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

US Investors Eye IPO for China's Alibaba

E-commerce giant handled 80 percent of China's online business last year, logging more Internet transactions than US-based Amazon.com and eBay combined More

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

As cease-fire begins, Palestinians celebrate in streets; Israelis remain wary More

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

In treatment of a 12-year-old boy Chinese doctors used a 3-D printer and special software to create an exact replica of vertebra 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.
Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implanti
X
August 27, 2014 4:53 PM
A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Chinese Doctors Use 3-D Spinal Implant

A Chinese boy suffering from a debilitating bone disease has become the first patient with a part of his spine created in a three-dimensional printer. Doctors say he will soon regain normal mobility. VOA’s George Putic reports.
Video

Video Uneasy Calm Settles Over Israel, Gaza Strip

Israel and the Gaza Strip have been calm since a cease-fire set in Tuesday evening, ending seven weeks of hostilities. Hamas, which controls Gaza, declared victory. Israelis were more wart. VOA’s Scott Bobb reports from Jerusalem.
Video

Video India’s Leprosy Battle Stymied by Continuing Stigma

Medical advancements in the treatment of leprosy have greatly diminished its impact around the world, largely eliminating the disease from most countries. India made great strides in combating leprosy, but still accounts for a majority of the world’s new cases each year, and the number of newly infected Indians is rising - more than 130,000 recorded last year. Doctors there say the problem has more to do with society than science. VOA News reports from Kolkata.
Video

Video Northern California Quake: No Way to Know When Next One Will Hit

A magnitude 6.0 earthquake rocked northern California’s Napa Valley on Sunday. Roads twisted and water mains burst. It was the wine country’s most severe quake in 15 years, and while hospitals treated many people, no one was killed. Arash Arabasadi has more from Washington on what the future may hold for those residents living on a fault line.
Video

Video Scientists Unlock Mystery of Bird Flocks

How can flocks of birds, schools of fish or herds of antelope suddenly change direction -- all the individuals adjusting their movement in concert, at seemingly the same time? British researchers now have some insights into this behavior, which has puzzled scientists for a long time. VOA's George Putic has more.
Video

Video Ukraine: Captured Troops Proof of Russian Role in Separatist Fight

Ukrainian officials say they have captured Russian soldiers on Ukrainian territory -- the latest accusation of Moscow's involvement in the conflict in eastern Ukraine. VOA's Gabe Joselow reports from the Ukrainian side of the battle, where soldiers are convinced of Russia's role.
Video

Video Rubber May Soon Come From Dandelions

Synthetic rubber has been around for more than a century, but quality tires for cars, trucks and aircraft still need up to 40 percent or more natural rubber content. As the source of natural rubber, the rubber tree, is prone to disease and can be affected by bad weather. So scientists are looking for replacements. And as VOA’s George Putic reports, they may have found one in a ubiquitous weed.
Video

Video Jewish Life in Argentina Reflected in Yiddish Tango

Jewish people from across Europe and Russia have been immigrating to Argentina for hundreds of years. They brought with them dance music that were eventually mixed with Argentine tango. The result is Yiddish tango -- a fusion of melodies and cultural experiences that is still evolving today. Elizabeth Lee reports from the Skirball Cultural Center in Los Angeles, where one band is bringing Yiddish tango to an American audience.

AppleAndroid