How Big Oil Could Hurt Greenland
The Danish territory recently awarded exploration licenses to BP, Statoil and more, reversing a tightening of offshore-drilling policies and raising hopes of eventual independence. But activists worry that the bounty--the Arctic around Greenland may hold billions of barrels of oil--will come at a dangerous cost. DAMAGED ECOSYSTEM Despite a large Danish subsidy, Greenland's economy relies on fish exports (prawns, Greenland halibut and cod). Conservationists fear the impact that vibrations and undersea noise from vessels or drilling operations will have on fish behavior. DISRUPTED COMMUNITY Some of Greenland's 57,000 people struggle with alcoholism, sexually transmitted diseases and depression. A sudden influx of new workers (mostly foreign men) may exacerbate those issues, breed new ones and spur culture clashes. BORDER BATTLES Denmark and Canada largely settled an old dispute involving rich waters in 2012. As more ice melts, opening up previously inaccessible areas to hungry energy giants, similar tensions could re-emerge as Arctic states define new sovereign lines. CATASTROPHIC RISKS BP temporarily abandoned its bid in 2010 after 170 million gallons of its oil flooded the Gulf of Mexico. Critics say any spill would irreparably harm the hard-to-reach waters.
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