Environmental damage

To appease pressure groups and public opinion, most international oil companies are generally keen to minimize the environmental damage they cause when they lift oil or natural gas from the ground. Companies like British Petroleum and Royal Dutch Shell, for example, have invested huge sums of money in high-profile media campaigns that are designed to project exactly such an environmentally friendly image. Sometimes they succeed at living up to their promises because modern technology allows them to use minimal infrastructure to extract huge quantities of oil and natural gas while the surrounding countryside looks barely any different: the Snow White complex at Hammerfest in Norway has been built almost entirely underwater, and most of its production facilities have been hidden from the mainland. British firms, in particular, are currently pioneering the development of 'subsea' technology that allows the exploitation of oil and gas not from above the surface, using rigs and platforms, but from under it.2 At other times, however, the exploitation of petroleum reserves has enormous environmental consequences that no amount of clever marketing or ingenious engineering can disguise.

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