News bites: Near-miss for Shell in Alaska, reactor plan draws fire, and more

Plans to restart another nuclear reactor drew tens of thousands of people for a protest in Tokyo, The Associated Press reports. The reactor has been shut down since the March 2011 Fukushima Daiichi disaster.

Falling energy prices helped rein in eurozone inflation in June, Reuters reports. That gave the European Central Bank room to cut interest rates in hopes of jump-starting the economy.

Afghanistan is starting to attract interest from energy firms, including Exxon Mobil, according to a Reuters report. Afghanistan has seen little drilling exploration, making it appealing to companies as they exhaust other regions, it said.

A Shell drilling ship that strayed to about 100 yards from the Alaskan shore “showed no signs of damage or grounding,” according to The Associated Press.

A captain at the Alaskan harbor said the boat was much closer and that it actually was on the beach. The Coast Guard will review images of the 571-foot Noble Discoverer’s hull.

Speaking of Shell in Alaska, Greenpeace activists in London and Edinburgh, Scotland, protested that firm’s planned drilling activities in Arctic waters near Alaska on Monday at several Shell retail stores, according to Dow Jones.

Greenpeace hoped to shut down 112 retail outlets in the English and Scottish capitals to show displeasure with drilling plans in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

The private backroads energy companies build to support new natural-gas operations in south Texas have given drug traffickers ways to avoid Border Patrol highway checkpoints, the Houston Chronicle reports.

From the Chronicle:

Traffickers are seeking to use the southwest-most stretches of the massive Eagle Ford shale formation, which stretches from Mexico all the way to East Texas, to their advantage by trying to corrupt truck drivers, contractors and gate personnel. Authorities also speculate that they are trying to make "cloned" copies of legitimate trucks and use contractor-like vehicles to avoid standing out among fleets of oil-field service vehicles working for energy companies. In some cases, vehicles have been stolen and believed to have been used by smugglers.