Shell - kayaktivistsAs dawn broke over Seattle yesterday, dozens of kayakers – known as kayaktivists – paddled out to confront Shell’s vast Polar Pioneer drilling rig and tried to prevent it from leaving port.

In the ultimate David and Goliath protest, the small kayaks and boats formed a blockade around Shell’s huge rig in order to try and stop it from heading to the Arctic, where the oil giant hopes to start drilling this summer.

However the Coast Guard started plucking the “kayaktivists” from the water enforcing a 500-yard safety buffer around the rig.

Many of the activists were members of Greenpeace. “Shell was trying to get the Polar Pioneer out of Seattle under cover of darkness, but the kayaktivists prevented them from leaving for several hours and exposed what they were doing to the world,” said Travis Nichols with Greenpeace.

One of those detained was Seattle City Council member, Mike O’Brian. “That monstrous rig is headed to the Arctic to attempt to do something unconscionable,” he texted as he was being processed by the Coast Guard authorities after being detained.

Later he gave further reasoning as to why he was prepared to be arrested: “We already have more oil than we need to safely transition away from fossil fuels,” O’Brian said. “This attempt to get more oil in the Arctic, just like Keystone pipeline or the Bakken oil fields, is one of these game changers that puts so much more oil in the system that will cause catastrophic climate change and that will impact billions of people around the planet.”

Another activist who was detained by the Coast Guard was Kelly Mears, who unfurled a massive “Shell No” banner. “Ultimately, I think that it’s pretty negligent decision to allow the vessel to drill in the Arctic,” said Mears. “My personal moral compass wasn’t allowing me to stand idly by and bemoan it as something that we can’t escape from.”

Shell, which is still waiting for its final permit approvals, meanwhile continued to spin the line that it remained “committed to operating in a safe, environmentally responsible manner”.

This is despite the fact that the oil giant concedes that it would never be able to adequately clean up an oil spill in the region and we cannot burn the oil it may find if we are to avoid runaway climate change.

Indeed the Guardian this morning has an interactive report on Shell’s Arctic drilling programme. The paper says simply:

“It is here that Shell plans to drill for oil, pulling the detonator on a carbon bomb which eventually could spray 150bn tonnes of carbon dioxide into the atmosphere.”

Shell’s “carbon bomb” is one of the main reasons why activists will continue to fight Shell. “The ship has a two-week journey to Alaska”, Greenpeace spokesperson Cassady Sharp said. “The movement has got quite big in this region. We expect the protests to continue.”

One Comment

  • I was one kayaker in Seattle. I’m convinced that the most alarmed in society will never achieve real reductions until we ask for what we really need. This is my “pie in the sky” question that i hope you can help me answer.

    James Hansen research prescribes a 6% per year reduction in GHG emissions to save our kids and most life as we know it on a path back to 350ppm near 2100.

    If all new oil exploration could be banned by law,
    At what overall rate would existing fields “dry up”?
    In other words if we summoned enough political will to shut off the flow of “new” oil to market, how quickly might the market shrink?

    Or, what kind of exploration and development would we need to outlaw to accomplish something close to a 6% annual decline in fuels coming to market?

    How much does industry spend on new exploration each year? Besides being an immoral crime against life, that’s money that energy corporations will save as they cut costs, effectively making it ‘cheaper’ for them to produce a barrel of oil while demand per barrel and profits increase.

    Combined with consumer education programs, and alternatives to driving gas cars, as the long-term market responds to the clear signal of enforced production limits and immediate price volatility, we might see some real decline.

    I realize this is all about as realistic as nationalizing the entire energy sector, but still, in numbers, assuming they don’t voluntarily slash production, what do we need to be thinking in the year 2015 to put oil companies out of business in time?

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