Climate Change Opens the Arctic to Shipping, Drilling, Militarization

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The Greenpeace ship, the Arctic Sunrise, center, is anchored side by side with a Russian Coast Guard ship, left, near Murmansk, Russia on Oct. 9, 2013. Thirty Greenpeace activists and freelance journalists were initially charged with piracy after protesting at an oil platform in the Arctic. (AP Photo/ Evgeny Feldman)

As climate change transforms our planet and the polar ice caps recede, new, previously inaccessible areas of the Arctic are opening up for business. Ironically, a notable amount of that business has to do with extracting and transporting the fossil fuels that drive climate change.

In September, a large freighter made it through the Northwest Passage, traveling from Vancouver, BC, to Finland. It was the first vessel of its type to ever make the journey and demonstrated the potential to cut costs and shipping times using the new route. The ship was carrying coal for use by a steel producer.

Elsewhere in the Arctic, the Northern Sea Route (NSR), a passage maintained by Russian nuclear-powered ice breakers, saw 71 vessels pass through it. According to the Russian fleet, that figure is up 50 percent from last year. As recently as 2010, only four vessels made the voyage between the Barents Sea, north of Scandinavia and Western Russia, and the Bering Strait, between Siberia and Alaska. While the mandatory icebreaker escort costs, on average, $200,000 per voyage, NSR is becoming an increasingly viable shipping path from Europe to Asia — an alternative route, through the Suez Canal, would have taken two weeks longer. Supertankers carrying crude oil were among the most common vessels making the crossing.

Though summer ice cover in the Arctic has dropped by more than 40 percent over the past few decades, shipping companies remain divided over the promise of Arctic shipping. “It’s early days,” Gary Li, a senior maritime analyst with IHS in Beijing, told the Financial Times. “The Northern Sea Route probably needs another 20 or 30 years of climate change to make it fully viable. And even then, it’s got so many constraints.”

But the Arctic is seeing an increase in other new business as well. It is rich in fossil fuels. Experts guess that 22 percent of the world’s remaining undiscovered oil and gas reserves lie below ice at the top of the globe. One US Geological Survey study estimated that 43 of the 61 significant arctic oil and gas fields are in Russian territory, and the country has been ramping up fossil fuel exploration since 2008. Norway, Greenland, Canada and the US have followed suit.

It’s an issue that came into national focus this year when Greenpeace activists and freelance journalists were arrested by Russia and charged with piracy while attempting to board the first oil platform to drill in the Arctic Circle. The charges were later reduced to “hooliganism” and the activists were released.

In the US, Shell Oil began exploring for oil up north in 2012. But after a drilling rig ran aground and the company encountered a slew of other problems — including fines for air pollution — it suspended its operations in 2013. They may remain suspended through 2014 as well.

In an attempt to control access to these new shipping routes and natural resources, nations are also moving to gain military influence in the Arctic. In 2007, a Russian submarine planted a titanium Russian flag at the base of the North Pole. And in September of this year, Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the country was re-opening a Soviet-era military base in the Arctic, abandoned for two decades, to help support (and secure) the region’s sea lanes and natural resources. Canada is also holding an increasing number of military drills in the Arctic and is looking at stationing a permanent force there. Norway and the US are watching the region closely.

But the jockeying for control of the region — to the point of countries establishing military bases — makes shipping executives concerned about routes like the NSR. “One thing that makes me nervous is that this route is in Russia’s hands,” a Norwegian shipping executive told the Financial Times. “If they suddenly want to triple rates or impose this condition or that condition, they can.”

And there’s a further irony: the effects of climate change could present new impediments to shipping and drilling in the region, like unpredictable weather.

Environmental groups are opposed to tapping Arctic fossil fuels that will in turn contribute to continuing climate change. Advocates point to the disastrous effect that pollution — in one worst-case scenario, an oil spill — could have on animal and human populations.

“Even the best-prepared, best-equipped and most technologically advanced oil company has no business drilling for oil in the Arctic,” Frances Beinecke, president of the Natural Resources Defense Council, wrote in June. “It is simply not possible to do it safely here.”

John Light is a writer and journalist sometimes based in New York. He writes a lot about climate policy, both inside and outside of the US. He was a former associate digital producer for Moyers & Company. His work has been supported by grants from The Nation Institute Investigative Fund and the Alfred I. duPont-Columbia Awards, and has been included in ProPublica's #MuckReads collection. You can follow him on Twitter at @LightTweeting.
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  • Anonymous

    So on an article describing actual, massive changes produced by global warming, you make a comment deriding the idea that global warming has anything to do with CO2? Or is it that you think that just because it now opens up new shipping lanes that it must be OK? I’m guessing that originally you believed that global warming wasn’t happening in the first place.

    Your comment on Occupy makes even less sense.

  • Mark Goldes

    Revolutionary technology is being born that can help to counteract Global Warming.

    See FUEL-FREE TURBINE on the AESOP Institute website for an engine that needs no fuel and opens the door to future hybrid cars that have unlimited range.

    These engines as well as patent pending piston engines will exhaust cold air. They can be thought of as refrigerators that generate electricity.

    Accelerating the development and widespread mass production of these difficult-to-believe new technologies is the challenge.

    Many millions of engines pumping out cold air instead of heat is a remarkable new possibility.

    This opens the door to superseding fossil and nuclear fuels all of which produce huge amounts of heat.

    Hybrid electric cars with turbines that need no fuel and produce cold air can sell electricity to utilities when suitably parked. No wires required.

    Imagine the impact on the economy of cars, trucks and buses that may pay for
    themselves in this manner.

    Government funding is not needed. A few bold individuals are changing the

  • Kelfin Planck

    Mark Goldes’ latest adventure in flimflam is to declare that a “FUEL-FREE TURBINE invented by a Russian scientist runs on atmospheric pressure.”

    But when we read the patent application, we find that actually the turbine does NOT run on atmospheric pressure – it requires compressed air. This is clearly indicated even in the article by Kondrashov posted by Goldes on his flimflam website. Kondrashov says:

    “To create a sample of such an engine, you can use ready-made devices, such as a load-bearing element – a low-power turbine module turboshaft turbine engine, and to compress the air… any type of compressor…”

    Kondrashov filed his patent application in 2003. No patent was awarded.

    The proposed turbine was dependent on an external supply of compressed air – not just air at atmospheric pressure. Kondrashov’s basic idea was to use part of the power of the turbine to produce additional compressed air to be used to supplement the external supply. Is there any value in this idea? No. It will actually result in a net loss of energy rather than a net gain. It is exactly analogous to trying to use a generator to power a motor to spin the generator to power the motor to spin the generator. It doesn’t work.

    Mark Goldes assures us in his note prefacing Kondrashov’s article that “We understand the science behind this jet engine.” But since he incorrectly describes it as an engine powered by “atmospheric pressure” – which it certainly is not – in fact he shows that he doesn’t even understand that the engine requires a supply of compressed air in order to spin at all.

  • Kelfin Planck

    Max Planck, in his “Treatise On Thermodynamics,” explains how the Second Law of Thermodynamics “may be deduced from a single simple law of experience about which there is no doubt.” Here is the “single simple law of experience” he proposes:

    “It is impossible to construct an engine which will work in a complete cycle, and produce no effect except the raising of a weight and the cooling of a heat-reservoir.”

    This “law of experience” is very similar to a principle suggested by William Thomson (Lord Kelvin):

    “It is impossible, by means of inanimate material agency, to derive mechanical effect from any portion of matter by cooling it below the temperature of the coldest of the surrounding objects.”

    The “simple law of experience” offered by Planck is therefore commonly known as the “Kelvin-Planck statement” of the Second Law of Thermodynamics. But we see from Planck’s “Treatise” that Planck himself did not quite regard it as a statement of the Second Law, but rather as a “starting point” or postulate from which the Second Law may be deduced.

    Here is Planck’s rendition of the Second Law itself:

    “The second law of thermodynamics states that there exists in nature for each system of bodies a quantity, which by all changes of the system either remains constant (in reversible processes) or increases in value (in irreversible processes). This quantity is called, following Clausius, the entropy of the system.”

  • Kelfin Planck

    The Kelvin-Planck formulation of the Second Law of Thermodynamics may be stated as follows:

    “No cyclic process driven simply by heat can accomplish the absorption of the heat from a reservoir and the conversion of such heat into work – without any other result (such as a transfer of heat to a cooler reservoir).”

    Now, as you will see, the Clausius formulation of the Second Law may be stated with fewer words:

    “No process is possible whose sole result is the transfer of heat from a cooler to a hotter body.”

    In fact, we can show that the Kelvin-Planck formulation may be deduced from that of Clausius. In the words of Enrico Fermi:

    “Suppose that Kelvin’s postulate were not valid. Then we could perform a transformation whose only final result would be to transform completely into work a definite amount of heat taken from a single source at the temperature t1. By means of friction we could then transform this work into heat again and with this heat raise the temperature of a given body, regardless of what its initial temperature, t2, may have been. In particular, we could take t2 to be higher than t1. Thus, the only final result of this process would be the transfer of heat from one body (the source at temperature t1) to another body at a higher temperature, t2. This would be a violation of the Clausius postulate.”

    Can anyone make a teapot that boils water by absorbing heat from blocks of ice?

  • Kelfin Planck

    Mark Goldes’ proofless claims regarding his make-believe strictly ambient heat engine do not represent any new technology, or even a new pretense – they merely represent a rather old pretense.

    “Before the establishment of the Second Law, many people who were interested in inventing a perpetual motion machine had tried to circumvent the restrictions of First Law of Thermodynamics by extracting the massive internal energy of the environment as the power of the machine. Such a machine is called a “perpetual motion machine of the second kind”. The second law declared the impossibility of such machines.”

    “A perpetual motion machine of the second kind is a machine which spontaneously converts thermal energy into mechanical work. When the thermal energy is equivalent to the work done, this does not violate the law of conservation of energy. However it does violate the more subtle second law of thermodynamics (see also entropy). The signature of a perpetual motion machine of the second kind is that there is only one heat reservoir involved… This conversion of heat into useful work, without any side effect, is impossible, according to the second law of thermodynamics.”

    Goldes’ make-believe strictly ambient heat engine would be a perpetual motion machine of the second kind, as defined above. Goldes is not developing any such engine; he is merely developing a pretense – as usual.

  • Kelfin Planck

    In Mark Goldes’ patent application for his ludicrous “POWERGENIE” horn-powered tuning-rod engine, he described the tuning-rod as “an energy transfer and multiplier element.”

    But of course, for the tuning-rod to “multiply” energy, it would need to disprove the law of conservation of energy.

    Goldes’ use of the term “energy multiplier element” reflected his pretense that the “revolutionary breakthrough” of the amazing “POWERGENIE” could disprove the law of conservation of energy, by presenting the world with a working “energy multiplier.”

    Goldes even claimed in 2008 that the POWERGENIE had been demonstrated already in an electric car, driven 4800 miles by his energy-multiplying horn-powered tuning-rod.

    But it seems that most people, for some reason, had difficulty accepting the notion that the law of conservation of energy could be proven false.

    And Goldes no doubt noticed that the Second Law of Thermodynamics – that “the entropy of an isolated system tends to increase with time and can never decrease” – is much less clear to most people than the conservation of energy.

    So now, after leaving aside the pretense that he could somehow “multiply energy” with a magnetized tuning-rod, Goldes has chosen to focus, instead, on the pretense that he can disprove the Second Law with an engine powered only by ambient heat.

    There is no “new science” in any of Goldes’ “revolutionary breakthroughs.” There is only pseudoscience and pretense – and nothing new, at all.

  • Kelfin Planck

    Let’s look at another example of Mark Goldes’ wonderful offerings in “revolutionary new technology:”

    The amazing “POWERGENIE!”

    One of the most laughable of Mark Goldes’ many pseudotypes is his “POWERGENIE” horn-powered generator. The brilliant idea of this revolutionary breakthrough is to blow a horn at a magnetized tuning rod, designed to resonate at the frequency of the horn, and then collect the electromotive energy produced by the vibrations of the rod.

    We’re not making this up.

    POWERGENIE tuning rod engine explained – from the patent:

    [The device incorporates] “an energy transfer and multiplier element being constructed of a ferromagnetic substance… having a natural resonance, due to a physical structure whose dimensions are directly proportional to the wavelength of the resonance frequency…

    “In this resonant condition, the rod material functions as a tuned waveguide, or longitudinal resonator, for acoustic energy…

    “Ferrite rod 800 is driven to acoustic resonance at the second harmonic of its fundamental resonant frequency by acoustic horn 811…”

    – But the patent doesn’t tell us who will volunteer to blow the horn at the rod all day. Perhaps it will come with an elephant.

    Mark Goldes claimed in 2008 that this wonderful triumph of human genius would bring his company, Magnetic Power Inc, one billion dollars in annual revenue by 2012. Magnetic Power is now defunct, having never produced any “Magnetic Power Modules” – just as Goldes’ company called “Room Temperature Superconductors Inc” is also now defunct, having never produced any “room temperature superconductors.”

  • Kelfin Planck

    Mark Goldes’ “Aesop Institute” has engaged for many years in the very dishonest and unscrupulous practice of soliciting loans and donations under an endless series of false pretenses, that it is developing and even “prototyping” various “revolutionary breakthroughs,” such as “NO FUEL ENGINES” that run on ambient heat alone – or run on “Virtual Photon Flux” – or on “Collapsing Hydrogen Orbitals” – or even on the acoustic energy of sound from a horn.

    Aesop Institute’s make-believe strictly ambient heat engine is ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics. This has been understood by physicists for at least 180 years. There is no “new science” that has ever determined such an engine to be possible.

    Aesop Institute’s make-believe “Virtual Photon Flux” engine is based on the idea that accessible electric power “is everywhere present in unlimited quantities” – which we know to be false.

    Aesop Institute’s make-believe “Collapsing Hydrogen Orbital” engine is based on Randell Mills’ theory of “hydrino” hydrogen, which every scientist knows to be false.

    Aesop Institute’s make-believe horn-powered engine is based on the pretense that a magnetized tuning rod could somehow “multiply energy” – a ludicrous notion, which is obviously ruled out by the law of conservation of energy.

    Aesop Institute has never offered the slightest shadow of evidence that it is actually developing or “prototyping” any of these make-believe physics-defying “revolutionary breakthroughs.” All it has ever offered are mere declarations that it is doing so – unsupported by any proof whatever, of any kind whatever.

  • Kelfin Planck

    Mark Goldes, starting in the mid-seventies, engaged for several years in the pretense that his company SunWind Ltd was developing a nearly production-ready, road-worthy, wind-powered “windmobile,” based on the windmobile invented by James Amick; and that therefore SunWind would be a wonderful investment opportunity.

    After SunWind “dried up” in 1983, Goldes embarked on the long-running pretense that his company Room Temperature Superconductors Inc was developing room-temperature superconductors; and that therefore Room Temperature Superconductors Inc would be a wonderful investment opportunity. He continues the pretense that the company developed something useful, even to this day.

    And then Goldes embarked on the pretense that his company Magnetic Power Inc was developing “NO FUEL ENGINES” based on “Virtual Photon Flux;” and then, on the pretense that MPI was developing horn-powered “NO FUEL ENGINES” based on the resonance of magnetized tuning-rods; and then, on the pretense that his company Chava Energy was developing water-fueled engines based on “collapsing hydrogen orbitals” (which are ruled out by quantum physics); and then, on the pretense that he was developing strictly-ambient-heat-powered “NO FUEL ENGINES” (which are ruled out by the Second Law of Thermodynamics).

    But of course, the laws of physics always make an exception for the make-believe pretenses of Mark Goldes.

    Goldes’ forty-year career of “revolutionary breakthrough” pretense has nothing to do with science, but only with pseudoscience, pseudophysics, and relentless flimflam.

  • Anonymous

    I always wonder if you really believe what you say or are you just trying to sell impossible dreams to people to benefit yourself. If it is the former, you are a dreamer and should be forgiven for your lack of knowledge or denial of science. If it is the latter, you are a very bad man.

  • Mark Goldes

    I assure you I really believe what I say. My bio is on the AESOP Institute website.

  • Kelfin Planck

    Mark Goldes has always known very well, in every instance, that his proclaimed “revolutionary breakthrough” engines were nothing of the kind. Anyone who doubts this statement need only investigate the ridiculous horn-powered “POWERGENIE” generator that Goldes, in 2008, claimed would earn his company one billion dollars annually by 2012. (Whenever I ask Goldes what was going to power the horn, he refuses to answer, and calls it “an arrogant question.”) When Goldes and company decided to try to copy Randell Mills with some fictional “hydrino” hydrogen of their own, they certainly already knew very well that hydrino theory is nonsense. Likewise with every other “revolutionary breakthrough” Goldes has ever declared.

  • Kelfin Planck

    Mark, please tell us:

    What was going to power the horn of the horn-powered tuning-rod generator you called the “POWERGENIE,” which you claimed would earn your company one billion dollars annually by 2012?

    Obviously you knew very well that the “POWERGENIE” could never be a useful generator, since the horn would consume a lot more power than the rod would ever deliver. It made no sense at all – as you knew very well. It was only useful as a pretense – exactly as your “Virtual Photon Flux engine,” your “collapsing hydrogen orbital” engine, and your strictly-ambient-heat-powered engine are also only useful as pretenses.

  • Anonymous

    I won’t waste any more of your time.

  • Mark Goldes

    We maintain our position that this critic is not reading things correctly. From the quotes he provides from the patent application, I will point out his assumptions.

    “…kinetic energy of the obtained joined jet mass is used for creating a moment of rotation on the power shaft, characterized in that the working medium is presented by external gaseous masses, which before being fed to the jet device for forming an active jet are compressed in a compressor to the calculated level of pressure sufficient for creating rarefaction in the adding device…” In this quote, “compressed in a compressor” refers to the section of the jet engine called the compressor; a Brayton Cycle jet engine is composed of two general sections of the engine – the compressor section and the expander section. This is what Kondrashov is referring to. The critic assumes the compressor is external to the engine. This is wrong. The patent application diagrams even point this out specifically; this critic chooses to ignore this detail.

    His statement, “we don’t require any ‘fine details’ to see that there is no ‘breakthrough’ here,” shows his attitude leading him to sloppy and erroneous interpretations. Science is done in the details, Mr. Critic; otherwise, rigorous schooling would not be required to learn science. You are failing to apply good science and have chosen “hand waving” generalizations instead.

    Yes, it is necessary to provide a momentary, outside source of energy to start the engine. This is true of ALL engines! This is not indicative of a flaw.

    “…compressed gases instead of combustion products are used as the working medium…” This only refers to the working fluid, not the energy source! Again, Mr. Critic, you are running off course. In internal combustion engines, the energy source is included in the working fluid, but a working fluid does not have to have an energy source within itself. Ever heard of external combustion engines?

    Mr. Critic, just because you do not see the energy source in this mechanism does not mean it does not exist. Absence of evidence (for you) is not evidence of absence!

  • Mark Goldes

    Mr. Critic, again you make assumptions – and wrong ones. It is silly to think patent drawings are proportional to the mechanism being portrayed. They are schematic drawings, not manufacturing drawings! The inlet valves show an option of which way air can be directed. How do you know that this is not part of the oscillatory pulsation control mechanism? It is not necessary to the pulsations, and I don’t know the full intention of the inventor for drawing it this way. You are reading WAY too much into this.Inventors put in numerous permutations to “cover their bases.”

    As for starting the engine from a compressed air supply, this is not necessary to the invention. Do piston internal combustion engine patents always show the starter mechanism? Likely not.

    As for understanding the engine at its basic level, how can you demand that external compressed air is essential when the drawings show the compressor section, as parts #6, 7, and 30? (See paragraphs 0055 and 0056.) You have chosen to ignore the detailed compressor within the jet engine. If external compressed air were all that is used to drive the ejector from the accumulator tank, why would a compressor turbine section be in the mechanism?

    From your letters, accusing Kondrashov of only using external compressed air,
    please explain why compressed air would enter at items #26 & 27, when #19
    goes directly to the accumulator and #26 & 27 go to the low pressure
    conduits and not the accumulator? Contrary to what you say, #26 & 27 DO NOT go to the accumulator! It is apparent you are not looking closely and are just presenting a foregone conclusion based upon your belief that the Second Law is universal and absolute.

  • Kelfin Planck

    I have never “accused Kondrachov of only using external compressed air.” I have said over and over that he relies on external compressed air IN ADDITION to compressed air compressed by the turbine itself.

    How many times do I have to repeat what I said originally:

    “Kondrashov’s basic idea was to use part of the power of the turbine to produce ADDITIONAL compressed air to be used to supplement the external supply.”

    I have never indicated in any way that the turbine itself did not compress air.

    I never said that the inlet valves lead “directly” to the accumulator. Your inclusion of a word I never used reflects your typical dishonesty. The externally supplied compressed air makes its way thru the turbine before reaching the accumulator. Without an external supply the accumulator would never be able to start spinning in the first place.

    But in your other comment, you indicated that the engine was actually a Brayton cycle engine – meaning it isn’t a “fuelless engine” after all. But your original claim was that the engine was “powered by atmospheric pressure.” But Brayton cycle engines are not “powered by atmospheric pressure” – they require combustion of fuel. So which is it, Mark?

  • Kelfin Planck

    Your repeated dishonesty in repeatedly misquoting my statements reflects your usual standard of honesty.

  • Kelfin Planck

    Originally you claimed the engine was “powered by atmospheric pressure.” And Kondrachov called it a “fuelless turbine.” Now you say it’s a Brayton Cycle engine relying on external combustion! Which is it, Mark?

  • Kelfin Planck

    With his typical dishonesty, Goldes says “The critic assumes the compressor is external to the engine.” No, I never said that THE compressor is external to the engine. I said that “Kondrashov’s basic idea was to use part of the power of the turbine to
    produce ADDITIONAL compressed air to be used to supplement the external

    The turbine itself can only compress air when the turbine is SPINNING. Since the turbine is driven by compressed air, the turbine WILL NOT SPIN until some compressed air accumulates in the “pneumatic accumulator.” Where will this compressed air from, Mark?

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  • Fasciatus

    By the way both Canada and Russia show readiness to develop environmental protection programs, along with their military construction plans. For example, in order to construct naval facility in Nanisivik, Canada had to clean up the remains of an old mining site. Abovementioned Russian Soviet-era base is also situated in a location that is in process of clearance. But the main issue is the ability to safeguard drilling sites -by protecting it from terrorists and by introducing new (more safe) drilling technologies.