The buzz around bees has been bad lately. As we’ve reported, beekeepers say they lost 42 percent of honeybee colonies last summer.

And it seems that fixing what ails bees is no simple task. Over the past few decades, they’ve been hit by diseases and habitat loss. There’s also increasing evidence that a type of pesticides called neonicotinoids are linked to bees’ decline, too.

This could be bad news for all of us, since bees and other pollinators are critical to our food supply.

Honeybees alone, according to an Obama administration estimate, add $15 billion in value to agricultural crops each year by pollinating everything from almonds and apples to blueberries and squash.

And now the administration has put forth a new action plan to reverse the declines in bees.

Pollinator Politics: Environmentalists Criticize Obama Plan To Save Bees

Photo: Joe Raedle/Getty Images

We are not helpless in the face of this environmental destruction. Just last week, for example, the collective voices of Atlantic Coast residents, business owners, and environmentalists influenced the Obama administration to withdraw plans for drilling off the south Atlantic coast. So cheers to the brave folks who stood against exploiting our environment and people for profit in Louisiana.
Offshore Drilling Part 2: Arctic Drilling and the Need for Green Technologies

This is the second part of my posts about offshore drilling. Part 1 was published yesterday, and I explained what offshore drilling was, and the effects it has on the marine environment. Today, I would like to focus on the current Arctic drilling project happening north of Alaska. 

Earlier this month, Shell received the final green light and necessary permits to start drilling for oil in the pristine Arctic Sea for a limited period. They are now boring an exploratory oil well in the Chukchi Sea off the northeastern coast of Alaska, until summer ends. Even amidst the cries from environmentalists groups and locals, Obama defends his decision to allow for this offshore drilling, which some call hypocrite as it kind of goes against this whole campaigning against climate change and for environmental protection plan. 

(The Polar Pioneer drilling rig arrives in Port Angeles, Wash. in April. Shell Oil Co. is using the rig for exploratory drilling during the summer open-water season in the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast. Source.)

The Arctic Circle is the last great untapped reserve of oil and gas – containing up to 30% of the world’s undiscovered gas and 13% of oil. The US Geological Survey (USGS) estimated in 2010 that there are close to 11 billion barrels of oil in the northern part of the state of Alaska. The National Petroleum Reserve Alaska (NPRA, in yellow) contains close to 900 million barrels of undiscovered oil. The Arctic National Wildlife Refuge (ANWR, in green), has about 10.4 billion barrels of oil underneath it. It is also a home for indigenous people and endangered wildlife who have co-existed for thousands of years.

With global warming, Arctic sea ice has been melting and thus opening the way for easier access to these oil reserves. And now, environmentalists are even more worried that tapping into that waiting bonanza of oil and gas would trigger further catastrophic climate change.

The Federal Bureau of Ocean Energy Management has calculated that there is a 75% chance of one or more spills of over 1,000 barrels of oil in the next several decades. And we have all witnessed what happens with oil spills.


As I discussed in Part 1, oil spills have disastrous effects on the marine environment, as well as on the economies of the fishing and tourism industries that many coastal communities depend on.  Furthermore, sensitivity to oiling is poorly studied in ice habitat. However, it is certain that any spill will have devastating consequences on such a pristine, untouched environment. One of the main concern is the difficulty for a clean-up, if a spill were to happen. 

Now, hope is not all lost yet. The Interior Department still has to approve drilling permits for next summer, but they have not even begun work on the preparation of the Environmental Impact Statement for the 2016 sale. The EIS is a mandatory document required by the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) for actions that significantly affect the quality of the human environment. An EIS describes the positive and negative environmental effects of a proposed action, and it usually also lists one or more alternative actions that may be chosen instead of the proposed action. And considering 2016 is an election year, all bets are off as to what will go forward with offshore drilling in Alaska.

The U.S. still relies heavily on oil and gas, and here the government is trying justify itself  to push for offshore drilling: “[Obama’s senior climate adviser] defended oil drilling in general, saying that expanded American oil and gas production is a necessary part of the “transition” from fossil fuels to renewable energy.”


But green technology is here, and ready to use. France recently passed a law that requires all new commercial building rooftops to be partially covered with either solar panels, or plants. 

Costa Rica has not needed a single ounce of coal or petroleum since the start of 2015 to generate their required amount of electricity. Between hydropower plants, and a boost from solar, wind and geothermal sources, this small nation has become completely independent from fossil fuels. 

So these excuses like “oh we need fossil fuels, oh we are so dependent on them, oh we need our own oil”  are getting old to me. Wah wah wah. Many countries in the world are highly dependent on oil imports, yet have found ways to increase their use of greener technologies and decrease their own dependence on fossil fuels. How many more spills, how many more ruined coastlines, how many more deaths do we need? It’s time for a change. We cannot continue destroying the environment at the rate we are, especially for the sake of fossil fuels.