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EU Scientists Withdraw From Research Project

There’s a fascinating new story doing  the rounds at the moment about the huge scientific research centre – Heimholtz Research, which has withdrawn from a project due to political pressure.  In many ways this sounds quite controversial in itself, a research body being pressurized into not researching something!  However many might believe this is understandable due to the topic concerned.

The research in question was focussed on developing technologies to help reduce the environmental damage caused by exploiting the vast oil sand reserves in Canada. If you’ve not heard of these it refers to the loose sand or shale that are saturated with a dense and very thick form of petrol (also known as tar or bitumen).  These are found in huge quantities in Canada and contain a substantial amount of oil.

These deposits have been known about for many years, however the extraction was always too expensive to be viable commercially.  Now rising oil costs and the introduction of new technologies have made the extraction commercially viable but not ethical in many peoples opinion.

Protesters claim that tar sands cause numerous environmental problems including vast amounts of deforestation to clear the areas and access to the deposits.  They also point out that the mining of tar sands releases over three times as much CO2 as normal oil production.  Many estimates point towards mining of these tar sand deposits becoming the biggest single contributor in North America to climate change.

Scary stuff, it is this sort of press that has led Helmholtz to withdraw from the research project.  The argument is of course does the withdrawing of technical expertise help in any way, should researchers be drawn into political and environmental battles.  Their role after all was to help minimize the environmental impact of a the project.  It may be the problems for Helmholtz may be due to  the upcoming EU designations of companies involved in producing high pollution oil reserves.

At the very best scenario it was seen as a huge risk to the companies reputation.  On numerous TV documentaries the involvement was highlighted – check out the online versions of ARD and ZDF.  If you’re outside the country you’ll need a French proxy to access these shows (and of course speaking French would help), try here for help.

It’s a very stark example of how research companies need to be careful about what projects they get involved with especially highly commercial and controversial ones.

Further Reading:

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Risks of Oil Exploration in Arctic

There are many organisations and corporations who over a long period of time have been looking at ways that they could exploit the resources which are contained within the arctic Ocean. There is little doubt that those resources exist, however what is more important is the potential risks to attempting to exploit those resources.

The primary risk related specifically to Arctic Oil and gas exploration of course is that of an oil spill. There is only one way to describe this situation it would be utterly catastrophic. Here some quotes of people who take an interest in the Arctic and it’s environment:

Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

“The cataclysmic impact of an oil spill in the High Arctic Ocean is unimaginable. That’s why we made the decision that there needed to be moratorium on Arctic oil and gas exploration.”

David Miller, CEO of World Wildlife Fund Canada

“It’s quite clear from our work at WWF that risk to nature of drilling is far too great to be worth taking,

Excepting some opinionated American individuals (unfortunately in power) there is pretty much a consensus of the risks of climate change.   We are running out of time to drastically reduce our carbon footprint as a species, so to even consider mining for more of these fossil fuels in one of the environmentally sensitive places on Earth seems like utter madness.

However this is what the Norwegian government are doing, opening up a new oil frontier in the Arctic ocean together with several oil companies.  They have granted licenses for 12 oil companies to start exploration in the Barents Sea, Statoil is to drill to the far North in Korpfjell.

The Arctic is already melting due to our planet burning fossil fuels and to even consider allowing new oil wells to be set up there is a triumph of greed over common sense.   The Norwegian Government has a duty to provide a healthy and safe environment which is documented in it’s own constitution.    This in addition to the Paris Agreement should have been enough to prevent these rigs being allowed anywhere near the Arctic ocean.

Additional Resources.

To access the BBC and it’s documentary section from outside the UK is difficult, but the following resources will help – Can I Get BBC iPlayer in Spain, John Williams, 2016.

Free Trial accessible from Australia and most European Countries :  bbc iplayer abroad free trial