A day after the Obama administration gave Shell the final approval to begin drilling operations in the Arctic, Hillary Clinton has tweeted, that most ethereal of political commitments, that it’s “not worth the risk”, which has been interpreted to mean that she is opposed to Arctic drilling. This talk of ‘risk’ makes it pretty clear that she is making the point that the possibility of an oil spill, which even industry groups have at around 75%, is the driving reason for opposing expanded drilling operations. But that’s only half of the reason to oppose Arctic drilling, the other reason being that we need to leave that oil untapped if we want to keep temperatures from rising more than the 2% that would prove catastrophic for the environment. Focusing on the risk of spill obscures part of the reason mining fossil fuels is so damaging to the environment, but it’s a calculated move to keep open the option of supporting the Keystone pipeline, from which the risk of spill is less, and which Clinton is sure to support, given that diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks reveal she sent some of her best to coach officials on how to sell exploiting Alberta oil sands, the material that would be transported via Keystone, to their constituents.
It’s worth noting that one of these folks, David Goldwyn, served as her “International Energy Coordinator”, and in addition to being her point man on selling hydraulic fracking to the world (to lift from the title of Mother Jones’ investigation), he and others of Clinton’s State Department worked tirelessly to convince Mexico to open up the state-owned oil drilling industry to the participation of trans-national oil corporations in return for their sharing drilling technologies that would allow them to tap more oil in more places, farther offshore, making for greater oil yields (and increased climate changing pollution yields). Goldwyn, of course, since leaving Clinton’s State Department runs his own consulting company (Goldwyn Global Strategies) for the oil and gas industry and is paid handsomely by the energy groups that happened to be so benefitted by his work while with the State Department.
Offshore drilling has, for a long time, been known to be risky in terms of spills, and yet the Clinton State Department, and for that matter, the Obama administration, pushed for integration that would get the supermajors in on the cut. This suggests that corporate profits for the power elite are of principal importance. Perhaps, this fact explains why Clinton has been able to voice concern about Arctic drilling – with oil prices low due to increasing output and decreasing demand (due to China’s economic growth and thus, oil consumption, slowing considerably) many of the large oil companies are canceling expansion moves that would have been not worth the cost of investment. Maybe the media have misunderstood Clinton, and her tweet was voicing disapproval of Shell’s Arctic drilling not because of the risks of spill, but because of it being a risky investment. That sounds more like the neoliberal politician we know.