Officials in the administration of US President Barack Obama and former senior military figures have spoken out in favour of offshore oil and gas drilling in the Arctic.
A raft of speakers made that case at a Washington event sponsored by the Arctic Energy Centre, a coalition of pro-drilling interests. Notable among the speakers were Amy Pope (Vice Chair of the White House Arctic Executive Steering Committee) and Admiral Robert Papp (the State Department’s Special Representative for the Arctic).
The commonest line taken by speakers was that national energy security and conventional security are both served by at least keeping the options open on exploration and production in the remote, hostile region.
They acknowledged the need for safe and sustainable practices but noted that Russia and Canada would not hold back in exploring the region’s energy potential.
And they also cited native Alaskan groups who support offshore development in Arctic waters.
The US Department of Interior is preparing to announce its five-year program (2017-2022) for oil and gas leasing in the Outer Continental Shelf, with initial plans including Arctic lease sales in the Beaufort Sea in 2020 and the Chukchi Sea in 2022. Environmental groups have been pressing strongly for an end to all Arctic drilling leases.
A year ago, in September 2015, environmentalists were celebrating when Royal Dutch Shell ended its exploratory operations in the Arctic indefinitely following a disappointing and controversial drilling season in the Chukchi Sea.
The Shell campaign had been focus of concerted and dramatic actions by protesters.