Image Source: Arctic Institute.
Recently, there was an upswing in French linguistic nationalism in Quebec. Commentators have drawn parallels between Quebec separatism and Scottish calls for independence. The vote on whether Scotland will stay in the UK draws near: 18 September 2014. The calls for separation, the conflict in the Ukraine and the conflict in the Middle East all have something in common: Arctic energy.
Sanctions against Russia over the Ukrainian conflict happen to block Russia's progress in Arctic oil exploitation. In the Arctic, a 2008 United States Geological Survey estimated that there are likely 90 billion barrels of oil and 44 billion barrels of natural gas. From the Russian Geographical Society:
While most offshore areas have not been surveyed for resources, the extensive continental shelves in the region are believed to hold huge reserves of oil and gas. In 2008 the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) completed the most comprehensive assessment of potential hydrocarbon reserves to date, using computer modeling to evaluate 25 Arctic geological provinces. From this, the USGS estimates that the “undiscovered, technically recoverable” stores of petroleum include 90 billion barrels of oil, 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 44 billion barrels of natural-gas liquids. These figures suggest the Arctic may hold about 22 percent of the undiscovered conventional hydrocarbon reserves untapped worldwide.
That amount of energy resources is sufficient to redraw the whole picture of geopolitical power and global conflict, and gives a glimpse of the future. From Ernst and Young: A "USGS study estimated that the Arctic could hold about 13% of the world’s undiscovered oil reserves and as much as 30% of the world’s undiscovered natural gas reserves." Russia claims around 50 per cent of potential Arctic oil and gas resources. The USA claims approximately 20 per cent; Norway 12 per cent; Greenland 11 per cent; and Canada claims roughly 5 per cent of these resources. Other estimates place Canada's share at a much higher 20 per cent. There are disputed Arctic areas which determine these countries' relative wealth and power in the region. Metro:Roughly 85 percent of these potential reserves are thought to occur offshore at depths of 450 meters or less. The majority of untapped natural gas probably lies within Russian territory, while most of the oil is located offshore of Alaska. The assessment indicates that more than 70 percent of the petroleum stores are concentrated in only five geological provinces: Alaska; the Amerasian Basin (underlying the Arctic Ocean); and the East Greenland Rift, East Barents, and West Greenland–East Canada basins.
Non-Arctic powers also stake claims in polar regions: "As the Arctic ice melts, the area is predicted to become a center of strategic competition and economic activity. Last year [in 2013], China signed a free trade agreement with Iceland and sent an icebreaker to the region despite having no viable claims in the Arctic."“It’s the opening chapter of what’s going to amount to be a very long story, and people are playing nice and working together — for now,” says Robert Huebert, a University of Calgary professor and expert in circumpolar relations and defence policy.
To put this into the Middle Eastern perspective: OPEC states that the Middle East, Africa and South America have an estimated 1.2 trillion barrels of proven oil reserves. The Economist predicts that demand for oil in some developed countries will fall, due to technological and sustainable energy innovations.
But in developing countries, consumption of oil is rapidly increasing, as is the population. A 2013 BP study projected energy needs up to 2030:
- Population and income growth are the key drivers behind growing demand for energy. By 2030 world population is projected to reach 8.3 billion, which means an additional 1.3 billion people will need energy; and world income in 2030 is expected to be roughly double the 2011 level in real terms.
- World primary energy consumption is projected to grow by 1.6% p.a. from 2011 to 2030, adding 36% to global consumption by 2030. The growth rate declines, from 2.5% p.a. for 2000-10, to 2.1% p.a. for 2010-20, and 1.3% p.a. from 2020 to 2030.
- Low and medium income economies outside the OECD account for over 90% of population growth to 2030. Due to their rapid industrialisation, urbanisation and motorisation, they also contribute 70% of the global GDP growth and over 90% of the global energy demand growth.
In 2011, The Economist estimated the world's total proven oil reserves (reserves that can be extracted with current technology) of around 1.38 trillion barrels would run out over the next 100 years. Most analysts foresee a decline of output and corresponding importance of the Middle East, with a turning point around 2030. Real Clear World: "There may be as many as 7.9 trillion barrels of potentially recoverable oil [i.e. unproven reserves] left in the world from all sources, according to the IEA, with more than 90 percent of it outside the Middle East."
Click to enlarge map. Image Source: Global Research.