Exploit Arctic Oil Reserves?

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, there are probably 90 billion barrels of oil underneath Arctic ice and even more of natural gas. In all, the Arctic has about 13 per cent of the undiscovered oil, 30 per cent of the undiscovered natural gas, and 20 per cent of the undiscovered natural gas liquids in the world. About 84 per cent of the estimated resources are expected to occur offshore. More than half of the undiscovered oil resources are estimated to occur in Arctic Alaska, the Amerasia Basin, and the East Greenland Rift Basins. More than 70 per cent of the undiscovered natural gas is estimated to occur in the West Siberian Basin, the East Barents Basins and Arctic Alaska.


The world’s largest untapped oil reserves have led to a battle between environmentalists and the industrialists. The world throughout is in recession, the prices of crude oil have been shooting up recently and hence, there is a global inflation. By exploiting these reserves, the supply of oil would increase which will lead to a reduction in the oil prices. Industrialists are particularly looking forward to the same as their profits would increase. But should we really keep tapping remaining oil reserves whenever there is a recession? Oil is non-renewable and the existing oil reserves are estimated to get exhausted within a span of 20 years. Even the Arctic reserves will satisfy global demand for oil only for 3 years. Even if, hypothetically, the entire reserve is used for the U.S, it will be available only for 12 years.


Environmentalists say that these are the dirtiest oil deposits in the world and extracting them would generate 3-4 times more carbon dioxide than normal extraction. The world is already facing global warming; the temperature is increasing year over year. Extraction of this oil itself will increase pollution, which already is extremely high. One important thought to ponder upon is the high cost of exploiting the reserves. Unlike Saudi Arabia or Libya, most of the reserves are thousands of feet under the surface. A big, billion-barrel field will cost about $37 per barrel to get out of the ground. That includes all the drilling, facilities, pipelines, and operating costs year after year—and that is a lot more than it costs to get oil out of the Middle East. Furthermore, the exploration and appraisal will cost another $3 per barrel. So the Arctic—if it is ever tapped—will only be useful if oil stays really expensive. Oil exploitation would also lead to ecological disturbance as the wildlife in the arctic would suffer.


The need of the hour is conservation. Big countries like USA should make modifications in their consumer model and encourage people to use renewable sources of energy. There is no way that these resources can satisfy the day-to-day increasing energy demands. We need to have sustainable development. Development at the expense of future generation does no good. Everyone needs to join hands and reduce on their consumption of oil. This way, we would also never have to be tempted to tap the reserves in the Artic, a region which has a delicate ecological balance.


Aparna Vyas

[Image Source:http://flickr.com/photos/jasonskinner/1353508944/ ]