The Obama administration’s expedited assessment of Shell’s troubled offshore drilling program in the Arctic needs a healthy dose of skepticism about moving ahead.

The Obama administration’s expedited assessment of Shell’s troubled offshore drilling program in the Arctic needs a healthy dose of skepticism about moving ahead.

Secretary of Interior Ken Salazar announced a high-level review of Shell’s plans in the remote Beaufort and Chukchi seas after one of Shell’s drilling rigs broke free from a tow line In rough seas and was grounded for several days. Another drilling rig had its own issues with safety and pollution. Earlier problems with a containment dome on Shell’s oil-spill response barge will also get a look.

The review is supposed to be completed within 60 days. A better number to keep in mind is 84 days, the approximate time the Deepwater Horizon disaster in 2010 spewed 4.9 million barrels of oil into the Gulf. Eleven people died and 17 were injured.

Harsh, remote conditions in the Arctic are an obvious factor that must be acknowledged and respected. Shell’s rig was in the Gulf of Alaska, southwest of Kodiak, when storms complicated its return to Seattle for work.

Salazar remained upbeat even as he announced the assessment of troubles with the first phases of Shell’s offshore drilling program in the Arctic:
“Developing America’s domestic energy sources is essential for reducing our dependence on foreign oil and creating jobs here at home and the Administration is fully committed to exploring for potential energy resources in frontier areas such as the Arctic.”

Trouble in the Gulf took nearly three months to shut down. Imagine the technical and environmental disaster that lurks with drilling in a frontier area with harsh conditions. Oh, there is a containment dome. Right.