The National Interest recently published an article decrying the United States’ uninspired Arctic policy and highlighting the national security consequences of our minimal engagement in this very strategic region. The problems are two-fold: The White House has not prioritized economic development in the region and our military is not equipped to operate effectively there either. Scholars and policy makers agree that these issues are becoming more pressing as the Arctic thaws and foreign powers have been increasing access to its waters.
As luck would have it though, Arctic energy development can play an critical role in bridging these gaps while providing economic opportunity and jobs for tens of thousands, increased revenue for the State of Alaska and the U.S. Treasury, all while bolstering the United States’ energy supply for years to come. This last point is especially significant as our foreign policy objectives are frequently driven by our need for secure reliable energy supplies (remember the 1970s?). With increased strife in many oil and gas-producing regions and growing demand for energy around the globe, this is not a national challenge that is likely to go away.
Responsible development of the U.S. Arctic resources offers a strategic gateway for the U.S. to assert its leadership in the region at a time when more assertive (read: aggressive) Arctic nations, like Russia, are making their presence increasingly felt.
America’s economic strength in recent years is in no small part based on energy security. How did this happen? It is largely due to new energy production from shale, which has made the U.S. the world’s largest energy producer once again. America must build upon this strength and work to grow and sustain it. We must remain focused on energy independence as a national goal, as energy is the heart of our economy. As noted by the former U.S. Secretary of Defense, Leon Panetta, the U.S. has “broken free of its dependence on energy from unstable producers.” America’s Arctic energy resources can serve as a critical link to future energy security.
The EIA estimates that the recent boom from shale will begin to decline by the 2030s and 2040s, the same timeframe in which Arctic resources would come online if more exploration efforts were to begin in earnest now. The U.S. Arctic holds approximately 35 billion barrels of oil in conventional resource potential as well as 76 billion barrels of oil equivalent (BBOE) of conventional undiscovered resource potential- most of which are offshore. As noted by President Obama in his 2013 National Strategy for the Arctic Region:
“The Arctic region’s energy resources factor into a core component of our national security strategy: energy security.”
As The National Interest contends, it is time for America to get serious about its Arctic policy. America’s security and prosperity rely upon energy, and that future resides in the American Arctic.