Of course, that's not the only relevant factor. It's a difficult environment in which to drill, and Shell has had problems with proof of principle.
So there are no doubt oil spills to look forward to. I mean, no one really cares about seals and polar bears, right? (I'm serious.) Imagine the clamor if people couldn't drive to work tomorrow for lack of gas. (I'm serious.)
But what is the climate impact?
Ernst and Young, who are supposed to be good at tallying numbers, says (pg 2)
The USGS assessment concluded that approximately 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,669 trillion cubic feet of gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural gas liquids (NGLs) may remain to be found in the Arctic. Of the total 412 billion barrels of oil equivalent (boe), approximately 84% is expected to be found offshore, and about two-thirds (67%) of the total was natural gas.Let's just focus on the oil for the moment.
The US is now producing just shy of 15,000 thousand barrels a day, so 80 billion barrels would be 16 years worth of current US oil production. At $60 per barrel, its market price is over $5 trillion.
That's a lot of resource. I don't know what it costs to drill a barrel of oil in the Arctic, but it could do wonders for a stock price. Shell must think so, though I suspect they aren't anticipating oil stays at $60/b.
The energy content would be 6e20 Joules, about 5 times the fossil fuel energy the US consumed last year.
The carbon emitted from burning it would be about 11 billion tonnes, about 7 times what the US emitted last year from burning fossil fuels.
The World has emitted about 405 GtC from burning fossil fuels, so far. The Arctic oil is 3% of that.
Of course, I don't know why Obama made this decision. My best guess would be he's trying to set up Hillary for 2016. (I've already decided I won't vote for her, but then I can do that, since I live in Oregon and she will easily carry the state anyway. My vote doesn't count, thanks to the electorial college. (What a (representative) democracy this is, huh?))
Still, it's disappointing. Scuttle Keystone XL, with its 700,000 barrels per day (2.6 Bb per decade, = 1.1 gigatons of CO2 per decade), then unleash up to 40 billion tons of CO2 into the atmosphere.
IF anything, this proves no leader we elect is going to address climate change, not really, no matter what they say. How are they going to turn down $5 trillion in profits? And probably once in office they learn things -- like what the hell would happen if the US ran even a few percent short of the oil it consumes, with the surely inevitable riots over cheese and cat food -- and give in to the corporate powers who do know what the hell would happen. It keeps the wolves at bay.
Plus, the revelation of aliens in Area 51. That's got to snap your head towards what's important.
Is there even one of us who, if we owned the Chukchi Sea, would not sell it for $5 T? Or a tenth of that?
If we accept that US political leaders won't and can't seriously address climate change, what then has to happen?