At stake is nearly 30 billion barrels of oil. That's the amount of recoverable crude under the Arctic Ocean near Alaska, according to government estimates. Shell Oil hopes to begin drilling this year to tap into the reserves.
But environmentalists and researchers say more study is needed before Shell or any other company gets the go-ahead.
In late January, nearly 600 scientists sent a letter to President Obama and Interior Secretary Ken Salazar demanding the administration focus on the science of drilling in the area. They urged the president to consider a USGS report issued last summer that gave 62 “pressing needs,” the letter stated.