Thursday, June 16, 2016

Arctic drilling debate flares up again

The future of oil and gas drilling in the U.S. Arctic faces a critical test as the White House considers whether to continue leasing undersea fields off Alaska's remote northern coastline. For decades, oil workers have drilled into the frozen tundra of northern Alaska, tapping a reserve that once accounted for close to a quarter of the nation's oil production. But as the flow of oil from those fields has declined, companies like ConocoPhillips and Royal Dutch Shell looked out to the iceberg-packed waters of the Arctic Ocean. Now, the Obama administration will decide whether the potential benefit to U.S. energy security outweighs both its commitment to reduce the country's carbon emissions and the potential risk of an oil spill in what are perhaps the country's harshest and most remote waters. Since Interior Secretary Sally Jewell announced in March that lease sales along the Atlantic coastline were off the table, attention has shifted to the Arctic as energy industry trade groups and environmentalists try to sway the White House. That has sparked concern among oil companies operating in Alaska that their opportunity to drill off northern Alaska could be finished. Kara Moriarty, president of the Alaska Oil and Gas Association, which represents companies such as Shell, BP and Exxon Mobil, said she thought canceling the lease sales "would be incredibly shortsighted. The environmentalists should go look at what the forecasts show about where their energy is going to come from." A coalition of environmental groups that includes the Sierra Club and the Alaska Wilderness League was preparing this week to deliver a petition with 1 million signatures opposing lease sales in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, which oversees offshore drilling, Greenpeace senior researcher Tim Donaghy said. Their demands follow a meeting of world leaders in Paris in December at which close to 200 countries agreed to put carbon emission controls in place to keep the planet from warming no more than 2 degrees Celsius. "We've discovered more than enough oil to put us over that limit," Donaghy said. "Looking for more oil at this point is counterproductive."..more

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