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Gulf oil spill: similar disaster could occur in Arctic later this year

Daily Telegraph

The oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico has heightened fears of a similar disaster occurring off America’s Arctic coast, where Shell is due to begin exploratory drilling later this year.

Smoke rises from a controlled burn in the Gulf of Mexico by BP Photo: GETTY IMAGES

By Alex Spillius in Washington
Published: 6:30PM BST 23 May 2010

President Barack Obama has ordered a review of the Anglo-Dutch firms plan’s to drill off the coast of Alaska.

Activists have claimed that the remote nature of the proposed drilling site, sub-zero temperatures and gale-force winds would be formidable obstacles to any potential clean-up operation.

The Alaska Wilderness League said in a statement that it would be almost impossible to mount the kind of clean-up witnessed in the Gulf of Mexico, describing the Arctic as one of the “most remote and extreme environments on Earth”.

Meanwhile, in the Gulf of Mexico, there was no end in sight for the massive clean-up operation, as BP officials said on Sunday that one of their efforts to slow the leak was not working as effectively as it had initially.

A mile-long tube inserted into the leaking well siphoned some 57,120 gallons of oil within the past 24 hours, a sharp drop from the 92,400 gallons of oil a day that the device was sucking up on Friday, according to John Curry, a BP spokesman.

However, the company has said the amount of oil siphoned was likely to vary from day to day.

Over the weekend Mr Obama created a commission to examine what caused the explosion on and subsequent leak from Deepwater Horizon BP rig and to “make sure it never happens again”.

He noted concerns about the “cozy relationship between oil and gas companies and agencies that regulate them”.

However, the president underlined that he remained committed to retaining off-shore oil as part of his energy plan. “Because it represents 30 per cent of our oil production, the Gulf of Mexico can play an important part in security our energy future,” he said.

The establishment of the commission came as oil continued to gush from the rig, blackening more of the Louisiana’s marshlands and beaches. Even at the lowest estimates, more than six million gallons of crude have soiled Gulf waters.

Bob Dudley, BP’s managing director, said that the latest bid to stop the leak in a ruptured pipe 5,000 feet below the surface would began on Tuesday or Wednesday. A “top kill” operation that has never been tried before will shoot heavy mud into the pipe then seal it with cement.

With the crisis entering its fifth week, the Obama administration has been forced increasingly on the defensive for responding too weakly and placing too much trust in BP.

Normally friendly voices have begun to criticise the president personally. James Carville, a former Bill Clinton campaign manager and Louisiana native, said the president had been “lackadaisical” and “naïve”.

Chris Matthews, a popular liberal cable TV presenter, said the president was “acting a little like a Vatican Observer”.

“The president scares me,” he said. “When is he actually going to do something? He doesn’t want to take ownership of it.”

Robert Gibbs, the White House press secretary, said: “There’s no doubt that we have had some problems with BP’s lack of transparency: We asked that a video feed [of the oil gush] be made public, and that took ten days. We have sent letter recently in order to get them to post their air-and-quality data.”

BP ‘using Gulf of Mexico as toxic testing-ground’

BP insists oil spill impact ‘very, very modest’

Chronology of the disaster


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