Skip to main content

It's time to develop our Arctic resources

By Dan Sullivan, Special to CNN
July 20, 2012 -- Updated 1315 GMT (2115 HKT)
Shell Oil plans to use its Noble Discoverer, right, for drilling in the Arctic.
Shell Oil plans to use its Noble Discoverer, right, for drilling in the Arctic.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Estimates are that Alaska has about 40 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil
  • Dan Sullivan: The U.S. is on the verge of an energy renaissance; we must seize the opportunity
  • He says we have some of the highest standards in the world for environmental protection
  • Sullivan: If we do not pursue responsible development in the Arctic, other countries will

Editor's note: Dan Sullivan, a former state attorney general, is the commissioner of Alaska's Department of Natural Resources.

(CNN) -- The United States is on the verge of an energy renaissance. We need to recognize and seize the opportunity.

This renaissance involves domestic production of natural resources ranging from clean renewables to hydrocarbons.

In particular, domestic hydrocarbon production -- both oil and gas -- is increasing dramatically, with some experts predicting that the United States could become the largest hydrocarbon producer in the word -- outstripping Saudi Arabia and Russia -- by 2020.

Dan Sullivan
Dan Sullivan

Increased domestic production of hydrocarbons is driven by two trends. First, new technology is unlocking unconventional resources such as shale-derived oil and gas. And second, investors and policy makers are recognizing that the U.S. still has an enormous resource base of conventional oil and gas, particularly in Alaska.

Opinion: Why we should look to the Arctic

Federal agencies estimate that Alaska's North Slope and federal waters off Alaska's northern coast contain approximately 40 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil and more than 200 trillion cubic feet of conventional gas.

According to the U.S. Geological Survey, this region contains more oil than any comparable region located in the Arctic, including northern Russia.

However, the United States is lagging behind its Arctic neighbors in developing these resources. This is unfortunate, because we have some of the highest environmental standards in the world and we should be setting the bar for Arctic development.

Developing our Arctic resources will promote our nation's interests in many ways: securing a politically stable, long-term supply of domestic energy; boosting U.S. economic growth and jobs; reducing the federal trade deficit; and strengthening our global leadership on energy issues. Leading academic researchers and economists in Alaska have estimated that oil production from Alaska's outer continental shelf will bring federal revenues of approximately $167 billion over 50 years, and create 55,000 jobs throughout the country.

Developing U.S. resources in the Arctic has the added benefit of enhancing global environmental protection.

One of the arguments used by Arctic drilling opponents is that "we aren't ready," but it is obvious that no matter what preparations are made, they will argue that it isn't enough.

Shell, for example, has spent billions to prepare for drilling in the Arctic this summer, incorporating the lessons learned from the Deepwater Horizon spill in the Gulf of Mexico, state-of-the-art equipment and extensive scientific research. Recently, the Obama administration has publically expressed its confidence in the company's drilling plans.

The U.S. has created some of the highest standards in the world for environmental protection. When we delay or disallow responsible resource development, the end result is not to protect the environment, but to drive hydrocarbon investment and production to countries with much lower environmental standards and enforcement capacity.

Last year, it was reported that between 5 million and 20 million tons of oil leak in Russia per year. This is equivalent to a Deepwater Horizon blowout about every two months. Russia had an estimated 18,000 oil pipeline ruptures in 2010 -- the figure for the U.S. that year was 341.

If we do not pursue responsible development in the Arctic, countries such as Russia -- perhaps even China, which is interested in securing access to Arctic hydrocarbon resources -- will dominate energy production from the Arctic. Such a scenario does not bode well for the global environment.

By embracing the opportunities in the Arctic, the United States will show the world that it can be a strong leader in responsible energy development.

Follow us on Twitter @CNNOpinion

Join us on Facebook/CNNOpinion

The opinions expressed in this commentary are solely those of Dan Sullivan.

ADVERTISEMENT
Part of complete coverage on
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1221 GMT (2021 HKT)
Carlos Moreno says atheists, a sizable fraction of Americans, deserve representation in Congress.
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 1625 GMT (0025 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says Democrats and unions have a long history of mutual support that's on the decline. But in a time of income inequality they need each other more than ever
August 31, 2014 -- Updated 0423 GMT (1223 HKT)
William McRaven
Peter Bergen says Admiral William McRaven leaves the military with a legacy of strategic thinking about special operations
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1611 GMT (0011 HKT)
Leon Aron says the U.S. and Europe can help get Russia out of Ukraine by helping Ukraine win its just war, sharing defense technologies and intelligence
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1724 GMT (0124 HKT)
Timothy Stanley the report on widespread child abuse in a British town reveals an institutional betrayal by police, social services and politicians. Negligent officials must face justice
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 0106 GMT (0906 HKT)
Peter Bergen and David Sterman say a new video of an American suicide bomber shows how Turkey's militant networks are key to jihadists' movement into Syria and Iraq. Turkey must stem the flow
September 1, 2014 -- Updated 1554 GMT (2354 HKT)
Whitney Barkley says many for-profit colleges deceive students, charge exorbitant tuitions and make false promises
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1434 GMT (2234 HKT)
Mark O'Mara says the time has come to decide whether we really want police empowered to shoot those they believe are 'fleeing felons'
August 28, 2014 -- Updated 1432 GMT (2232 HKT)
Bill Frelick says a tool of rights workers is 'naming and shaming,' ensuring accountability for human rights crimes in conflicts. But what if wrongdoers know no shame?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 0243 GMT (1043 HKT)
Jay Parini says, no, a little girl shouldn't fire an Uzi, but none of should have easy access to guns: The Second Amendment was not written to give us such a 'right,' no matter what the NRA says
August 30, 2014 -- Updated 1722 GMT (0122 HKT)
Terra Ziporyn Snider says many adolescents suffer chronic sleep deprivation, which can indeed lead to safety problems. Would starting school an hour later be so wrong?
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1330 GMT (2130 HKT)
Peggy Drexler says after all the celebrity divorces, it's tempting to ask the question. But there are still considerable benefits to getting hitched
August 29, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
The death of Douglas McAuthur McCain, the first American killed fighting for ISIS, highlights the pull of Syria's war for Western jihadists, writes Peter Bergen.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2242 GMT (0642 HKT)
Former ambassador to Syria Robert Ford says the West should be helping moderates in the Syrian armed opposition end the al-Assad regime and form a government to focus on driving ISIS out
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1321 GMT (2121 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says a great country does not deport thousands of vulnerable, unaccompanied minors who fled in fear for their lives
August 27, 2014 -- Updated 1319 GMT (2119 HKT)
Robert McIntyre says Congress is the culprit for letting Burger King pay lower taxes after merging with Tim Hortons.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2335 GMT (0735 HKT)
Wesley Clark says the U.S. can offer support to its Islamic friends in the region most threatened by ISIS, but it can't fight their war
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 2053 GMT (0453 HKT)
America's painful struggle with racism has often brought great satisfaction to the country's rivals, critics, and foes. The killing of Michael Brown and its tumultuous aftermath has been a bonanza.
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1919 GMT (0319 HKT)
Rick Martin says the death of Robin Williams brought back memories of his own battle facing down depression as a young man
August 26, 2014 -- Updated 1558 GMT (2358 HKT)
David Perry asks: What's the best way for police officers to handle people with psychiatric disabilities?
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 1950 GMT (0350 HKT)
Julian Zelizer says it's not crazy to think Mitt Romney would be able to end up at the top of the GOP ticket in 2016
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2052 GMT (0452 HKT)
Roxanne Jones and her girlfriends would cheer from the sidelines for the boys playing Little League. But they really wanted to play. Now Mo'ne Davis shows the world that girls really can throw.
August 25, 2014 -- Updated 2104 GMT (0504 HKT)
Kimberly Norwood is a black mom who lives in an affluent neighborhood not far from Ferguson, but she has the same fears for her children as people in that troubled town do
August 22, 2014 -- Updated 2145 GMT (0545 HKT)
It apparently has worked for France, say Peter Bergen and Emily Schneider, but carries uncomfortable risks. When it comes to kidnappings, nations face grim options.
ADVERTISEMENT