By SELINA WILLIAMS
LONDON -- The UK government has rejected lawmakers' calls
for a halt to Arctic oil and gas drilling, despite renewed
safety concerns following the recent grounding of Royal Dutch
Shell's Kulluk rig off Alaska, saying that securing global
energy supplies was paramount.
The UK government's comments, published Tuesday, come as
Shell on Monday said it had safely towed the Kulluk
rig to safe harbor on Kodiak Island in the Gulf of
The rig ran aground in stormy weather Dec. 31 while under tow,
further highlighting fears about the environmental risks of oil
extraction in the Arctic.
The government said that while it recognized the risks of
drilling for hydrocarbons in the sensitive Arctic region, high
environmental and drilling standards, efforts to enhance oil
spill prevention and response mechanisms would be more
effective than a ban.
"We believe these measures -- combined with effective and
ambitious global action to reduce global greenhouse gas emissions -- are more likely to be
effective in protecting the Arctic environment than pressing for a
complete moratorium on all drilling in the Arctic region," the
The government was responding to a report from the UK
parliament's Environmental Audit Committee in
September last year, which recommended an immediate moratorium
on Arctic drilling until safety is improved.
The lawmakers want to see a pan-Arctic oil spill response
plan, research showing that response techniques will work in
extreme conditions and the introduction of stricter financial
liability rules for oil and gas companies operating in the
However, the UK government said the International Energy
Agency's recent global oil demand and supply forecasts implied
a need to source substantial new production capacity between
now and 2035. New oil supplies are vital for the UK, which is
becoming increasingly dependent on oil imports as its domestic
hydrocarbon production declines.
"It is against this background that we need to ensure we
have continued access to a well supplied and competitive world
oil market, whilst reducing our exposure to volatile oil and
gas prices," the government said.
The UK has no power over the Arctic, but it does have
observer status on the Arctic Council, a grouping of eight
Arctic states that discusses Arctic issues.
Joan Walley, the chair of the Environmental Audit Committee, said
the grounding of the Kulluk rig raised serious questions about
the safety of Shell's operations in the Arctic and the
committee would be calling them back to parliament to give
Dow Jones Newswires