Though not binding on government, the Environmental Audit Committee of the House of Commons has concluded that a moratorium on Arctic oil drilling is needed to protect the environment, the Washington Post reports.
Committee member Caroline Lucas of the Green Party:
The race to carve up the Arctic is accelerating faster than our regulatory or technical capacity to manage it. The Arctic oil rush is bringing unprecedented risks to the area, and it's now clear that the consequences of any potential oil spill would be catastrophic.Committee chair Joan Walley:
We heard compelling evidence that if a blow-out occurred just before the dark Arctic winter returned it may not be possible to cap it until the following summer—potentially leaving oil spewing out under the ice for six months or more with devastating consequences for wildlife.
Similar sentiment has been expressed by the head of the US Coast Guard, testifying before Congress. Admiral Robert Papp said in the summer of 2011, "If [an oil spill] were to happen off the North Slope of Alaska we'd have nothing. We're starting from ground zero today. We have zero to operate with at present."
Of course, since Admiral Papp's comments, the Obama administration has given Shell approval to being exploring for oil in these very areas and ones like them, despite evidence that Shell's clean-up plans are, put mildly, less than encouraging.
All of this comes against the backdrop of off the chart levels of Arctic sea ice melting this past summer, the melting brought about precisely because of the burning of fossil fuels (parodied in the fake Shell ad at the top of this post).
As for when it would be acceptable for the proposed moratorium to be lifted, the committee says a universal standard for disaster response would need to be created, as well as "much higher, preferably unlimited, financial liability regime for oil and gas operations."