News / USA

Gulf Oil Spill Raises Concerns in Alaska

Environmental groups call for time out from offshore exploratory drilling

Environmentalists argue the harsh climate in northern Alaska would make cleaning up any potential offshore oil spill extremely difficult.
Environmentalists argue the harsh climate in northern Alaska would make cleaning up any potential offshore oil spill extremely difficult.

Multimedia

Zulima Palacio

Reacting to the catastrophic oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, 15 environmental groups have asked the U.S. Interior Department to reconsider an exploratory drilling schedule set to begin in less than 60 days off the northern coast of Alaska.  

"This could be stopped by the stroke of a pen of the Secretary of Interior Salazar or President Obama," says David Dixon of the Alaska Wilderness League.

Environmental concerns

Some native Alaskans and environmental groups have pushed for an offshore drilling delay since the days of the Bush administration.

Environmentalists worry that if a fraction of what happened in the Gulf were to happen in northern Alaska, there would be no way to respond to it leading to devastating environmental damage.

"What we are advocating is that there should be a time out," says Dixon. "We should pause until we know for sure what the potential impacts are to the ecosystems out at sea where they are drilling and until such time as we have a credible means and credible technology to respond to an oil spill."

Dixon says the scheduled drilling is in a very unique and fragile region already affected by climate change.

"Right now the federal government and Shell Oil, the company that will be drilling in the Arctic, say the chances of a blowout in the Arctic are minimum so we shouldn't worry about it," says Dixon. "That's what BP was saying and the Minerals Management were saying in the Gulf of Mexico."

Fifteen environmental groups have asked the Obama administration to delay scheduled offshore drilling in northern Alaska.
Fifteen environmental groups have asked the Obama administration to delay scheduled offshore drilling in northern Alaska.

Risky climate

Dixon says two Alaska explorations are scheduled.

One is in the Chukchi Sea, 80 kilometers from shore, a region known for migratory whales. The other is in the Beaufort Sea, 20 kilometers from shore as well as from the Arctic National wildlife Refuge.

Both are in a harsh icy environment.

"The ice would make it even more difficult to find the oil if it were leaking, let's say, from a pipeline or from a wellhead, because you can't see it, because it is under the ice," says Dixon.

A few days after the oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico, President Barack Obama pledged there would be no more offshore drilling until an investigation is completed.  But Dixon says it is not clear whether that includes Alaska.

Safety Record

The oil and energy industries defend their safety record.  

Out of thousands of offshore wells in the Gulf of Mexico, they say, only one has had a significant accident and this should not change other plans already scheduled. 

Randall Luthi is the director of the National Ocean Industries Association (NOIA) which represents more than 250 domestic offshore energy industries. During the Bush administration, he was director of the Minerals Management Service which oversees offshore drilling at the Interior Department.

"Those that have been opposed to drilling I think see this as a great opportunity to re-impose moratoriums," says Luthi. "I don't think that's the answer, at least not right now. Let's first find out what happened and what can be done to fix the problem."

Luthi agrees with a temporary restriction on new projects until the investigation in the Gulf is completed, but he sees no need to stop an exploration in Alaska that has already been approved.

"At this point ,from what we know, I don't think there is a need to stop," he says. "I think there is a need for caution. I believe there is a need for everyone to be on their toes and to be extremely careful."

Environmentalists say the answer to the U.S. needs for energy should not be found in more oil drilling but from developing more alternative and renewable sources of energy.

The oil industry says that, while other sources of energy are growing rapidly, the oil and gas industry will continue for the foreseeable future.

For now, both sides know the future of offshore drilling is under scrutiny.

You May Like

Tired of Waiting, South Africans Demand Change ‘Now’

With chronic poverty and lack of basic services largely fueling recent xenophobic attacks, many in Rainbow Nation say it’s time for government to act More

Challenges Ahead for China's Development Plans in Pakistan

Planned $46 billion in energy and infrastructure investments in Pakistan are aimed at transforming the country into a regional hub for trade and investment More

'Forbidden City' Revisits Little Known Era of Asian-American Entertainment

Little-known chapter of entertainment history captured in 80s documentary is revisited in new digitally remastered format and book More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festivali
X
April 24, 2015 4:09 AM
Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video Cinema That Crosses Borders Showcased at Tribeca Film Festival

Among the nearly 100 feature length films being shown at this year’s Tribeca Film Festival in New York City are more than 20 documentaries and features with international appeal, from a film about a Congolese businessman in China, to documentaries shot in Pakistan and diaspora communities in the U.S., to a poetic look at disaffected South African youth. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more.
Video

Video UN Confronts Threat of Young Radicals

The radicalization and recruitment of young people into Islamist extremist groups has become a growing challenge for governments worldwide. On Thursday, the U.N. Security Council heard from experts on the issue, which has become a potent threat to international peace and security. VOA’s Margaret Besheer reports.
Video

Video Growing Numbers of Turks Discover Armenian Ancestry

In a climate of improved tolerance, growing numbers of people in Turkey are discovering their grandmothers were Armenian. Hundreds of thousands of Armenians escaped the mass deportations and slaughter of the early 1900's by forced conversion to Islam. Or, Armenian children were taken in by Turkish families and assimilated. Now their stories are increasingly being heard. Dorian Jones reports from Istanbul that the revelations are viewed as an important step.
Video

Video Migrants Trek Through Western Balkans to Reach EU

Migrants from Africa and other places are finding different routes into the European Union in search of a better life. The Associated Press followed one clandestine group to document their trek through the western Balkans to Hungary. Zlatica Hoke reports that the migrants started using that route about four years ago. Since then, it has become the second-most popular path into Western Europe, after the option of sailing from North Africa to Italy.
Video

Video TIME Magazine Honors Activists, Pioneers Seen as Influential

TIME Magazine has released its list of celebrities, leaders and activists, whom it deems the world’s “most influential” in 2015. VOA's Ramon Taylor reports from New York.
Video

Video US Businesses See Cuba as New Frontier

The Obama administration's opening toward Cuba is giving U.S. companies hope they'll be able to do business in Cuba despite the continuation of the U.S. economic embargo against the communist nation. Some American companies have been able to export some products to Cuba, but the recent lifting of Cuba's terrorism designation could relax other restrictions. As VOA's Daniela Schrier reports, corporate heavy hitters are lining up to head across the Florida Straits - though experts urge caution.
Video

Video Kenya Launches Police Recruitment Drive After Terror Attacks

Kenya launched a major police recruitment drive this week as part of a large-scale effort to boost security following a recent spate of terror attacks. VOA’s Gabe Joselow reports that allegations of corruption in the process are raising old concerns about the integrity of Kenya’s security forces.
Video

Video Japan, China in Race for Asia High-Speed Rail Projects

A lucrative competition is underway in Asia for billions of dollars in high-speed rail projects. Cambodia, India, Indonesia, Malaysia Thailand and Vietnam are among the countries planning to move onto the fast track. They are negotiating with Japan and the upstart Chinese who are locked in a duel to revolutionize transportation across Asia. VOA Correspondent Steve Herman in Bangkok has details.
Video

Video Scientists: Mosquitoes Attracted By Our Genes

Some people always seem to get bitten by mosquitoes more than others. Now, scientists have proved that is really the case - and they say it’s all because of genes. It’s hoped the research might lead to new preventative treatments for diseases like malaria, as Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Bible Museum Coming to Washington DC

Washington is the center of American political power and also home to some of the nation’s most visited museums. A new one that will showcase the Bible has skeptics questioning the motives of its conservative Christian funders. VOA religion correspondent Jerome Socolovsky reports.
Video

Video Armenia and Politics of Word 'Genocide'

A century ago this April, hundreds of thousands of Armenians of the Turkish Ottoman empire were deported and massacred, and their culture erased from their traditional lands. While broadly accepted by the U.N. and at least 20 countries as “genocide”, the United States and Turkey have resisted using that word to describe the atrocities that stretched from 1915 to 1923. But Armenians have never forgotten.
Video

Video Afghan First Lady Pledges No Roll Back on Women's Rights

Afghan First Lady Rula Ghani, named one of Time's 100 Most Influential, says women should take part in talks with Taliban. VOA's Rokhsar Azamee has more from Kabul.
Video

Video Keeping Washington Airspace Safe Is Tall Order

Being the home of all three branches of the U.S. federal government makes Washington, D.C. the prime target for those who want to make their messages and ideas heard. Unfortunately, many of them choose to deliver them in unorthodox ways, including from the air, as a recent incident clearly showed involving a gyrocopter landing on the Capitol’s West Lawn. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video New Brain Mapping Techniques Could Ease Chronic Pain

From Boulder, Colorado, Shelley Schlender reports that new methods for mapping pain in the brain are providing validation for chronic pain and might someday guide better treatment.
Video

Video Hope, Prayer Enter Fight Against S. Africa Xenophobia

South Africa has been swept by disturbing attacks on foreign nationals. Some blame the attacks on a legacy of colonialism, while others say the economy is to blame. Whatever the cause, ordinary South Africans - and South African residents from around the world - say they're praying for the siege of violence to end. Anita Powell reports from Johannesburg.

VOA Blogs