An effort to give the United States a new source of domestic oil and refill the trans-Alaska pipeline took a hit Wednesday when Royal Dutch Shell PLC announced it will suspend offshore petroleum drilling in the Arctic Ocean for 2013. Shell drilled last year in both the Chukchi Sea off Alaska’s northwest coast and in the Beaufort Sea off the state’s north coast.
For the town of Glomfjord in Norway’s Arctic, the country’s oil boom has turned into a curse. Unemployment has more than doubled, people are moving out, and schools now risk being shut after solar-energy component maker Renewable Energy Corp. (REC) ASA closed a 200-person plant in March before moving production abroad to cut costs.
Environmental activists staged an elaborate internet hoax this week in protest of Shell’s plans to drill in Arctic waters off Alaska, fooling thousands of viewers including some media outlets. The hoax started with a video purporting to show a public relations event hosted by Shell at the Space Needle in Seattle, where the ice-class drilling barge Kulluk and drillship Noble Discoverer are docked awaiting deployment to Alaska.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will assert her country’s interest in the Arctic, where the prospects for abundant oil, gas and new trade routes has been likened to a modern-day gold rush, when she visits the region on Saturday. As the sea ice recedes with climate change, huge oil and gas fields are adding vast amounts to global reserves, while sea passages are opening for longer periods each year and cutting thousands of kilometres off trade routes between Europe and Asia.
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