Within the next few years, the U.S. plans to lease its territory near the Arctic to energy companies that will begin to explore and drill for oil. The proposal, released by the Department of the Interior, breaks with President Bush’s plan to explore for wells off the Atlantic and Pacific coasts. “Most of the new leases would be offered in the Gulf of Mexico, which accounts for more than a quarter of the nation’s domestic oil production.” Plans to drill in the mid- and southern Atlantic coast were scrapped after the Deepwater Horizon spill.
What’s the Big Idea?
The prospect of opening the Arctic for drilling disquiets environmentalists who see both a symptom of global warming, as melting ice opens new territory, and reckless environmental policy. The weather conditions in the Arctic are formidable—extremely cold temperatures, rough seas and a dark winter—which makes drilling far harder and cleaning an oil spill more than daunting. Athan Manuel of the Sierra Club said: “Spill prevention, containment and response systems are not equipped to work in challenging Arctic conditions.”