As the Arctic Opens for Oil, the Coast Guard Scrambles

The U.S. is ill-prepared to protect its interests in the far north
Russia's Yamal icebreaker Photograph by Sue Flood/Getty Images

Royal Dutch Shell has spent $4.5 billion since 2005 preparing to explore for oil off Alaska’s north coast in the Arctic. Shell, which may begin drilling next month, is one of at least six companies planning to extract oil, gas, and minerals from the Arctic as global warming melts ice and opens new sea lanes to commerce. The Arctic region holds about a fourth of the world’s undiscovered oil and natural gas, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. About 84 percent of this treasure trove lies beneath the ocean floor. The U.S. has more than 1,000 miles of Arctic shoreline, and much of the country’s Arctic oil is there.

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