Activists target Obama with anti-Arctic drilling ad

Arctic drilling and a climate change crusade don’t mix, environmentalists asserted Tuesday in a half-page advertisement in USA Today aimed squarely at President Barack Obama.

The ad by Greenpeace, the Alaska Wilderness League and the Sierra Club tells Obama that if he is committed to combating climate change, he has to block Arctic drilling too.

“President Obama, your climate legacy will start when Shell’s Arctic drilling stops,” the ad reads.

“You can’t have it both ways,” the ad continues. “You can’t take on climate change while drilling in the Arctic to burn more oil.”

The campaign keys off Obama’s inaugural vow to fight climate change and his State of the Union pledge to use his executive agencies to get the job done if Congress doesn’t act first. It also comes one day after thousands of activists rallied in Washington to urge Obama to keep his promise and reject the proposed Keystone XL pipeline that would transport Canadian oil sands crude to the Gulf Coast.

The Interior Department is in the midst of what it has described as a “high-level” review of Shell’s Arctic drilling operations last year, which could help dictate future decisions about oil exploration in the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska. ConocoPhillips is looking to begin drilling soon, even though Shell may be forced to curtail its 2013 plans because its two chosen drill ships are set to undergo major repairs soon in Asian shipyards.

Shell limited its 2012 operations to  “top-hole drilling” of only the initial 1,500 feet of its Arctic wells when the company’s oil spill response system could not win approval and get to the area before ice started encroaching. The company experienced other high-profile blunders: The Noble Discoverer drifted out of control briefly near Dutch Harbor, Alaska, last July, and the Environmental Protection Agency cited the company for violating the terms of air pollution permits while hunting for Arctic oil.

But the biggest mishap came on New Year’s Eve, when the Kulluk conical drilling unit ran aground on Alaska’s Sitkalidak Island, after a five-day fight to tow the vessel through stormy seas. The ad today shows a picture of waves crashing against the beached rig.

USA Today Arctic drilling ad