Thu Nov. 11, 2010 11:50 AM PST
The next big offshore oil disaster could take place in the remote Arctic seas where hurricane-force winds, 30-foot seas, sub-zero temperatures, and winter darkness would overwhelm any clean-up attempts, a new report warns.
With the ban on offshore drilling lifted in the Gulf of Mexico, big oil companies such as Royal Dutch Shell are pressing hard for the Obama administration to grant final approval to Arctic drilling. Shell has invested more than $2 billion to drill off Alaska's north coast, and is campaigning to begin next summer.
But the report, Oil Spill Prevention and Response in the US Arctic Ocean, by the Pew Environment Group, warns that oil companies are not ready to deal with a spill, despite the lessons of the BP disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
"There is a lot of pressure by Shell to drill this summer," Marilyn Heiman, director of the US Arctic program at Pew said. "But the oil companies are just not prepared for the Arctic. The spill plans are thoroughly inadequate."