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US government approves Arctic oil and gas drilling plan

Posted May. 13, 2015 07:22,   


As the Obama administration allows oil drilling in the Arctic, it has taken a step closer to energy development following the discovery of shale gas. Despite opposition from environmental groups, it plans to strengthen its hegemony, aiming to be energy independent. If the U.S. produces oil in the Arctic, it can be less dependent on oil from the Middle East and the strategic importance of the region would decrease. In addition, it can strengthen its influence and have the upper hand despite the emergence of China and Russia. Therefore, its approval is noteworthy in that it is not only about securing oil but also about its power in the context of the world order.

The U.S. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) on Monday conditionally approved Royal Dutch Shell’s plans to drill in the Arctic Ocean. Shell will drill up to six exploratory well for oil and gas in the U.S. portion of the Arctic Ocean including the Chukchi Sea from this summer at the earliest.

According to 2011 Interior Department data, federal waters in the region hold about 22 billion barrels of technically recoverable oil, the Wall Street Journal said. It is 2,444 times 9 million barrels of oil, an amount that the U.S. is currently producing per day.

The U.S. government’s approval of oil drilling in the Arctic is in the context of President Obama’s policy for complete energy independence. Its purpose is to prevent economic shocks from soaring oil prices in spite of a conflict in the Middle East. It can also check Russia with lower global oil prices. In addition, it can maintain its position as a superpower by generating new jobs from exploration even if China closely chases the U.S.

Shell had attempted an oil drilling project in the Chukchi Sea since 2007. However, the containment dome for the prevention of oil leaks was damaged during the test drilling at the end of 2012, which has delayed its drilling plan. Environmental groups have opposed the drill, claiming that an accident in the drilling could cause more severe pollution than the 2010 explosion on the Gulf of Mexico. In April 2010, BP’s Deepwater Horizon drilling rig at the Macondo well in the Gulf of Mexico exploded, killing 11 platform workers and spilling over four million barrels of oil for three months.

The Obama administration plans to prepare and implement rigorous safety standards to handle opposition from environmental groups.

On Jan. 27 this year, the U.S. Department of the Interior announced a plan to allow exploring and drilling for oil on the outer continental shelf, an area that begins 50 miles off the Atlantic coast. The coast was excluded from the "Five-Year Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Oil and Gas Leasing Program," which expires in August 2017. It is the first time that the U.S. permits oil drilling in the area.