Editorial: Thawing To New Heights And Plumbing The Depths

Tim Haïdar


Wainwright, Alaska, USA
Yearly average temperature range: -48°C to 25°C
Hydrocarbon reserves:
30-77 billion barrels of oil equivalent

Hot off the scientific presses, news reaches us that the Summer ice melt in the Arctic circle and Antarctic peninsula has hit its highest rate in a millennia.

As much as 13 percent of the world's remaining undiscovered oil and one third of the remaining undiscovered natural gas could be in the Arctic. While the debate rages on over ice cores and whether this rapid thawing is to be attributed to the hand of Man or a higher power, climatic change has led to the possibility of literally ground-breaking opportunities in the High North.

The Chukchi Sea, sitting between Siberia and Alaska, is just one of these virgin prospects. Usually navigable for only four months a year, melting of pack ice has made accessible energy that could feed the entire US at current daily oil consumption rates for more than 11 years.

So with investment and the right will, Wainwright could be transformed from a tiny whaling town on the North Slope into the capital of Arctic oil. But new prospects come with new perils.

The Chukchi Sea is home to hydrocarbons but also the largest oceanic phytoplankton algal bloom in the world, crucial to marine life in the icy circle. A serious spill in these climes could mean ecological disaster. And we haven’t yet mentioned that seven other sovereign nations have a claim to Arctic waters and are getting their skates on to turn ice-breaking into money-making. Things really are hotting up in the freezer….


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