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Arctic oil drilling is back: domestic oil exploration after Deepwater Horizon




A tug tows an iceberg to safer waters and away from a possible collision with an oil-drilling platform off the coast of Newfoundland.
A tug tows an iceberg to safer waters and away from a possible collision with an oil-drilling platform off the coast of Newfoundland.
Harry Gerwin/Getty Images

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The push and pull of the debate over drilling for oil in the United States, especially since the Deepwater Horizon oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico last year, has created complicated choices. Oil and gas prices are high, to the point of crippling economic growth but the same environmental concerns over oil exploration remain. Oil companies are chomping at the bit to get back to drilling at locations throughout the U.S., and industry workers are happy to have the jobs, but criticisms over the safety of drilling platforms remain. Caught in the middle is the Obama administration, desperate for new jobs, desperate to bring down gas prices, desperate to maintain its credibility with environmentalists. Under this cloud last week, the Department of Interior granted Royal Dutch Shell conditional approval of its plan to begin drilling exploratory wells in the Arctic Ocean next year. New permits for exploration in the Gulf of Mexico are also being approved, all against the opposition of many environmental activists who warn that the lessons of Deepwater Horizon have not been learned. The Obama administration says that these permits are just preliminary and there are still a number of secondary permits that must be awarded before holes are to be drilled, and looming over all of this is the threat of lawsuits by interests as varied as ecologists to Alaskan fishermen. Balancing the need to bring down energy prices and develop new jobs with the clear environmental risks of oil drilling, which direction is best for the country?

Guests:

Smith Curtis, external affairs director, Shell Alaska

Brendan Cummings, senior counsel, Center for Biological Diversity, they are suing to stop drilling in the Chukchi Sea west of Alaska