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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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Sounds great
By FITCamaro on 6/1/2009 8:26:10 AM , Rating: 3
Just too bad our current glorious leader and Congress will never allow us to drill for it in waters the US lays claim to.




RE: Sounds great
By andrinoaa on 6/1/09, Rating: -1
RE: Sounds great
By FITCamaro on 6/1/09, Rating: 0
RE: Sounds great
By andrinoaa on 6/2/09, Rating: 0
RE: Sounds great
By invidious on 6/1/2009 9:15:56 AM , Rating: 5
So he should post things contrary to his opinion or simply not post? Personally I couldn't care less what he has to say one way or the other and I am more tired of seeing the anti-FIT posts in every thread.


RE: Sounds great
By SnakeBlitzken on 6/1/2009 9:44:57 AM , Rating: 3
I'm with FIT. Personally, we'd all be bettter off if Canada or Russia laid claim to more ground. At least then, the resources would get tapped. The more ground the US lays claim to, the more reserves there are that will get tied up in court or placed in National Refuge.


RE: Sounds great
By FITCamaro on 6/1/2009 10:29:52 AM , Rating: 2
You could run the FCC better than its currently run then.


RE: Sounds great
By mandrews on 6/1/2009 9:43:59 AM , Rating: 2
Entirely correct, sadly. The last President may have had his flaws, but the current one is proving shill to special interests.

On hand he's been fighting developments that would improve our standard of living to appease environmentalists, while with the other hand slashing science budgets which could actually unlock the secrets of nuclear energy and other clean power sources.

And don't even get me started on the government's nationalization of private corporations.

I remain optimistic, hoping to see positive developments, but the current administration is making some very unwise moves, in my opinion.


RE: Sounds great
By reader1 on 6/1/2009 10:48:33 AM , Rating: 1
Hey masher, how did that big global warming skeptics conference go in March? I read that only 700 people showed up, down 200 from last year.


RE: Sounds great
By 67STANG on 6/1/2009 12:41:41 PM , Rating: 4
I believe The Onion stated it best:

Obama Revises Campaign Promise Of 'Change' To 'Relatively Minor Readjustments In Certain Favorable Policy Areas'


RE: Sounds great
By Zoomer on 6/1/2009 11:04:09 PM , Rating: 2
Change was promised. Ok, we just changed our change!


RE: Sounds great
By goz314 on 6/1/2009 4:45:11 PM , Rating: 2
What about saving it for future use? We certainly don't have to drill the s@#% out of the Arctic now, right this second just because a single report says there is likely more oil to be had there. The race for energy independence and eventual sustainability is not a sprint, it's a marathon. There will always be a need for petroleum... period. I would rather our country save what little proven reserves are still in our control for future strategic needs than burn it all as exhaust out of our collective tail pipes right now.


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