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
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 2047 GMT (0447 HKT)
Jim Bell says NASA's latest discovery support the notion that habitable worlds are probably common in the galaxy.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1817 GMT (0217 HKT)
Jay Parini says even the Gospels skip the actual Resurrection and are sketchy on the appearances that followed.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1752 GMT (0152 HKT)
Graham Allison says if an unchecked and emboldened Russia foments conflict in a nation like Latvia, a NATO member, the West would have to defend it.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1311 GMT (2111 HKT)
John Sutter: Bad news, guys -- the pangolin we adopted is missing.
April 19, 2014 -- Updated 1710 GMT (0110 HKT)
Ben Wildavsky says we need a better way to determine whether colleges are turning out graduates with superior education and abilities.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1026 GMT (1826 HKT)
Charles Maclin, program manager working on the search and recovery of Malaysia Flight 370, explains how it works.
April 18, 2014 -- Updated 1250 GMT (2050 HKT)
Jill Koyama says Michael Bloomberg is right to tackle gun violence, but we need to go beyond piecemeal state legislation.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1845 GMT (0245 HKT)
Michael Bloomberg and Shannon Watts say Americans are ready for sensible gun laws, but politicians are cowed by the NRA. Everytown for Gun Safety will prove the NRA is not that powerful.
April 17, 2014 -- Updated 1328 GMT (2128 HKT)
Ruben Navarrette says Steve Israel is right: Some Republicans encourage anti-Latino prejudice. But that kind of bias is not limited to the GOP.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 2323 GMT (0723 HKT)
Peggy Drexler counts the ways Phyllis Schlafly's argument that lower pay for women helps them nab a husband is ridiculous.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1642 GMT (0042 HKT)
Rick McGahey says Rep. Paul Ryan is signaling his presidential ambitions by appealing to hard core Republican values
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1539 GMT (2339 HKT)
Paul Saffo says current Google Glasses are doomed to become eBay collectibles, but they are only the leading edge of a surge in wearable tech that will change our lives
April 15, 2014 -- Updated 1849 GMT (0249 HKT)
Kathleen Blee says the KKK and white power or neo-Nazi groups give haters the purpose and urgency to use violence.
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1156 GMT (1956 HKT)
Sen. Sheldon Whitehouse and Rep. Henry Waxman say read deep, and you'll see the federal Keystone pipeline report spells out the pipeline is bad news
April 16, 2014 -- Updated 1153 GMT (1953 HKT)
Frida Ghitis says President Obama needs to stop making empty threats against Russia and consider other options
ADVERTISEMENT