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Allowing energy giant Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic is "insane," former Vice President-turned-environmental crusader Al Gore said, urging the Obama administration to swear off the hydrocarbons beneath those frigid waters.
"The Deepwater Horizon spill was warning enough," Gore told The Guardian in an interview published Thursday. "The conditions are so hostile to human activity there. I think it's a mistake to drill for oil in the Arctic. I think that ought to be banned."
Gore said his fellow Democrat, President Barack Obama, "has done really quite a good job" in taking steps to limit US fossil fuel emissions during his second term. But he added, "Of course, there are things I would change. I think Arctic drilling is insane."
Shell is currently setting up for a second attempt to drill for oil in the Chukchi Sea, about 75 miles off the northern coast of Alaska, after a 2012 effort that was cut short by mechanical problems. But its final permit has yet to be stamped — and after news last week that one of the icebreakers involved in Shell's program would have to return to the Lower 48 for repairs, a coalition of environmental groups has urged Interior Secretary Sally Jewell not to sign off.
Gore was an early advocate of action to head off global warming while the No. 2 man in the Clinton administration. After losing the White House in the contested 2000 election, he became a surprising box-office draw in the 2006 climate change documentary "An Inconvenient Truth."
"I think he's been right about climate issues and ahead of the curve for years, and I think he's right about this," said Travis Nichols, a spokesman for Greenpeace, part of the coalition asking Jewell to halt the Shell project. "I think he's right to say that drilling the Arctic is insane, and it's not good for Obama's climate legacy. So Greenpeace is thrilled to hear that he's joining the conversation."