“The United States has blocked the release of a landmark assessment of oil and gas activity in the Arctic as it prepares to sell off exploration licences for the frozen Chukchi Sea off Alaska, one of the last intact habitats of the polar bear. Scientists at the release of the censored report in Norway said there was ‘huge frustration’ that the US had derailed a science-based effort to manage the race for the vast energy reserves of the Arctic. The long-awaited assessment was meant to bring together work by scientists in all eight Arctic nations to give an up-to-date picture of oil and gas exploitation in the high north. In addition to that it was supposed to give policy makers a clear set of recommendations on how to extract safely what are thought to be up to one quarter of the world’s energy reserves.

Speaking yesterday from Tromso, one of the report’s lead authors, who asked not to be named, said: ‘They [the US] have blocked it. We have no executive summary and no plain language conclusions.’ Earlier this month, the Bush administration drew widespread criticism when it said it would auction off 30 million acres of the remote Chukchi Sea which separates Alaska from Russia on 6 February. The sale to oil and gas companies has been rushed through before Congress can complete efforts to protect the polar bear under the Endangered Species Act, a move which could complicate efforts to sell its habitat to oil majors.”

(via Common Dreams)