Arctic Yearbook 2015 - Page 93

93 Arctic Yearbook 2015 North America’s largest oil field, extraction peaked in 1988 (Energy Information Administration Alaska 2014). Coupled with Alaska’s present US$3.6 billion budget deficit (State of Alaska 2015), and high wage-earning potential that averaged US$127,148 in 2012 (Fried 2013), the desire for offshore exploration is considerable. To that end, in August 2015 Royal Dutch Shell received final approval from U.S. Department of Interior’s Bureau of Ocean Energy Management (BOEM) to resume work in the Chukchi Sea halted in 2012 when its main drilling rig ran aground. Shell has already invested US$7 billion in exploration for oil in the Arctic (Gardner 2015). But the consequences of offshore oil extraction are considerable. Only months before BOEMs approval of Shell’s project, the agency’s own Environmental Impact Report (2015) reported that in a scenario based on the lifetime of a drilling project in the Chukchi Sea that there is a “75% chance of one or more large oil spills,” and also estimates the chance for 800 small oil spills. “Even under the best of conditions,” NPC (2015: 44) acknowledged, “one can never expect to recover all of the oil from a large spill on water.” Indeed, the potential, if not likelihood, of future oil spills are clearly exemplified by the 1989 Exxon Valdez accident and the 2010 Deepwater Horizon blowout, but seem not to deter expansion of offshore drilling. In the aftermath of the latter Walter Parker, chair of the Alaska Oil Spill Commission responsible for the Exxon Valdez oil spill investigation said, “It’s as though we had never written the report” (Struzik 2015: 156). Despite past oil spills, government reports and vast scientific study, efforts to drill in the Arctic are ongoing. A scientific study published in Nature (McGlade & Ekins 2015) said: “We show that development of resources in the Arctic and any increase in unconventional oil production are incommensurate with efforts to limit average global warming to 2 °C. Our results show that policy makers’ instincts to exploit rapidly and completely their territorial fossil fuels are, in aggregate, inconsistent with their commitments to this temperature limit.” As the case of Alaska shows, the fledgling development of renewable energies juxtaposed with fossil fuels represents the dueling perspectives. In what is known as the ‘energy paradox’, Jaffe and Stavins wrote in 1994, “In the long run, the development and widespread adoption of new technologies can greatly ameliorate what, in the short run, sometimes appear to be overwhelming conflicts between economic well-being and environmental quality” (92). This brings to the forefront the question of governance. What is the state of environmental governance when Arctic warming, and broadly climate change are up against the economics and availability of fossil fuels? Unraveling governance The concept of governance for the changing Arctic is a challenging question for even the most seasoned of Arctic experts (Koivurova 2012; Young 2013). What are the possibilities and limits of the Arctic Council? What roles do international fora and national policy play in the governance of Arctic development and conservation? For purposes here, I propose that the AC needs to govern for conservation while national policy, writ large, must compliment the principle of environmental protection. If in fact the object of des