File) MAGS OUT; NO SALES; SEATTLE TIMES OUT; TV OUT; MANDATORY CREDIT

Approval of Arctic drilling comes just before Obama’s visit

WASHINGTON — The Obama administration’s approval of the final permit to drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean clashes with the message President Barack Obama will deliver when he visits Alaska to emphasize the dangers of climate change, some environmental groups say.

As much as the groups praise Obama for his overall body of work — from stricter fuel-efficiency standards to regulations aimed at reducing greenhouse gas emissions from power plants — they consider the approval of exploratory drilling in the Arctic a stain on his environmental legacy that will send a mixed message to other countries about the seriousness of confronting global warming.

The burning of fossil fuels causes more greenhouse gases to build up in the atmosphere. Some groups would prefer leaving the oil in the ground and not tempting the harsh environmental conditions that could hinder the response to any potential spill.

“It sends a terrible signal to the rest of the world for the United States to be using public resources to promote that development,” said Niel Lawrence of the Natural Resources Defense Council. “We have to make clear to the rest of the world that we are all in on a clean energy future. And we’ve got to stop giving the rest of the world license to go exploring by permitting Shell to do it.”

In related news, Shell CEO says ‘personal journey’ led to Arctic exploration.

The administration previously allowed Shell to begin drilling only the top sections of two wells in the Chukchi Sea because key equipment, called a capping stack, was stuck on a vessel that needed repair in Portland, Oregon. Now, Shell is free to drill into oil-bearing rock, estimated at 8,000 feet below the ocean floor.

The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that U.S. Arctic waters hold 26 billion barrels of recoverable oil. Shell is eager to explore in a basin that company officials say could be a “game changer” for domestic production.

Obama, who is scheduled to visit Alaska later this month, says he is mindful of the dangers of offshore drilling, particularly given the 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill.

“When it can be done safely and appropriately, U.S. production of oil and natural gas is important,” he said at a news conference earlier this year. “I would rather us, with all the safeguards and standards that we have, be producing our oil and gas, rather than importing it, which is bad for our people, but is also potentially purchased from places that have much lower environmental standards than we do.”

When asked whether the administration was sending contradictory messages, White House spokesman Frank Benenati said the administration has invested heavily in renewable energy so that the nation can transition off fossil fuels.

“But it’s also true that we cannot make that transition overnight, which is why we have taken steps to ensure safe and responsible development of our domestic energy resources that benefits our economy and enhances global energy security, with safety remaining paramount,” Benenati said.

The administration’s approval of Shell’s exploration efforts has done little to stem criticism from congressional Republicans and industry officials who have often accused it of hindering oil and gas production on federal lands. At the same time, the go-ahead has upset a key base of his support.

“It’s perplexing and depressing, quite frankly, to hear President Obama say he wants to fix climate change but then approve Arctic drilling. It’s like a doctor diagnosing a patient but then refusing to write a prescription,” said Rebecca Noblin, Alaska director for the Center for Biological Diversity.

Lawrence prefaced his criticism of the go-ahead to Shell by saying Obama has done more to fight climate change than “any other leader in world history.”

In his visit to Alaska, Obama is expected to stress the dangers of climate change. He says Alaskans are on the front lines of the problem.

Associated Press writer Dan Joling in Anchorage, Alaska, contributed to this report.

This article was written by Kevin Freking from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network.


  1. So he drills in the arctic,when oil is next thing to free,but can’t approve a pipeline that’s good for us all. There are a Lotta Canadians who used to think it was a good thing to be Americas largest trade partner, no longer. Burn on a crude oil train Obama.

    • Canada played the fool putting all their eggs in one basket– limiting Canadian oil industry to their domestic use and what the US imports —
      And Canada begging for the K-XL so they can export to China is pathic when Canadian citizen won’t let Canad’s oil industry build their own Canadian pipeline to a Canadian port
      Almost no Canadian tar crude travels by train and what does is not volatile– DUH it is tar crude
      It is over now that the US is trading light for Mexico heavy–buy oil and paying for it with oil– Any import from Canada has to be paid for with money–Canad does not need US light so don’t have the trade option

    • The pipeline would not benefit us anyhow as you CANNOT mix Canadian tar sands with our finer oil. No benies for us at all.

    • Terry Eklund DOn’t know who told you that, but it is done every day and we already use over 2 .5 MILLION bbls a day of it. How do you guys come up with this crap.

    • Lindsay for over a decade Canada has never had a problem delivering crude to the US through the existing system
      But for Canada to expand their oil industry they must export to another market

    • You can build all the pipelines you want !!!
      It just can not cross the
      U. S border !!!

    • Canadian tree huggers control their government and their oil industry

  2. when will someone have the balls to tell saudi arabia not to flood the market and stop sending us more oil than we need?

    • LOL- it is called business– if any vender wants to flood the market and cut prices to maintain their market share so be it
      And have you not heard US oil storage is at ‘tank tops’ filled with imported oil that is cheaper than US oil..

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