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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 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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Anyone else think this is stupid?
By Locutus465 on 6/1/2009 9:49:01 AM , Rating: -1
Look at us all, fighting over a resource we know isn't viable! Personally I say forget oil, lets get serious about alternative energy. We've needed to for a very long time, we've known it for a very long time but the cheap easy fix seems to be "hey, lets just find new places to drill"... Except lets put those number in perspective, this new bonanza of oil will only keep the world going for 5 years. And what will we doing in the mean time? Looking for new places to drill? And what happens when there finally aren't any new places to drill?

By William Gaatjes on 6/1/2009 10:14:50 AM , Rating: 2
Deaf ears i am sorry to say...

Gross of society never learns untill it is too late. Part because they have no other option and not the financial means to do so even when they wanted too. The part that does have the means simply do not care...
They will be dead one day and it's not their problem then anymore.

By Suntan on 6/1/2009 10:28:40 AM , Rating: 5
lets get serious about alternative energy.

So what are you *actually* doing to get serious about it?

You spending your nights and weekends in the garage-turned-lab, experimenting on that theoretical, wiz-bang that is finally going to re-write the laws of physics with regards to power consumption? Or possibly donating 10% of your take home to other people that are?

Or are you just arm chair quarterbacking about how we all should on a website while otherwise going along using your normal share of the juice in your daily life?


RE: Anyone else think this is stupid?
By FITCamaro on 6/1/2009 10:35:19 AM , Rating: 4
Yeah lets just starve people to death by switching to corn based ethanol or completely destroy our ability to go places by using electric cars. Algae based diesel is the only non-food based alternative fuel that's even remotely close to being ready to go and our idiot leaders haven't mentioned it even once.

By andrinoaa on 6/2/2009 5:52:50 AM , Rating: 2
Fit, how can anybody take you seriously when you come up with shallow BS like this. Haven't you read ANY posting by ANYBODY here? You are not exactly posting in a vacuum.
Come on man, pickup your game. Your opinion is valid and good to see, but please, can you not post like a 10yr old. Unless......

By Jalek on 6/1/2009 10:55:41 AM , Rating: 2
How much more "serious" do you want? Billions of tax dollars going into research, while the oil companies have had solar labs and other things for some time and they haven't had any earth-shaking discoveries. Lots of interesting ones, but nothing yet scalable to meet the need.

How many more billions make it "serious"? Maybe it's the other plan, tax gas to $35/gallon, then either magic happens or the economy stops altogether, either result is fine with many environmentalists.

"Google fired a shot heard 'round the world, and now a second American company has answered the call to defend the rights of the Chinese people." -- Rep. Christopher H. Smith (R-N.J.)
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