Consider the following: The U.S. Geological Survey estimates that 13 percent of the world’s undiscovered oil and 30 percent of its undiscovered gas will be found in the Arctic, and six of the eight Arctic nations are already engaging in offshore energy exploration.
Sea ice retreat has beckoned major new shipping in the North, and Russia sent at least nine vessels via the Northern Sea Route in 2011. That includes a gas condensate tanker which transited the route in a record eight days. I also recently read that Norway gained approval from Russia to ship liquefied natural gas via the Northern Sea Route, right past Alaska’s front door to our traditional customers in Japan. In preparation for this huge opportunity in energy transit, Russia, China, Sweden, Finland, Canada, the European Union, Japan and Korea are beefing up their icebreaker fleets.
The Arctic’s energy resources, minerals, tourism and shipping potential make this increasingly accessible region a classic emerging market. Billions of public and private dollars will be invested in its development. New infrastructure will increase our physical access to the Arctic, and commercial expansion will follow.
We are witnessing an exciting Arctic renaissance. Just as the International Polar Year 2007-2009 revealed that the Arctic is not static but is constantly changing, Arctic borders are likewise on the move. Lingering border disputes, issues regarding new territory, and implementation of the Law of the Sea Treaty are among the sovereign challenges we’re working to resolve in the region. Among Arctic neighbors, it’s an ongoing balancing act between competition and cooperation. Read More