When you’ve been fighting against Shell’s crazy plan to drill in the Arctic for a while you get used to the company making a mess of PR. Like the announcement that they’d banned styrofoam cups from their oil rigs (that’ll fix the problem!) or when they proudly told us about a small dog called Tara who could sniff out an oil spill under thick ice.
But this time they’ve really outdone themselves. Thanks to folks at Occupy Seattle and Treehugger, we’re finding out about a corporate launch event that the company held last night at the Seattle ‘Space Needle’ to announce the departure of their two rigs from the city. The two creaky old rigs in question – the Kulluk and the Noble Discoverer – are soon to be on their way to Alaska if all goes as planned, despite the fact that President Obama’s Deepwater Horizon Commission has stated that there is still no proven method for cleaning oil spilled in ice and that the Coast Guard lacks an adequate response capability in the region.
Luckily for us, a member of Occupy named Logan Price found out about the event through a tip-off and managed to sneak into the Space Needle. It was meant to be a typical schmooze-fest, announcing a new phase in their nauseating “Let’s Go” advertising campaign, this time related to the Arctic. You’ve probably seen the previous ads already.
But apparently something went wrong. Check out the video below, which shows their ‘centerpiece’ for the evening – a miniature drill rig which doubled as a cocktail fountain – spraying guests when the thing, um, broke.
According to the Treehugger interview the tap on the model went haywire, spraying several representatives and VIP guests. The accident ended in a scuffle before Shell’s suits eventually ushered their guests from the Space Needle’s famous Skyline room in a hurry.
So I just spoke with one of our experienced oil campaigners at Greenpeace International and did a little digging, to find out a little more about the guests at Shell’s swanky event.
- The Chief Engineer of the Kulluk (who was the guest of honor) worked for Mitsui. You know what else Mitsui built? The Deepwater Horizon. And they paid a $90 million fine for the BP oil spill.
- The late husband of the woman who got sprayed in the face worked for Sedco. That’s Sedco as in Transocean-Sedco (or, as of 2003, just Transocean)—which owned the Deepwater Horizon.
So Shell is off to drill in the Arctic with a drill rig built by the same company that built the rig that spewed oil all over the Gulf, and designed by the company that owned the rig that spewed oil all over the Gulf.
There are, however, two differences:
- The Kulluk is much, much older than the Deepwater Horizon. It was built in 1984, versus 2001 for the Gulf spill culprit. It was in fact due to be scrapped, right around the time the Deepwater Horizon was built, when Shell bought it with the brilliant idea of sending it to drill where no machine has ever drilled before. Hmm. (The other Shell rig now headed up north, the Noble Discoverer, is even older—built in 1966! It’s almost as old as the Space Needle.)
- The Arctic is far more dangerous than the Gulf of Mexico and the Coast Guard has no way to get enough boats there to clean up a massive spill. But don’t worry, Shell recognizes the danger: the Kulluk has four 54-person survival crafts, an emergency rescue boat and escape slides!
I guess all that’s just geeky details, though, that pale next to the basic sickness of the situation. What really gets me is that last night Shell hosted a party to celebrate the fact that they intend to drill in the Arctic ocean, when the only reason it’s now possible is because global warming is melting into the ice up there. Using the clear warning of climate change to drill for more of the oil that’s got us into the mess in the first place? Pop the champagne corks!