News & AnalysisENERGY

Despite Data Gaps, U.S. Moves Closer to Drilling in Arctic Ocean

Science  12 Aug 2011:
Vol. 333, Issue 6044, pp. 812-813
DOI: 10.1126/science.333.6044.812

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Summary

Last week, the Department of the Interior (DOI) conditionally approved Shell Oil Co.'s plans to begin drilling four exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean in 2012—a key step toward opening the Alaskan Outer Continental Shelf, one of the world's most pristine and inhospitable marine environments, to oil and gas development. In granting its approval, the DOI's Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement claimed it had found no evidence that Shell's proposed action would result in significant environmental harm. Yet a 279-page report published just 2 months ago by the U.S. Geological Survey reveals major uncertainties in the science needed to support oil and gas activities in the region.

  • * Charles Schmidt is a writer in Portland, Maine.