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Drilling for oil in Arctic Ocean is fraught with danger

This month the US approved four wells for drilling by Shell Oil in the Arctic Ocean off Alaska, an energy frontier. But Shell's plan to recover after an oil spill is completely inadequate, given the region's remoteness and weather.

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More than a year later after the BP oil spill, the environmental degradation from the Deepwater Horizon disaster lingers in the Gulf of Mexico. Oil can still be found on nearly 500 miles of Gulf coastline, and an enormous dead zone remains at the mouth of the Mississippi River.

Yet most Americans have moved on from images of the burning rig, oiled birds, and the 11 men who lost their lives. And in a crucial and dangerous way, Washington has also moved on.

Early this month, the Obama administration approved Shell Oil’s plans to drill four exploratory wells in America’s Arctic Ocean. Shell’s plans are the most aggressive to date in a region largely untouched by humankind and where there has never been significant ocean drilling. The approval was given, despite the fact that there is no proven way to clean up oil spilled in an icy environment.

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