Critics: Grounding shows Arctic drilling danger
ANCHORAGE, Alaska – The grounding of a petroleum drilling ship on a remote Alaska Island has refueled the debate about oil exploration in the U.S. Arctic Ocean, where critics for years have said the conditions are too harsh and the stakes too high to allow dangerous industrial development.
The drilling sites are 1,000 miles from Coast Guard resources, and environmentalists argue offshore drilling in the Arctic’s fragile ecosystem is too risky. So when a Royal Dutch Shell PLC ship went aground on New Year’s Eve off an uninhabited island in the Gulf of Alaska, they pounced – saying the incident foreshadowed what will happen north of the Bering Strait if drilling is allowed.
For oil giant Shell, which leads the way in drilling in the frontier waters of the U.S Arctic, a spokesman said the incident will be a learning experience in the company’s yearslong effort to draw oil from beneath the ocean floor, which it maintains it can do safely.
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