The American leadership has declared its intention to extend the work on oil production in the Arctic Ocean, despite the many risks and criticism from environmentalists.
The Dow Jones agency reported that in the near future the Department of the Interior will issue a new five-year drilling plan assuming two auctions for the right to develop oil and gas sites in the Arctic Ocean north of Alaska. This plan will determine the shelf deposits, which will be put up for sale in 2012 to 2017.
Experts believe that by increasing the “black gold” production in the Arctic region, the U.S. administration wants to minimize the oil import expenditures, if not to exclude them from the budget.
Recall that this January, U.S. President Barack Obama lifted the moratorium on oil and gas exploration imposed by Congress in 1981, and opened access to 75% of the oil and gas deposits on the U.S. continental shelf.
Interior Secretary Ken Salazar said the United States, that special emphasis will be placed on fields development in the Chukchi Sea and Beaufort Sea. He said the Department will take all necessary measures to ensure that the Arctic areas are available for drilling, considering environmental aspects and the indigenous peoples’ interests.
However, U.S. leadership’s plans couldn’t but arouse the environmentalists’ reaction, who are already sounding the alarm, remembering the tragedy in the Gulf of Mexico, where on April 22, 2010 in an explosion on the Deepwater Horizon offshore oil platform about 1,100 miles of water area was contaminated, and wild populations suffered an irreparable loss.
Arguing about the possible risks, it should be remembered that the accident in the Gulf occurred against a background of favorable climatic conditions in the region. Whereas oil development and production in the Arctic Ocean constitute much more potential threats. Hardly anyone can give guarantee that in the rigorous conditions of northern latitudes the tragedy will not repeat, similar to that occurred on the Deepwater Horizon platform, with consequences going far beyond the U.S. territorial waters.
The most important environmental aspect of this situation is that the Arctic ecosystem is developing according to its laws, different from others. As oil producers move to the north, it is undergoing a fundamental reconstruction influenced by man-caused impact. For example, representatives of the fauna of this region will be pushed out to the north, into the less suitable conditions for habitation, which, together with low productivity of many arctic species may lead to their disappearance.