Posted by: theoptimisticconservative | April 25, 2011

Another Drilling Halt: Your Taxpayer-Funded Regulators at Work for You

Fortunately, the EPA is already saving us from lower gasoline prices.  Gateway Pundit and others picked up today on the news that Shell has had to stop drilling off the coast of Alaska because of EPA regulations.  The EPA has withheld the permit needed for Shell to operate an icebreaker, because of the ship’s emissions and their potential impact on the 250 residents of Kaktovik, Alaska, 70 miles from the drilling site.

One thing that’s odd about this is that the issue for the EPA is the icebreaking ship.  The Beaufort Sea off Alaska’s north coast is covered with sea ice more than 10 months out of the year.  For 6-8 weeks in August and September each year, the ice recedes, leaving an un-iced area up to 70 miles from the coast.

Where icebreakers are killing the planet


But the icepack makes navigation impossible without an icebreaker for all of the other 10 months – and in all areas where sea ice is prevalent and subject to break-up, commercial navigation is normally assisted with icebreaking at any time of year.  (The Russians have tales to tell about ships that tried to transit their northern coast without icebreaking support, in the late summer, and had to be abandoned in early fall after they had gotten stuck in the ice and couldn’t be dislodged.)

So all significant seafaring activity off the Alaskan coast in this area requires icebreaking services virtually all year.  Shell isn’t the only economic actor contracting for icebreaking services.  Most commercial maritime traffic operates within 70 miles of the coast – meaning that’s where the icebreakers will be cutting swaths through the ice and emitting their emissions – because that’s where the ice tends to be youngest and thinnest.

Even if Shell were the only entity contracting for icebreaking services, the company has been doing it for some time now, as indicated by this industry press release from the Norwegian agency that supplied an icebreaker to support Shell’s drilling in the Beaufort Sea in 2007.  Besides the fact that the icebreaking has been going on, Shell has been doing oil industry work in the area at least that long – which means the EPA isn’t shutting this operation down in an early stage.

It’s not clear at this point what has changed (emission standards tightened?  A particular icebreaker emitting too much?), but plenty of icebreaking has been allowed in the Beaufort Sea before.  Even global warming believers venture into the Beaufort Sea on icebreakers.

J.E. Dyer blogs at Hot Air’s Green Room and Commentary’s “contentions.”  She writes a weekly column for Patheos.



  1. The EPA has made quite clear their goal of reducing extraction of fossil fuels in our country, and ultimately reducing our use of fossil fuels. Every review or approval, no matter how minor, will be approached with this overarching goal in mind. And since Shell won’t make a fuss (you don’t want to be on the wrong side of your regulators), most of us will never know about the thousands of little threads that are tying down the Gulliver that should be American energy production.

  2. This isn’t really news anymore. The decision was made by the EPA months ago and reported here:

    • Actually the decision was made in late February. The citation you have was from before that, when the EPA had sent the environmental complaint back to the lodger for better documentation.

  3. the idea that we shouldn’t max out drilling in the rather vain hope that we’ll pay a couple pennies less per gallon isn’t exactly all that outrageous.

    • Couple pennies here, couple pennies there, couple pennies 400 times over; and pretty soon you’re talking about $8 a gallon gas. Which is what the Obama Administratio wants. The man pretty much said it during his campaign, although he didn’t specify a figure when he talked of wanting higher energy costs.

      • Not that I necessarily completely disagree with him. I can see some logic in forcing those peasants to walk more and take the bus so the roads will be less crowded.

  4. Margo’s point about the Obama/EPA Lilliputians destroying our economy is the key here. And the rationale — that folks living 70 miles away are going to inhale some fumes — is truly Swiftian in its perversity. And unless the Feds are flying in all their supplies, the poor downtrodden natives undoubtedly need ice breakers to help get their supply of flat screen TVs, snowmobiles and pizza to their igloos.

    Fuster: as a frog, you should be well aware of the deadly harm that gradually increasing the bureaucratic heat in tthe pot of water has brought to your fellow amphibians. To say nothing of the fact that the Feds don’t yet run our economy, much as Obama the Commissar would wish it were so.

    This EPA ruling is ancother example of Barry’s “Lead from Behind” mentality. Win the Future, Dude-in-Chief!

  5. There’s your force manipulating the market price of oil, Obama: Your own government. Do us a favor and indict yourself.

  6. Yup… I see the big investigation pulling threads and running traces… right to the door of the Oval Office… where it will suddenly find itself saying exactly nothing.

    For the Fusters of the world:

    1. Oil companies own 0 oil. They have the lease rights to about 15% of the proven supplies scattered amongst themselves.

    2. Oil resources from foreign sources are foreign owned, the dummy corporations that sell oil to “Big Oil” are branches of the particular governments running the land/water which said oil is accessed.

    3. Oil is a world commodity and its price is affected by the old fashioned laws of supply and demand. The reality is that the supply is not governed by natural access limitations – there are more than 500 years of proven reserves available across the globe and science finds more each year. The supply is therefore constricted by GOVERNMENT action, foreign and domestic; nothing more, nothing less.

    4. The Obummer Regime has systematically removed most of the US oil supply from the market, therefore adding an exponential upward pressure on the price of oil because it is A) reducing supply and B) increasing the supply of money in relation to any demand. Meaning the dollar naturally buys less oil due to the inflationary effects of stupid monetary policy.

    5. The “evil” speculators are actually responsible for 0% of the market increase in the price of a barrel of oil. They are customers just like the oil companies, who are also 0% responsible… and nobody is in business to pay $115 per barrel of oil, to sell it for $50… That would be liberal… I mean STUPID.. (sorry for being redundant.)

    So we have a perfect storm toward $6 a gallon gasoline… If this had been the Bush administration there would be 20 stories an hour complaining and blaming Bush about the price of oil… lemme see… oh yeah! We have an example from several years ago, and the proof is only deniable by Liberals…

    The Media Democrat Party Propaganda Mill continues to offer cover, and the Bummer plays on… Blaming whatever, whoever, and anyone else but who is actually really responsible for the price…

    Which is just where that investigation would find fault if it were an honest investigation… But nothing The One touches is honest, is it?


  7. This EPA gambit has nothing to do with the environment of course. Or the well being of some 70 Alaskans. Like with the entire “environmental” movement, the goals are political, not environmental. We on the Right do a disservice to the country I think by not seeing through the fraud and falling into the “environmental” trap. We’re focusing on the lunacy of the position of the Left (EPA in this case) and how a few bad fumes are risky for some 70 people (in this instance). We should call out the EPA BS for what it shamefully is and then harp on the fact that we know that the *real* goal here is to hobble “Big Oil” because it suits the political goals of the Left to do so.

    fuster, your argument above is misguided. I’m not sure who is calling for us to “max out” drilling (I’m not quite sure what would constitute a “maxing out”), but there is a whole lot more to it than saving a few pennies at the pump. For starters, I don’t accept the premise that it would only save a few pennies. I can see it saving a lot more than that someday. More over though, if we “maxed out” our drilling, how much of the money that we now send to OPEC, Vladimir, Hugo, etc… would instead stay right here in the USA? And let’s not forget that there’s more than the “few pennies” to be saved at the gas station. How about airline flight prices and the cost of food just to name a couple of things? So much of our economy is tied to oil that even a slight reduction in oil costs would have broad benefits.

    In conclusion, I implore those of us who have been knocking heads with the environmental Left for all these years to stop fighting the “environmental” battle on the Left’s home turf of the environment and start to fight the environmental battle on the Right’s home turf by calling out the Left’s “environmental” tactics for what they truly are. They are nothing more than a political power play.

    • Good point, RE. (It was 250 people, BTW. The “70” was the number of miles from their town that the drilling and icebreaking operations would occur.)

      I do think it’s necessary to debunk the environmental claims, or at least expose how doubtful or cynical/opportunistic they are. We don’t even know how many icebreakers are EVEN NOW operating within a 70-mile radius of Kaktovik, on a regular or even routine basis. Anything brought to Kaktovik by ship — and yes, things are brought by ship — brings at least an icebreaker with a cargo capacity, and probably a freighter AND an icebreaker.

      Kaktovik was an Air Force facility in the global early warning (DEW) network for decades. Its isolation is relative; it has a pier, an airport, and regular oil-industry traffic through both. Internet, phone, TV, regional electric power — it has the typical connections of modern life. If an icebreaker can’t operate within 70 miles of it, then our entire array of port complexes, up, down, and across our coasts, should be shut down — and so should Kaktovik’s access to seaborne freight.

    • How to battle the Left is always what interests me most, since it’s clear that no other issue can even be discussed seriously as long as the Left is a major political force. One of the regular writers for the American Thinker blog/on-line journal has published The Black Book of Liberalism, on the model of The Black Book of Communism, etc. Apparently (I haven’t read it but saw a couple of summaries at AT a while back) he calculates the number dead from liberal policies–e.g., all those killed by criminals in the post-Miranda (and other defendant-friendly rulings) era, etc. No doubt you could do something similar with the environmentalists (include lost wealth and other damages), the anti-nuclear/anti-war movements, etc. Obviously there’s something tendentious about this, since establishing causality is complex and you can never know what would have happened, what the costs of not establishing certain legislation, might have been–but, if you believe that liberalism and leftism has done far more harm then good, and these kinds of numbers (x millions killed by liberal policies since 1964…) provide an adequate approximation of that harm, then they should be assimilated and repeated over and over again in the uneven political combat we face in the media. After all, they can’t be disproven either.

  8. 1) what matters it have much oil is owned by companies?

    3) this is very silly.

    500 years? @what rate?

    oil “supply” is restricted by all sorts of things, and not therefore GOVERNMENT and government alone.

    is OPEC a “government” or is it something else?

    5) and 4) what the heck does “evil” have to do with a commodities market and why do the actions of the people trading in the oil market seem regular and unremarkable while the actions of our government seem to irritate your lower lower back?

    overall, why would $6 gas be anything other than $6 gas and why should $6 gas be something to rue? It’s merely the price set by the grand ol’-timey laws of supply and demand, is it not?

    • “It’s merely the price set by the grand ol’-timey laws of supply and demand, is it not?”

      No, it’s the price set by artificial constraints on supply, plus the federal (and state, where applicable) gas tax.

      • which constraints are “artificial” and which are not?

  9. OPEC is a cartel of government-run oil companies. It is directly steered by the member governments.

    Why do the actions of our government annoy–when government deliberately implements policies that make oil more expensive? Seeral reasons:
    1. the regulations are based not on statutes, but on bureaucratic extensions that have been repudiated by our lawmakers and are tenuously based on questionable science. In other words, there are few good reasons for the regulations, and
    2. the government is lending big sums to Brazil for off-shore drilling while stifling offshore drilling in the Gulf and Alaska. We would prefer policies that do not raise our debt and our unemployment rates.
    3. the President and other spokesmen, instead of admitting and defending the regulatory actions, try to scapegoat free-market actors (“speculators”) for the problems.

    Our government is supposed to be solicitous for the welfare of the country–employment, prosperity and efficiency are supposed to be its goals. When lots of actions are taken that operate in an opposite direction, people are upset.
    (not required by statute, by the way)

  10. Obama said during the campaign, that ‘he didn’t mind gasat 4 0r 5 dollars a gallon, not so soon’ seeing as he has had two years to do so, from cancelling the Arctic Survey to imposing new oil taxes in the original budget, to the drilling moratorium, propped up with fraudulent data, this is a promise he certainly kept, so keep those tire gauges handy, because that is the solution

  11. Yep, miguel C, he’s a Promise-Keeper for sure.

  12. The EPA decision in the Shell Arctic Ocean drilling fiasco has ramifications other than pristine air for the Inuit. (By the way, the EPA should sample the air quality inside the habitations in Kaktovik around mid-January.) Expect the bidding for offshore oil leases in American waters to drop dramatically. Oil companies will be justifiably reluctant to pony up billions for rights they can’t exercise. But it isn’t all bad for some. Notice that the two oil companies with the biggest problems in US operations are both foreign firms. Domestic companies with connections to the current regime will benefit if the number of potential competitors falls. BHO is as much of a corporatist as he is a socialist and firms that play along with the game will survive and maybe even prosper.

    Since the energy industry is a huge proportion of the US economy, it constitutes an immense pool of wealth. Why should non-profit lobbying groups, federal agencies and battalions of law school grads ignore that buffet line of money? Decisions like this, as illogical as they seem to the pertinent parties, the producers, distributors and consumers, ratify the efforts of bystanders whose only stake in the enterprise is to leech off those directly involved.

  13. “BHO is as much of a corporatist as he is a socialist and firms that play along with the game will survive and maybe even prosper.”

    chuck, This is basically what the fascists did. The commies tended towards outright govt usurpation of industries. The fascists would “encourage” the corporations to “do the right thing.” Often in the spirit of Luca Brasi (Either your brains or your signature…).

    I’m not going as far to saying BHO is a fascist (and certainly not with the threats of violence), but you can see the linear progression from the commies and the fascists to today’s liberals. The social/political goals are not all that different, but the methods of getting there have changed.

    adam, The first thing that comes to mind about the possible people killed by liberal policies is the Progressive effort to ban DDT in Africa because it’s some sort of egregious pollutant. However, the increase in malaria deaths after DDT was banned skyrocketed. No biggie though. The world needs to keep the population down anyway, doesn’t it?

    • RE, no dude, you can not see ” the linear progression”. you’ve actually got things backward. the commies and fascists came from philosophical distortion (a gift of German philosophical thought) in liberalism.

      • fuster, Perhaps my “line” of linear progression doesn’t go as far back as it could, but I think people here understand what I mean nevertheless.

        • Ritchie, if you cast your line backwards, you generally hook nothing edible and the point is as likely to bite onto your butt as anything else.

          we don’t have to agree with today’s liberals about a thing, but to liken them to fascists and commies is the stuff of idiots such as Goldberg and Beck and decent conservatives don’t troll those waters.

  14. Sadly, the government “encouragement” of industry in the manner described by RE is, indeed, characteristic of both the Mussolini fascists and the hard-left progressives of the 1910s onward in the US.

    That isn’t to say that shutting down industry directly with environmental regulations is the same thing.

    All constraints imposed by government regulation are artificial, non-market factors, fuster. Some of the constraints, such as police, criminal laws, and property laws, allow markets to function with less friction than they would encounter if we all had to defend everything with a shotgun 24/7. We say YAY to those constraints. The cost of enforcement — some of which is recouped through the price of everything we buy — produces a benefit that we see as obviously to our advantage and that of commerce.

    Regarding regulations specific to the oil and gas industry, one set of artificial constraints is the regulations on fuel content and emissions from combustion. In general, we say YAY to those too because they minimize pollution, even though they make it cost more to deliver fuel to us.

    Not all regulation is “bad,” and I have said that over and over again. But all regulation imposes a cost. ALL of it. There is no such thing as a regulation that doesn’t impose a cost, often in the form of higher prices, sometimes in the form of suppressing economic activity that isn’t cost-effective in the presence of the regulation (or is simply prohibited by it).

    In the case of preventing Shell from pumping oil out of the Beaufort Sea basin, the regulation tends to drive up the price of oil by setting one additional limit on the supply of it. It also prevents outright the formation of jobs in multiple industries, as well as streams of revenue that would, besides being taxable, be a source of capital for further investment.

    • —All constraints imposed by government regulation are artificial, non-market factors, fuster—

      that’s one old definition.

      others define elected government as an aggregate of individuals and a market force.

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