Saturday, April 19, 2014

Though no major country has a clean record on energy development, few can compare with Russia’s flagrant violation of environmental safety rules. Chernobyl is only the tip of the iceberg.

Russia shipped its first Arctic offshore oil Friday.

Even now unless people have read of the Russian coverup in “Chernobyl Notebook” or other accounts few know that 14 people were boiled alive less than a year earlier at the Balakov nuclear plant only 540 miles southeast of Moscow.

The slightest accident in the US, would be trumpeted to the world, even if no one had died. Covering up all accidents was the norm in the Soviet Union, writes former Soviet nuclear engineer Grigory Medvedev.

Greenpeace, whose activists were dragged off by Russian secret police while protesting oil developments in the Arctic, has a page devoted to Russia.

Russian President Vladimir Putin, instead of covering up the Arctic activities, boasts that they will increase production. “The (Prirazlomnoye) project will increase Russia’s presence on the global energy markets, boost its overall economy and our energy industry in particular,” he told Ria Novosti.

He apparently has made a tactical decision that because it is  impossible in this era of satellites it makes sense to promote it.

“It is the beginning of our country’s massive effort to extract mineral resources and oil in the Arctic,” Putin said.

It is a strategy he has employed in the Ukraine, with varying success. One reaction has been for the West to push even harder for alternatives to fossil fuels.

Russia has already become a mono-crop economy, and it has not fared well in recent weeks. Threatening Europe with a gas cutoff is not the way to win friends.

Thomas Friedman in the New York Times said a Russian oil boycott would be the best thing that could happen to the West. Unlike in 1973 Arab oil embargo there are now many alternative sources of energy and even more choices for fossil fuel.

Dependence on Russia for energy remains a scary prospect because there is no doubt it will come at the expense of more Arctic oil spills.

Greenpeace says Russian already spills 5 million tons of oil each year in the Arctic. That is the equivalent of six BP Deep Horizon Gulf oil spills.

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