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Shareholders should demand that Shell’s activities in the Arctic be stopped

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Screen Shot 2015-07-31 at 12.52.57By a Regular Contributor

Hopefully, Shell will soon accept that in the US Arctic their position is now untenable…

If RDS wants to cut capex (and exposure), FLNG is a good place to start, as Simon Henry suggested yesterday. The Arctic should be next. 

The Arctic is rapidly acquiring a similar profile to the Brent Spar fiasco. The issue is not whether Greenpeace is right or wrong, it is whether Shell can win the hearts and minds of the public to support their efforts. So far, Shell’s own incompetence has been the most significant issue in eliminating any public support they once enjoyed. 

The destruction of drilling vessels and criminal convictions for polluting the environment and failing to keep the required records support the view that Shell do not know what they are doing. Neither Shell’s army of lawyers nor the judges on whom they rely have ever worked offshore and have no idea of what it entails. However, the first time that there is any illegal discharge into the sea or the air (and it will happen), or a fatality, injury or  well control incident, the lawyers who are supporting Shell’s current efforts will have nothing constructive to say. 

In purely scientific terms, there was no question that Shell’s position regarding Brent Spar was strong. Nonetheless, in the battle for the public’s hearts and minds, Greenpeace’s fabrications held sway. Shell’s position in the Arctic is much weaker simply because their track record shows that the views of their accountants and lawyers trump engineering common sense every time.

Hopefully Shell will soon accept that in the US Arctic their position is now untenable because of their own disastrous track record over the past few years, and the public reaction to the enormous volume of negative publicity now being generated. Shell will have to accept a substantial loss. The loss will nonetheless be much smaller than the losses Shell have incurred with their unsuccessful forays into “unconventionals”.

In the future, one of their competitors will exploit the Arctic oil unencumbered by Shell’s history of incompetence. Shell was given the opportunity to work in the Arctic and failed dismally: it only has itself to blame for the current situation and public distrust. Shell’s exposure in the Arctic increases with every day that passes: shareholders should demand that Shell’s activities in the Arctic be stopped.

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