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A melting Arctic could be good news for mankind, according to a new study.  (Source: SciAddict)

An earlier map of the USGS estimates of untapped Arctic gas reserves. Brighter areas indicate more gas.  (Source: USGS)

A similar map shows oil reserves, here the darker regions represent regions more rich in probable oil deposits.  (Source: USGS)
New study shows yet another potential benefit of a warmer planet

A new study adds to growing evidence that the current warming cycle may hold potential benefits to mankind.  According to a study by the U.S. Geological Survey, earlier estimates which placed untapped Arctic oil reserves at as much as 90 billion barrels actually fell short -- the Arctic may in fact hold as many as 160 billion barrels of oil.  The new discovery amounts to over 35 years in US foreign oil imports or 5 years’ worth of global oil consumption.   Canada, Greenland/Denmark, Norway, Russia and the United States, all of which border the Arctic Circle are racing to compete for the untapped resource.

The oil reserves could fetch a price of $10.6 trillion dollars at current oil prices.  Most of the reserves are in shallow waters -- less than 500 meters (about 1/3rd of a mile) -- making extraction relatively easy.  Geologist Donald Gautier comments, "It would not mean that there would be any kind of a significant shift in global oil balance.  But this is especially significant for the Arctic nations."

Oil companies are already racing to pinpoint deposits and begin to tap this bountiful resource.  Exxon Mobil and several others have staked claims and began drilling in the Mackenzie Delta, the Barents Sea, the Sverdrup Basin, and offshore Alaska.   According to Alan Jeffers, a spokesperson for Exxon Mobil, "It makes sense to diversify sources of oil and gas, given that the U.S. is one of the biggest consumers of oil and gas."

As rich as the Arctic may be in oil, it may hold even more natural gas.  While the geologists estimate 13 percent of the world's undiscovered oil lies in the region, they also estimate that the region holds 30 percent of the planet's undiscovered natural gas reserves.  Natural gas harvested in the region could be used for a variety of purposes including home heating and power generation.

The discoveries are part of an ongoing USGS study CARA -- Circum-Arctic Resource Appraisal.  The study is the first of its kind as researchers are using advanced geological analysis and probability modeling to estimate the reserves held in the Arctic shelves.  While probabilistic models come with a degree of uncertainty, this multidiscipline approach is yielding exciting results and has already led to the discovery of several major deposits.

Despite the potential gains to economic and national security gains that could come from tapping this resource, environmentalists are seeking to block oil companies from drilling in the region, complaining it will release arsenic, mercury and lead into the ocean waters.  All of these compounds naturally occur in low quantities in sea water.  Activist Lisa Speer, Director of the International Oceans Program at the Natural Resources Defense Council, in a CNN.com interview adds, "We need uniform, mandatory standards governing offshore oil and gas activity in the Arctic because activity in one country has the potential to affect the environment of the Arctic far beyond the country of origin."



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RE: Great News
By Amiga500 on 6/1/2009 7:34:11 AM , Rating: 4
Energy cannot be created or destroyed.

What source is used to generate a sizeable amount of electricity?

Hmmmm....


RE: Great News
By andrinoaa on 6/1/09, Rating: -1
RE: Great News
By Amiga500 on 6/1/2009 8:03:27 AM , Rating: 2
Did you read the last line?

Have you considered that solar cells do not generate any electricity at night*? Of course, we could use electrolysis to generate hydrogen then burn that as a rudimentary energy storage... at the cost of electricity prices the far side of 10 times what they are now.

*Y'know, the time when most lighting and heating is needed?


RE: Great News
By andrinoaa on 6/1/2009 8:08:31 AM , Rating: 1
I see, you don't do jokes on this site, ha ha ha
Solar power is not just PE cells , doh


RE: Great News
By Alexstarfire on 6/1/2009 11:06:15 AM , Rating: 2
What else do you consider solar power then? PE cells are pretty much the only thing we have, unless you count some VERY inefficient ways to use the Sun.

Either way hydrogen isn't viable yet. Electricity wouldn't be bad, but our battery tech sucks. Only things coming close to being viable are ethanol and biodiesel, provided they get the algae to do the work.


RE: Great News
By andrinoaa on 6/2/2009 5:10:11 AM , Rating: 2
Wave, tidal, thermal furnace, PE, Hydro, photosynthesis, wind... need any more?


RE: Great News
By HotFoot on 6/2/2009 3:34:13 PM , Rating: 2
I'm not saying anything about it being cost-competitive or applicable in a way to replace all electricity production, but if you look up the Solar One project (and those that followed it), you'll see PE is certainly not the only solution for direct solar energy harvesting. Using thermal storage, these plants can generate power 24 hours a day. I imagine that extended periods of heavy cloud would be a severe hindrance on that.


RE: Great News
By knutjb on 6/1/2009 1:06:26 PM , Rating: 2
FYI Obama killed off hydrogen programs so you can scratch that one off the list. They must not have had enough lobbyist or given enough to his campaign.


RE: Great News
By mandrews on 6/1/2009 8:47:08 AM , Rating: 5
Solar energy remains almost laughably inefficient compared to other power sources. Major adoption of solar power in the U.S. would send power bills soaring, much as they have in Spain.

The only two clear alternatives to fossil fuels are nuclear power and hydroelectric, but ironically these are the two forms of alternative energy environmentalists most frequently oppose.


RE: Great News
By knutjb on 6/1/2009 1:27:27 PM , Rating: 2
Bingo you hit the nail on the head. Environmentalist will do everything they can to stop hydro because of the fish and nuke because there is a new incredible technology (insert hallucination here) that will obviate the need for the hazardous nuclear fuels. Planet first people dead, um I mean Planet first... We have had major advances in nuclear technology that greatly reduce waste through recycling of the fuel, something that can be engineered into new facilities, but apparently recycling only applies to what the environmentalist want it to.

Electricity is the easiest energy to transport from source to end user. It can be generated in a myriad of ways. Why we avoid nuke power is beyond me. Oh wait there is a new incredible technology (insert hallucination here)right around the corner...


RE: Great News
By HotFoot on 6/2/2009 3:59:23 PM , Rating: 2
I seriously think it's a real shame new nuclear facilities haven't been built on a regular basis over the last three decades. I think we'd be much further ahead with advanced designs if there was greater domestic use of the product.


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