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Obama should not have approved risky Shell oil drilling operation

Troy Wilkinson
Troy Wilkinson

During Obama’s recent visit to Alaska, he talked about the imminent threat of climate change and the immediate attention required of our country to save future generations from its consequences.

We’re not acting fast enough,” Obama said four times throughout his speech in Alaska. Unlike the usual ambiguous wording Obama uses, he instead bluntly stated that “the United States recognizes our role in creating the problem, and we embrace our responsibility to help solve it.”


You would think he’d be getting some praise from environmentalists for that, but it’s been quite the contrary. Not too long before his visit, he handed over a permit to Shell oil company that was needed to start drilling for oil in the Arctic seas above Alaska. There have been voices all over the media criticizing him for his hypocrisy, and rightly so. Obama needs to amend his mistake of handing over that permit to Shell, because it can only end in catastrophe.

The Center for Biological Diversity holds the Arctic oceans as “a place that should be off limits to oil drilling because an oil spill would be impossible to clean up” due to factors ranging from weather patterns, ocean intensity, temperature and other complications. Shell drilling in arctic waters has the potential to become an environmental problem beyond what the world has experienced yet, especially since their track record for Arctic drilling is rife with problems.

On Shell’s exploratory drilling mission in 2012, the company ran into several problems. Drilling rigs weren’t working properly. The Arctic winds, waters and temperatures were blowing Shell’s vessels off their path. Containment domes deployed accidentally, and when it came time to retreat from exploratory drilling, the Arctic waters were far too intense and several towing vessels failed due to engine flooding, overheating and towlines snapping. Eventually, Shell’s vessel just couldn’t be saved and had to be scrapped.

It must be questioned what kind of message Obama’s actions are sending to American citizens and other nations around the globe. He may be demanding for sustainable and greener actions in America, but his choice to approve such a large and risky oil drilling operation is a contradiction. 

The message Obama is sending is one of false words. He is acting as politicians usually seem to usually do these days: talking about moving in one direction, but then doing a complete 180 and acting in the other way. The time to act for climate change is now, and Obama needs to walk the walk if he’s ever going to lead the transition of America from a unsustainable country to a sustainable, green one.

Climate change is important – extraordinarily important – and it’s fantastic that the president of the United States is talking about the issue in such a blunt and true manner, but his hypocrisy should not be tolerated. He is speaking for immediate action to push our country toward renewable resources, but just because we still need oil for the time being doesn’t justify allowing such an irresponsible company to drill in such a perilous area, especially one inhabited by desperately endangered species.

Obama is not only sending the message that leaders in politics don’t have to live up to their word, he is sending the message that the fragile and volatile environment of the Arctic should be tampered with. If America wants to become a sustainable country, one based on renewable energy sources, we cannot continue to accept this two-faced idiocracy, and Shell must be stopped. Sign petitions, and call Jared Polis or whoever your representative is and tell them that the Arctic must not be touched.

Collegian Columnist Troy Wilkinson can be reached at or on Twitter @blumitts.

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