Arctic Surprise: Shell Shocks With Announcement That Its Alaska Adventure Is Over (For Now)

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Earlier this week, Shell Oil announced that after seven years of mishaps and $7 billion in lost investment, the oil giant’s Arctic drilling efforts came up dry and the company is putting an end to its Arctic Alaska adventure “for the foreseeable future.

The road was long, but Shell’s announcement was a welcome exclamation point on what has been a risky and unnecessary push for Arctic oil. Millions of Americans, from the northernmost villages in Alaska all the way to Florida, have spoken out time and again that the Arctic is no place for oil drilling. Opposition against Arctic drilling has been growing, but this summer saw public outcry come to a head as the “kayaktivism” movement was born in Seattle. And in July, citizens across the country banded together for the “Shell No” Day of Action. With more than 20 events in 15 different states – which included speeches by a U.S. Senator, a Congresswoman, and numerous other local elected officials – the nationwide protest continued the kayaktivist movement that began in Seattle, and called on President Obama to stop Shell – or any other oil company – from drilling in the Arctic Ocean. And the world turned its attention to Shell yet again when its damaged Fennica icebreaker was delayed leaving Portland, Oregon due to additional protests.

This victory is a fitting end to a drilling effort that will forever be known for Shell’s repeated missteps and blunders, and we couldn’t have done it without your support. Moving to develop Arctic oil, the production of which would still be decades away, would be feeding our addiction to fossil fuels at a time when we should be focused on developing and moving clean, cheap and efficient forms of renewable energy into the mainstream.

We are at a critical juncture for our planet – the Arctic is warming at twice the rate of the rest of the planet, a frightening thought when you realize we seem to be setting new temperature records every year. As sea ice continues to decline and Arctic waters are quickly becoming more acidic, one powerful way we can slow the effects of climate change is to limit the amount of fossil fuels we are burning, and an effective way to do that is by not opening up new areas – like the Arctic – to intensive drilling.

To that end, we’re so thankful for Arctic champions like Representative Jared Huffman (D-CA), who on the same day that Shell announced its Arctic retreat, introduced legislation to put an end to oil and gas leasing off the Arctic coast. His bill in the House mirrors one introduced earlier this year in the Senate by Senator Jeff Merkley (D-OR). We’re thankful to these lawmakers and those that have signed on as cosponsors to these bills for standing up for America’s Arctic and pushing our nation to pursue policies aimed at avoiding the worst effects of climate change.

Climate change is at our doorstep. Arctic communities and iconic wildlife are feeling the heat of a warming Arctic. As Shell leaves with its tail between its legs, President Obama should seize on this historic opportunity to look forward and protect the Arctic for our children and our climate future.