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The Future of Arctic Drilling

There’s a world of oil up in the Arctic waters off Alaska. But a drilling rig run aground has revived fears about the price we may pay to tap it.

This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Kulluk aground off a small island near Kodiak Island Tuesday Jan. 1, 2013. (AP/Coast Guard)

This image provided by the U.S. Coast Guard shows the Royal Dutch Shell drilling rig Kulluk aground off a small island near Kodiak Island Tuesday Jan. 1, 2013. (AP/Coast Guard)

While you were snug in your bed last night, a giant Shell Oil drilling rig was being slammed and battered against the frigid rocky shore of a icy island in the Gulf of Alaska.  The big rig broke loose from its tug last week on its way south from the Arctic for winter repairs.

Howling winds – 70 knots.  Fifty foot waves.  And off she went.  A $300-million drilling rig, tons of steel, on the loose.  No spill yet.  But big questions again about our capacity to drill safely in the extreme conditions of the far, far North.

This hour, On Point:  a mighty rig on the loose, and fresh questions over Arctic drilling for oil.

-Tom Ashbrook

Guests

Richard Mauer, reporter for the Anchorage Daily News

Curtis Smith, Shell Alaska spokesman.

John Sullivan, senior reporter for Energy Intelligence.

Jerry Beilinson, deputy editor for Popular Mechanics.

Lois Epstein, Arctic program director for the Wilderness Society.

From Tom’s Reading List

The Anchorage Daily News The weather improved a bit in the vicinity of the grounded Shell drilling rig Kulluk Wednesday morning, allowing a Coast Guard helicopter to drop a team of salvage experts to its deck to inspect the crippled vessel. The five experts — the incident command originally said in a prepared statement there were six — spent 3 hours on rig assessing its damage and getting information for a salvage operation that could still be days or weeks away.

The Los Angeles Times “Days of efforts trying to guide a mobile offshore drilling rig through stormy Alaska seas hit a crisis Monday night when crew members were forced to disconnect the rig from its last remaining tow line and the vessel went aground on a small island south of Kodiak.”

The Huffington Post “I couldn’t help but wonder this week as Coast Guard crews braved Alaska’s dangerous seas to regain control of Shell’s drilling rig and evacuate its crew: Why is our federal government bending over backwards to let Shell drill for oil in the Arctic Ocean?”

Alaska Dispatch “As Shell Oil geared up to drill a planned five offshore wells in the Arctic in 2012, opposition was still fighting fiercely early in the year against the proposed oil exploration, launching lawsuits and legal challenges of the company’s federal permits. Those legal challenges failed, however, and Shell moved forward with its plans in the summer, only to have equipment permit issues as well as late sea ice slow its plans significantly”

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