It’s Time To Stop The Oil & Gas Industry Gaslighting Environmentalists

They need to use all their energy to clean up their millions of leaking sites!

Lynn Johnson 
27 January, 2021

While I, like many, am breathing slightly easier now that the Trump years are over, I was disappointed that the Biden administration only signed an executive order placing a temporary moratorium on oil and gas activity in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. This falls short of permanently protecting the refuge, as promised on the Biden-Harris campaign site. The Biden executive order states, “the Interior Secretary shall review the program and, as appropriate and consistent with applicable law, conduct a new, comprehensive analysis of the potential environmental impacts of the oil and gas program.”

This review needs to consider the question of should more drilling be allowed in a country where oil and gas companies have walked away from leaking sites, leaving these orphans to contaminate the environment, unchecked. Fossil fuel companies are not paying for remediation of these wells, leaving scientists to say, “We make the same mistakes, over-and-over again”. Loopholes, which allow companies to say that the well is simply ‘idle’, allow them to walk away without investing in a clean-up. These facts, together  with the lack of willingness to learn, clearly demonstrate why oil and gas activity needs to be permanently stopped in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

More than a century of oil and gas drilling has left behind millions of abandoned wells. And, according to bankruptcy lawyers, industry analysts and state regulators, drilling companies are likely to abandon many more wells, due to bankruptcies, as oil prices struggle to recover from the historic lows created after the coronavirus pandemic crushed global fuel demand.

But this isn’t a century old problem. In the US, the number of documented abandoned oil wells has jumped by more than 12% since 2008, around the start of the fracking boom, according to EPA estimates.

The cost to plug just California’s deserted wells alone, estimated to number around 5,500, could reach $550 million, according to a report released earlier this year.

And it isn’t as if much profit has been made.

Large U.S. oil drillers spent a combined $1.18 trillion over the past decade, but only generated $819 billion in cash flow from their operations, according to the Wall Street Journal. In other words, oil drillers have lost more than $350 billion over a ten-year period. For much of that time, oil prices were trading at $50 per barrel or higher.

So maybe it is no surprise that the large oil companies didn’t purchase any of the leases on offer in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Only two small companies and the Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority, a state agency with limited experience in oil and gas activities, purchased leases.

When you can’t even turn a profit, in an industry that enables business to simply walk away and not need to pay for the mess they have left behind, why on earth would you let this industry open up more areas for drilling?

Some Republicans have exploded at Biden’s decision, saying it has been informed by radical environmentalists issuing punitive and divisive actions against Alaska. While there is no point suggesting that these politicians listen to environment and climate science; their obsolete thinking means that they are closed to learning on these issues. But Republicans like to project they are the party of business and commerce. Given Profit & Loss statements don’t stack up for the oil and gas industry, even with the subsidies and tax breaks they are offered, if these Republican politicians can’t understand  this, then it is their commercial education that needs a refresh.

It is time to stop the oil and gas industry gaslighting environmentalists. Instead, they need to use all this energy to join forces to clean up their historic mess, in the US and worldwide. This must be done before they are given new opportunities, and continuing subsidies, enabling the fossil fuel industries to do further damage. We have too little pristine wilderness left in the world, do we really want the oil and gas men to get their hands on the Alaskan wilderness?

Haven’t the oil and gas companies done enough damage?

In the spirit of Reagan’s historic speech, to dismantle communism, where he said “Mr. Gorbachev, tear down this wall”, I say “Mr Biden, put up this wall, and make this wilderness protection permanent.”