Shell caught a lot of flak from environmentalists when they decided to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea near Alaska. Such drilling wasn’t guaranteed to return much oil, because of the difficulty of reaching that oil, but that’s not what environmentalists were worried about. They were more concerned about oil spills which could devastate whale, walrus, seal, and polar bear populations. And that wasn’t them being over cautious: Shell’s record on spills and safety isn’t exactly spotless, and there are iceberg in the Chukchi as large as Manhattan Island.

Alaska oil pipeline

After a long process of dealing with federal regulations and other red tape, Shell did dig their Burger J exploratory well, but six weeks later they called it quits after they failed to find enough crude to make it worth their time.

Getting that rig out there was difficult, as protestors gathered to stop the ships from leaving port, they faced legal difficulties after a shady, closed doors deal allowed them to put in at the Port of Seattle, and after the Obama administration ruled that laws protecting walrus and polar bear populations prevented them from operating two rigs in the area.

In the end, Shell called it quits because the project was costing too much, and they weren’t going to see enough of a pay off, especially as they’re dealing with a $70 billion dollar takeover of rival BG. Pretty standard business reasons for cancelling a project, and it’s great that they cancelled it before it could have too much of an impact on the environment, but that project never should have happened in the first place.

Shell didn’t consider the environmental impact beyond what they had to or regulatory purposes, which is pretty standard for the oil industry. Huge corporations that make their money by polluting don’t like to think about what’s good for the environment, and they don’t like to listen to the people either. But we have to keep telling them what they’re doing is wrong, keep supporting scientists who investigate climate change and other problems, and elect politicians who care about the environment.