It has been reported in the last day or so that oil exploration in the Arctic is encroaching on the natural habitat of polar bears, putting this very striking animal at severe risk. I have written previously of the reliance of our entire culture on the search for new sources of oil, and their subsequent extraction, but when I hear news such as this, I do wonder if there are any depths we're not willing to plumb in search of this black liquid.
Back in August, 2011, Royal Dutch Shell was granted permission by the US Department of the Interior to begin drilling exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean. However, just one month later, one of the world's leading polar scientists, Professor Peter Wadhams, told The Independent: "If there is serious oil spill under ice in the Arctic it will be very hard, if not impossible to stop it becoming an environmental catastrophe. It will be very much harder to deal with than a major spill in open water".
But this apparently didn't and doesn't matter at all as long as we continue to fulfil our unquenchable thirst for crude oil. An unquenchable thirst which can be satiated for a certain period of time, but will have to end sooner or later because eventually the sources of oil will simply run out. This is an absolute certainty, no matter what any contrarians attempt to argue.
In the last few days, reports have emerged that a large source of oil has been located in Saudi Arabia. In common with the response to shale oil in the United States, such findings are always greeted enthusiastically, with the naysayers proclaiming those that warn of the rather obvious and facile reality that oil is a finite commodity to be delusional and melodramatic. Meanwhile, OPEC has already predicted the end of shale oil in the US.
The mania for getting our grubby hands on ever diminishing returns of oil has become so rabid that the extraction of shale oil is risking the pollution of drinking water sources. Already a wave of lawsuits have been raised against the companies engaged in the extraction of shale oil and gas, with locals observing both the aforementioned pollution, and the loss of cattle and other livestock.
On top of that we have also recently borne witness to the hugely controversial and by now infamous technique of fracking, which has received a torrent of opposition. And that's not even mentioning the environmental catastrophes which have been caused by oil spills.
Of course, we all know why there is this focus on oil. It's quite simply because some trillion-dollar companies aren't too keen on the well running dry just yet. They naturally have a vested interest in acquiring every last drop of oil that they possibly can, and in maintaining the impression in the public mind that this is a hugely critical commodity that human-beings simply can't manage without, and we shouldn't even entertain the concept that this is possible.
You would think that in any kind of sane world we'd be putting all of our energy into working out what we're going to do when there is less oil, not scrabbling around searching incessantly for new sources and arcane methods of extraction that threaten massive ecological and environmental damage. However, I long since concluded that we don't live in a sane world. Lord only knows what other maniacal schemes to squeeze more black gold out of the core of the earth will be dreamt up in our inevitable and blackly comical race to the bottom.
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