The Obama administration just approved Shell Oil's plan to drill for oil in the Arctic, and even though it got its way, the company is still whining about "unwarranted restrictions" attached to this approval (it can't drill when winter ice is present, boo fucking hoo).

Drilling for oil is challenging even under "normal" circumstances, so it's pretty much inevitable that in the extreme conditions presented by the Arctic, some of this stuff is going to escape, and there might even be a catastrophic spill. What's that going to look like?

It might look a little like Russia, i.e. fucking terrible. Russia’s constant oil leaks are already contaminating the Arctic, wiping out entire ecosystems and all of the fishing and hunting upon which many remote villages rely. And Russia is aiming to follow Shell into Arctic waters, which could compound the disaster — Russian company Lukoil's safety record makes Shell look like Greenpeace.

Meanwhile, the oil response "plans" put forward by most drilling outfits are "triumphs of hope over expectation," because "Arctic ice, lack of daylight, winds, and temperatures make it extremely difficult to contain, burn off, or disperse spilled oil."

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Sure, the Arctic may currently look like a freezing desert wasteland that can afford to get a little more ghastly. But once climate change really kicks in, it’s gonna be expensive beachfront resort property. So it’s in even rich people’s interest to keep it pristine.

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