Big Oil’s Environmental and Social Consequences

by Vins
Published: Last Updated on

For the past century, nations from Europe to North America have been invading third world countries and buying rights to drill, mine, and extract natural resources. The US Geographical Survey estimates that the Arctic contains about 90 million barrels of oil and about 44 billion barrels of natural gas. Even after the events of BP’s 2010 Deepwater Horizon oil spill, which leaked almost five million gallons of crude oil into the Gulf of Mexico, President Obama granted licenses for big oil drilling rights in the Arctic seas of Beaufort and Chukchi in 2012.

The harsh conditions of the Arctic pose much greater social and environmental dangers than offshore drilling in warmer waters like the Gulf of Mexico. In 2012, Shell promptly spent nearly $2 billion on Arctice drilling leases. A year after, Shell spent $5 billion on repairs to its floatable Kulluk rig, which washed aground in January 2013 due to harsh environmental conditions. Exxon Mobil’s affiliate, Imperial Oil has recently announced plans to undertake more than four miles of deep drilling in the Canadian Arctic in the Beaufort Sea, which would be the deepest well in the Arctic Circle.

Native populations around the Arctic have based their culture on ecological practices that respect and sustain their environment. With eighty percent of the food sources located and caught in these coastal waters, native populations like the Inuit fear oil drilling will cut off their food supply and disrupt their traditional culture.

Source: Joachim Hagopian, “Big Oil’s Power Grab, Devastating Environmental and Social Consequences” Global Research, May 21, 2014,

Student Researcher: Nick Millsap (Sonoma State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Erik Nielsen (Sonoma State University)