The joke going round Europe is that the only reason that President Obama won the Nobel Peace prize is that he is not President Bush. It’s not who he is but who he is not, that matters.
He might not be President Bush but Obama is continuing the mistakes of the Bush era. In fact he is acting rather like him.
After years of delays and legal challenges, the Obama Administration has given the conditional go-ahead for Shell to begin drilling for oil and gas in the environmentally sensitive Beaufort Sea, home to threatened bowhead whales.
The decision by the Minerals Management Service clears one of the last big hurdles for Shell to drill two exploration wells on two offshore lease areas in the Beaufort Sea. The company plans to drill between July and October 2010.
Shell’s plans have been vehemently opposed both environmental groups and Native Americas. Drilling could affect both polar bears and the bowhead whale population, which is highly sensitive to noise. Oil spills in the Arctic would also be impossible to clear up.
Environmental groups said they were disappointed by the decision and criticized the government for endorsing a leasing rush that was sanctioned by the Bush administration.
Rebecca Noblin, an Alaskan specialist with the conservation group the Centre for Biological Diversity, said: “We’re disappointed to see the Obama administration taking decisions that will threaten the Arctic. It might as well have been the Bush administration.”
“M.M.S. is again trying to implement an overly aggressive Bush-era drilling plan in one of the riskiest areas on the planet to drill,” added Whit Sheard, the Alaska program director at Pacific Environment. “Although fishermen, traditional indigenous communities, the courts and the global scientific community have all condemned this plan, the Arctic continues to be treated like a sacrifice zone.”
“There is no safe way to drill in the Beaufort Sea,” said Athan Manuel, director of lands protection at the Sierra Club. “Cleaning up an oil spill in the Arctic’s broken sea ice is next to impossible, and where there is drilling, there are oil spills.”
He continued “Instead of drilling for more dirty oil, we can shift to clean energy that will create jobs, combat global warming, and keep our wildlife and wild places intact.”