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The Epitome Of Stupidity: Oil Companies Chill The Ground In Alaska So They Can Keep Drilling

ConocoPhillips and other oil companies operating in Alaska’s North Slope are working to keep the permafrost from melting so they can continue to extract the oil that leads to the permafrost melting in the first place.

Are humans too stupid to live? The evidence that supports a “Yes” answer to that question is getting stronger every day. The Guardian reports that ConocoPhillips and other oil companies sucking oil out of the North Slope in Alaska are facing a new challenge. The area is warming so fast that the permafrost is melting, making it impossible to drive trucks across it and potentially destabilizing oil rigs and other infrastructure.

Themosiphons in Alaska

Thermosiphons in Alaska. Credit: Arctic Foundations

No one should be surprised. The past 5 years have been the warmest ever recorded in Alaska. Just a few months ago in Siberia, the foundation for a storage tank holding 200,000 tons of diesel fuel collapsed when the permafrost beneath it melted. It seems that global warming doesn’t respect geographical or political boundaries. In a rational world, if the ground under your feet turns into a quagmire, you might decide it is a poor place to build things. But oil companies do not operate on reason and rationality. They pray to the god of profits and so they have come up with  a new way to keep drilling and pumping.

Are you sitting down? ConocoPhillips and other companies are investigating ways to cool the Earth underneath their operations so they can keep on doing business as usual. Damn global warming! Full speed ahead! The plan was noted in an environmental impact statement prepared by the U.S. Department of the Interior and Bureau of Land Management in cooperation with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, State of Alaska, North Slope Borough, Native Village of Nuiqsut, City of Nuiqsut, and the Iñupiat Community of the Arctic Slope. The conclusion? Drill, baby, drill!

The Guardian reports the melting permafrost has created new business opportunities for some. One Alaska company, BeadedStream, sells equipment that measures and transmits tundra temperature data so oil companies  will know as soon as the ground is frozen solid enough to transport equipment, according to National Public Radio. Another firm, Arctic Foundations, is doing a brisk business selling thermosiphons – tubes that pull heat out of the ground to keep permafrost from thawing underneath oil infrastructure.

The melting is welcomed by others. Melting of Arctic sea ice removes an obstacle from shipping liquefied natural gas from Alaska’s North Slope, according to the Anchorage-based company, Qilak LNG. “Our reliability quotient goes up,” Mead Treadwell, a local businessman and former Republican lieutenant governor of Alaska who supports the project. “Climate change, the changing composition of sea ice, has made this more economic.”

What is it about Republicans that makes it impossible for them to look beyond the end of next week and see what the medium and long term results of their policies will be? When did the Republican Party decide it fully supports destroying the environment if there is money to be made? Probably when Charles Koch began pumping massive amounts of money into Republican causes to satisfy his insatiable greed.

Is there any better example of stupidity than artificially freezing the Alaskan tundra so companies can continue doing more of the very thing that is causing the permafrost to melt in the first place? If you can think of any, please share them with us in the comments section.

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Steve writes about the interface between technology and sustainability from his home in Florida or anywhere else The Force may lead him. He is proud to be "woke" and doesn't really give a damn why the glass broke. He believes passionately in what Socrates said 3000 years ago: "The secret to change is to focus all of your energy not on fighting the old but on building the new."


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