With as many as seventy thousand barrels of oil — and perhaps even more — still spilling into the Gulf of Mexico, the dangers of offshore drilling are clear. Incredibly, Shell Oil still plans to move forward with a dangerous scheme to begin exploratory drilling in the remote Chukchi Sea, even in the face of this unprecedented environmental catastrophe.
In less than one week, drill ships are expected to leave the Philippines on track to Alaska to start operations in this vital habitat for America’s polar bears. Shell Oil hopes to begin their dangerous exploratory drilling operations as soon as July 1st, raising the specter of another offshore drilling disaster like the one now threatening sea turtles, brown pelicans and other wildlife in the Gulf of Mexico.
Drilling in the Chukchi is a risky gamble. For much of the year, the Chukchi Sea is a vast expanse of broken sea ice, sub-zero temperatures, extended storms and continuous darkness. No effective, proven technology exists to clean up oil spills in such conditions. In fact, the same federal Minerals Management Service that approved BP’s ill-fated Deepwater Horizon well, has also been criticized by the Government Accounting Office for its handling of the Shell permits.
All of this adds up to big trouble for America’s threatened polar bears.
Coated in oil, a polar bear’s fur loses its ability to insulate. Oiled polar bears — usually resistant to the cold — can actually freeze to death.
A polar bear’s kidneys can fail if they ingesting oil by trying to clean themselves. And a significant oil spill in the Chukchi could decimate the ringed and bearded seals and other marine animals that polar bears survive on, causing bears to starve.
But it wouldn’t take a catastrophe the size of the Gulf oil disaster to devastate our polar bears.
Drilling operations break up the sea ice that polar bears need to hunt for food. Without it, they can drown or starve to death. And the noise and disruption from the operations can cause polar bear mothers to abandon their cubs. Without a mother, cubs have little chance of survival.
Take action now. Tell President Obama and Secretaries Salazar and Locke to stop Shell’s polar bear-threatening plans.