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.
"An oil rig off Greenland's coast in the Arctic waters." Image Source: Greenpeace via Guardian.
Click to enlarge. Image Source: The Arctic Institute.
Image Source: Phys.org.
Unfortunately, the Arctic Sea was a huge Russian nuclear dumping ground. Drilling for oil will disturb nuclear materials already deposited in northern waters. Expect environmental devastation when exploration leads to full scale drilling.
The current members of the Arctic Council, the international body which oversees the region, are Canada, Denmark, Finland, Iceland, Norway, Russia, Sweden, and the United States. Canada is the chair from 2013 to 2015, followed by the United States from 2015 to 2017. The focus of the council has shifted away from environmental preservation and science and pure research, and toward economic development. And the Arctic Council is purely a cooperative and communicative body; critics say it has no muscle: "the Arctic Council has no regulatory power. The countries only use the Council to communicate on policy and research and each member state is free to pursue its own policies within their declared Arctic boundaries."
Image Source: EurActiv.
"Greenpeace protesters in Germany demonstrate against Shell's Arctic oil drilling." Image Source: Reuters via Guardian.
- Brief on Arctic oil and gas, World Wildlife Federation
- Save the Arctic
- NATO to have military presence in the Arctic as melting ice leads to scramble for energy reserves, Daily Mail (30 January 2009)
- Arctic: Canada Leads NATO Conflict with Russia, Global Research (5 August 2009)
- Five Arctic Nations Debate Precious Arctic Seabed in Quebec, RT (31 March 2010)
- The Arctic: The New El Dorado, Americas Quarterly (Summer 2010)
- The Arctic Oil Rush, The Guardian (13 September 2010)
- Kingdom of Denmark strategy for the Arctic, 2011-2020, European Commission (2011)
- Huhne accused of hypocrisy for promotion offshore oil in Scotland and Arctic, The Ecologist (4 March 2011)
- Final Frontier: Berlin Enters the Scramble for the Arctic, Der Spiegel (16 March 2011)
- Russia's Arctic Security Strategy, Russia Military Reform (12 May 2011)
- Denmark Announces Plans to Develop the Arctic for Oil and Gas Drilling, Inhabitat (24 August 2011)
- Arctic Riches Lure Explorers, WSJ (1 September 2011)
- It's Not Just the Market: Drivers of Arctic Interest, Arctic Institute (14 November 2011)
- No Oil Find for Cairn in the Arctic, BBC (30 November 2011)
- An estimate of undiscovered conventional oil and gas resources of the world, 2012, USGS (2012)
- US Navy Roadmap: The Changing Arctic: Strategic Opportunities and Challenges, Center for Naval Analyses (2012?)
- Oil and Gas in Canada's North: Active Exploration and New Development, Government of Canada, Department of Aboriginal Affairs and Northern Development (February 2012)
- Global warming meets Arctic mining next week in Quebec, Mining.com (20 April 2012)
- The Black Plague: Russia plays game of Arctic roulette in oil exploration, Der Spiegel (24 August 2012)
- Interview: Norway's Foreign Minister: Exploitation of Arctic Resources Will Happen, Der Spiegel (26 October 2012)
- Blow to Edinburgh-based Cairn Energy as UK committee supports end to Arctic oil drilling, World Wildlife Federation (20 September 2012)
- Arctic claims of EU, China and India: As of May 2013, several non-Arctic countries won permanent observer status on the Arctic Council: People’s Republic of China; France; Germany; Italy; Japan; India; South Korea; Netherlands; Poland; Singapore; Spain; and the United Kingdom. The European Union and Turkey were granted ad hoc observer status. Non-governmental entities also act as observers; Greenpeace applied in January 2013 and was turned down. See Exploring Geopolitics (January 2013)
- The Emerging Arctic, Council on Foreign Relations (2013)
- Emerging UK Arctic Policy, Chatham House (2013)
- The Resource Race: China Dips Toes in Arctic Waters, Der Spiegel (25 January 2013)
- In 2012-2013, Arctic Islands of Nunavut Call for Nominations for petroleum exploration: "Most northerly of Canada's exploration regions, the Arctic Islands of Nunavut overlie one of Canada's largest petroliferous basins: the Sverdrup Basin. Exploration activity occurring mainly in the 1970s was extensive but sparsely distributed across this huge region. Nevertheless, the 164 wells drilled discovered gas and oil resources of over 14 trillion cubic feet and 300 million barrels. Of 16 fields discovered, two are major gas fields with discovered resources estimated at 9 trillion cubic feet. These are two of the largest undeveloped gas fields in Canada," Government of Canada (25 February 2013)
- Canada signals new era for Arctic Council, Globe and Mail (15 May 2013)
- U.S. Arctic Strategy Aims to Exploit Oil and Gas for 'National Security,' Climate Science Watch (15 May 2013)
- Warning Arctic oil and gas drilling is too risky, Herald Scotland (27 July 2013)
- Northeast Passage: Russia Moves to Boost Arctic Shipping, Der Spiegel (22 August 2013)
- Guidelines of the Germany Arctic Policy, German Government, Bundesministerium für Ernährung und Landwirtschaft (September 2013)
- It's time to draw a line in the Arctic ice over oil and gas, The Conversation (20 September 2013)
- NATO and a New Agenda for the Arctic, Russian International Affairs Council (24 September 2013)
- Canada is US key to the Arctic, RT (25 September 2013)
- North Polarization: Oil may Fuel Militarization of Arctic Region, Global Research TV (25 September 2013)
- Heat over Arctic: Battle for North Pole High on Global Military Agenda, Global Research (27 September 2013)
- Quebec asks Russia for clemency in Greenpeace arrests, HuffPo (6 October 2013)
- Greenpeace in Russia: Russia Rejects Court Hearing over Punctuation, Der Spiegel (6 November 2013)
- Arctic oil spill is certain if drilling goes ahead, Guardian (19 November 2013)
- Omnitrax: Canadian Arctic port and rail company pins hope for revival on oil exports, Guardian (28 November 2013)
- Denmark Makes New Claim for Arctic Seafloor, The Copenhagen Post (28 November 2013)
- Former PM Paul Martin wasn't on Harper's plane because he was signing a deal: "Martin was in Labrador Monday announcing that his private investment fund helped secure the sale of Universal Helicopters to the Nunatsiavut Group of Companies, the business arm of the Inuit government in Labrador." HuffPo (9 December 2013)
- Arctic Scramble: Russia to Flex Military Muscle in Far North, Der Spiegel (11 December 2013)
- Maintaining Russian Power: How Vladimir Putin Outfoxed the West, Der Spiegel (16 December 2013)
- Race to claim High Arctic's oil resources may be a fool's mission, CBC (13 December 2013)
- Operation Cold Response, Norway hosts annual NATO Arctic military exercises, Norwegian Armed Forces (2014)
- For Scots, Greenland a Gamble Worth Taking, The Arctic Journal (3 January 2014)
- Greenland's new frontier: Oil and gas licenses issued, through development likely years off, Arctic Institute (20 January 2014)
- Arctic Oil Could Wipe Out Icelandic Debt - and More, The Arctic Journal (14 February 2014)
- America in the Arctic: Melting Ice and Soft Security, The Carbon Brief (11 February 2014)
- North America's Premier Arctic Oil and Gas Conference: 14th Annual Arctic Oil and Gas Symposium, Calgary (11-12 March 2014); Related: presentations from the conference are posted at Devolution (17 March 2014)
- Another Region where the Russian Military Threatens to Dominate the U.S., CNN (14 March 2014)
- CNOOC headed for Arctic, first Chinese company granted exploration license in Iceland, About Oil (14 March 2014)
- Russia deploys strategic bombers, airborne troops to Arctic, Stop NATO blog (14 March 2014)
- Far north turf war: Who really rules the Arctic? Metro (24 March 2014)
- Russian-Western Relations in the Arctic: Perceptions, Policies, and Prospects, European Leadership Network (25 March 2014)
- What the new NATO Secretary General appointment means for the Arctic: "Last week, NATO appointed Norway’s former prime minister Jens Stoltenberg to succeed Anders Fogh Rasmussen as the military alliance chief. Even as NATO tries to fashion a response to the crisis on its eastern frontier in Ukraine, the appointment of Stoltenberg should alert global attention to another region: the Arctic. The Arctic is not at the top of most national agendas, and yet for Stoltenberg, it has been a priority issue. In a recent Harvard International Review piece, Stoltenberg debunked the commonly held view that the Arctic is an isolated area of no global importance." The Fletcher Forum of World Affairs (8 April 2014)
- Arctic decision expected from Cairn Energy in 2015, UPI (16 April 2014)
- Arctic oil: it is madness to celebrate a new source of fossil fuels, Guardian (18 April 2014)
- Russia ships its first Arctic oil. Is a boom coming? Christian Science Monitor (21 April 2014)
- In Russia, World's First Ice-Resistant Oil Platform Starts Production, Climate Progress (21 April 2014)
- Arctic crude becomes new Russia's oil blend, RT (21 April 2014)
- Russia's Putin wants beefed-up presence in the Arctic, Reuters (22 April 2014)
- RUSSIA: France’s Total is buyer of first oil from Arctic’s offshore Prirazlomnoye field, says Greenpeace, Energy Asia (28 April 2014)
- Climate change poses growing threat of conflict in the Arctic, report finds: "In a new report, the former military officers said the Pentagon had been caught out by the rapid changes under way in the Arctic because of the melting of the sea ice. 'Things are accelerating in the Arctic faster than we had looked at,' said General Paul Kern, the chairman of the Centre for Naval Analysis Corporation's military advisory board, which produced the report. 'The changes there appear to be much more radical than we envisaged.' The prospect of an ice-free Arctic by mid-century had set off a scramble for shipping lanes by Russia and China especially, and for access to oil and other resources. 'As the Arctic becomes less of an ice-contaminated area it represents a lot of opportunites for Russia,' he said. Oil companies were also moving into the Arctic. 'We think things are accelerating in the Arctic faster than we had looked at seven years ago,' he said, saying the situation had the potential to 'spark conflict there'. The CNA report deepens concern about the security risks posed by climate change. In March, the United Nations' IPCC, in a landmark report, also warned that growing competition for resources in a world under climate change could lead to conflict. The report from the retired generals goes further, however, upgrading the climate risk from a 'threat multipler' to a 'conflict catalyst'." Guardian (14 May 2014)
- Oil drilling plans increase risk to Arctic, Stavanger News (16 May 2014)
- Offshore Oil and Gas Governance in the Arctic: A Leadership Role for the U.S., Brookings Institution (24 May 2014)
- Canada and Russia's Race for Arctic Oil is Getting Serious, Motherboard (3 July 2014)
- Militaries Know that Arctic Ice is Melting - Here's How They're Taking Advantage, Business Insider (4 June 2014)
- Newfoundland and Labrador ready to lead Arctic oil exploration, premier says, HuffPo (18 June 2014
- Greenpeace, Inuit Join Forces in Battle against Arctic Seismic Testing, CTV (22 July 2014)
Image Source: Brookings Institution.
Brookings Institution outreach video explaining why 'The Arctic Region Should be a Priority for the US." Video Source: Youtube.
See my other posts related to Russia, here.