HOUSTON — Comments by Interior Secretary Ken Salazar indicate the Obama Administration may open domestic drilling in some areas of the Outer Continental Shelf (OCS). During Salazar’s confirmation hearing before the Senate Committee on Energy and Natural Resources, he promised to “move forward with a comprehensive energy plan that might include drilling in some areas on the OCS.”
Zeus Development Corp. analysts believe the geopolitical reality and resource wealth of the Arctic Circle will be an exception to a possibly restrictive resource development plan put forth by the White House. The area, made explorable by the rapid disappearance of polar ice, is estimated to hold 1,670 trillion cubic feet (tcf) of natural gas and 90 billion barrels of oil. Under the U.N. Law of the Sea, the U.S. could claim any part of the Arctic Circle that extends 350 miles from the U.S. continental shelf. Recent mapping of Alaska’s OCS indicates it may extend further than previously thought. Although the U.S. is not a party to the treaty, President Obama indicated during his campaign that he supports becoming a signatory. Accordingly, the United States could claim large areas of the Arctic Alaska Basin and Amerasia Basin that, together, hold 278 tcf of gas and, including oil, some 91 billion barrels of oil equivalent.
Russia, ever more aggressive in expanding its influence through energy resources, has already claimed large swaths of the North Pole. “An affordable, diverse and secure energy supply is fundamental to our security and to the expansion of economic opportunity and prosperity,” says General James Jones, National Security Advisor to President Obama, former NATO Commander, and former head of the U.S. Chamber of Commerce Institute for 21st Century Energy.
While drilling in other areas of the OCS along the Atlantic and Pacific coasts can be expected to face strong opposition due to environmental concerns, targeting the Arctic OCS may hold the promise of greater political consensus, enabling the much needed development of our energy resources in the foreseeable future.