On November 21, 2913, Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman interviewed Kumi Naidoo, the Executive Director of Greenpeace, in a segment titled Greenpeace: In Opposing Oil Drilling, Detained “Arctic 30” Are Standing Up for Planet’s 7 Billion. (There is a full transcript of the interview at the link provided.) The above embedded video above includes the interview along with scenes from the Russian detention center where the activists have been held for the past two months as well as scenes from their attempt to board the Gazprom drilling vessel.
Though I would not engage in the kind of direct action undertaken by the Greenpeace activists in this situation, there are substantial reasons to be concerned about the environmental effects of drilling for oil and gas in a remote, hazardous part of the world where there are few resources available for responding to accidents. As the world watched during the summer of 2010, it took 84 days and massive amounts of resources to stem the flow of oil from the Deepwater Horizon blow out. The challenging effort took place in the warm and friendly waters of the Gulf of Mexico, just a few hundred miles from shore in one of the world’s most well equipped oil and gas drilling regions. Just imagine how long it would take to halt a similar rupture in the Barents Sea.
Greenpeace is not correct in their belief that human society should eventually abandon fossil fuels; not only do they provide valuable capabilities, but they enable life as we know it. Greenpeace is correct, however, in advocating the development of clean energy sources that substantially reduce our need to burn hydrocarbons.
Demand reduction would result in substantially lower market prices that would discourage oil and gas companies from making the enormous investments required to drill in remote, environmentally sensitive regions that have been virtually untouched by human hands. Multinational petroleum companies are run and financed by hard-nosed business people that will not make investments if there is little or no hope of lucrative returns. The best chance of reducing the risk of damaging new drilling is to develop energy sources that are cheaper and more reliable than the ones that we have available today.
Greenpeace’s official position is that nuclear energy is not worth developing, but Mr. Naidoo left the door open for a reevaluation of that position in the following quote from the video.
KUMI NAIDOO: Well, I think we’ve executed, since the action, since the arrests, the largest numbers of actions against Gazprom. Wherever Gazprom is, we have been engaging. So, for example, Gazprom is a big player in the European gas industry, and they sponsor various football, ice hockey, boat races and so on. And, of course, Gazprom executives are speaking at energy conferences and so on. And I can tell you, just in the last month we have had about 15 actions against Gazprom and its management.
We would say to all energy company leaders, right, from Gazprom to Shell to ExxonMobil and all the rest, as Greenpeace, when we look at you, we see you as an energy company. As an energy company, we cannot blame you, 20 years ago or, say, even 15 years ago, for building energy based on oil, coal and gas. However, now, you need to understand that the scientific consensus is completely clear, and even if the science was not clear, the last decade has seen more than a 10 percent increase in extreme weather events, the very events that the scientists say that that’s how climate change will be looking at. So now you do not have an excuse. The facts are before you. And you need to understand that every cent that you invest in new projects is an investment in the death of our children and their children and future generations.
What we are saying to them is, we don’t expect you to switch off overnight, but let’s do the following things: Stop fresh fossil fuel investments; begin a transition away from your existing energy supply, which is dependent on dirty, brown, fossil fuel-based energy; and begin to develop your capability, your technological expertise and so on in clean, green, renewable technology. Some energy companies are doing it. It’s still too little, too late. But what we are saying is that we are not trying to put any of these companies out of business. What we are wanting to do is put their fossil fuel projects out of business. And sadly, some of these companies, it’s almost the same, because all they have is fossil fuel projects. And they have the technological capability—they don’t have the political will yet—to actually make the transition into clean energy projects.
People who use the phrase “clean energy” often specifically include ultra low emission nuclear in their energy source prescriptions. It is time for nuclear energy advocates, especially those with solid standing in the environmental community, to push on the opening and convert the activists with truth and reason.