The entire future of Shell’s drilling plans in the Arctic was put in doubt on Friday after two of Barack Obama’s most trusted advisers called for a permanent halt to oil exploration.
In a piece for Bloomberg news, Carol Browner, who was Obama’s climate adviser during his first two years in office, and John Podesta, who headed his 2009 transition team, said they now believed there was no safe way to drill for oil in the Arctic.
Their opinions come at a critical time for Shell, which has invested six years and nearly $5bn trying to gain access to the vast undersea reserves of oil and natural gas in the Arctic ocean.
The Obama administration this month launched a high-level review of Shell’s plans for the Arctic, after a series of equipment failures and safety and environmental lapses.
The company is also struggling to repair or replace its Kulluk oil rig, which ran aground over the New Year, in order to return to the Arctic when the drilling season re-opens in July.
Now two of Obama’s advisers are suggesting Shell and other companies should not be operating in the Arctic at all.
“Developers and Barack Obama’s administration assured us these operations would be safe, thanks to strict oversight and new technology. Now it seems that optimism was misplaced,” Browner and Podesta write in a piece for Bloomberg View.
“Following a series of mishaps and errors, as well as overwhelming weather conditions, it has become clear that there is no safe and responsible way to drill for oil and gas in the Arctic ocean.”