The Hill | 15 June 2015
Oil Lobby Confronts Image Problem in Arctic Drilling
The oil industry has identified public perception as one of the top issues it faces as it seeks to drill in the Arctic Ocean.
American Petroleum Institute (API) officials said that, throughout the world in places such as Canada and Russia, oil drillers have a century of experience operating in Arctic conditions and they are not worried about their ability to drill north of Alaska.
But convincing the public of those qualifications is proving a challenge.
“We need to secure public confidence,” Richard Ranger, a senior advisor at API who oversees Arctic drilling policy for the group, told reporters.
“There’s obviously a significant debate, and we recognize the fact that the idea that we can operate safely and have operated safely in the Arctic is as not broadly realized across the public as we think it should be,” he said.
As oil producers eye the largest untapped hydrocarbon resource in the world, where the federal government estimates up to 36 billion bbl of oil and 137 Tcf of natural gas sit, it is important the industry gets its ducks in a row.
Royal Dutch Shell is preparing to drill exploratory wells in northwest of Alaska in the Chukchi Sea this summer, though other companies such as ConocoPhillips and Statoil hold leases there as well and more lease sales are likely in the coming years.
The industry is trying to explain to the public that it is safe and that environmental damage is rare, but it is a difficult task, Ranger said.
“Our challenge as an industry and as people who work in the industry is, it’s too easy for us to default to technical arguments, and people’s eyes simply glaze over,” he said.
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