MEDFORD, Mass. — Jarring is one way to describe the image that spilled across newspapers, websites and TVs over the New Year. The towering drill rig Kulluk bobbed like a bath toy off Alaska’s Kodiak Island, battered by some of the most punishing weather conditions on the planet.
Last week, the rig’s owner, Royal Dutch Shell, cited the mishap as one of the reasons for suspending its billion-dollar plans to drill in the Arctic Sea off Alaska. Environmentalists cheered. Oil industry specialists groaned.
The rig and the Arctic: a collision of human ingenuity and brutal nature in the quest for the fuel of the 21st century global economy. Is it worth it?