Arctic gold, diamonds, natural gas and oil - YEEHAW
|Harper in the Canadian Arctic|
It's hard to ignore a gold rush. Add diamonds, natural gas and oil and look out.
In a summer during which everyone has been looking north to the Arctic with dollar signs spinning over their eyeballs, Prime Minister Stephen Harper joined the rush this week with a trip to the Arctic himself to, among other duties, announce Canada will spend $100 million to map the mineral resources of the north. Now, on a grander scale most of this work has already been done by the United States Geological Society (USGS) that mapped the entire Arctic to estimate in July the area north of the Arctic Circle contains 90 billion barrels of undiscovered oil and 30 percent of undiscovered natural gas. Development of such reserves, according to USGS estimates, could meet current world oil demand of 86.4 million barrels a day for almost three years.
Derek Burney, a tough political strategist on the Conservative scene who's now studying U.S.-Canada relations, wants Canada to get more involved in the Arctic, advising that increased traffic through the Northwest Passage as a result of global warming carries commercial and security opportunities for both countries. He doesn't talk about the downside for our world - and particularly for future residents of the planet - of rapidly melting ice caps and glaciers. It's a business opportunity.
Harper appears to agree with Burney. While the PM talked today about environmental concerns, he spoke about the "proliferation of international shipping in the north" as a done deal, rather than an environmentally precarious event that Canada should be working to moderate as much as possible. Sure, Harper said Canada wants to enforce anti-pollution rules, but that's what they all say before all-out development goes hog-wild. You don't do the sophisticated mapping of resources if you don't plan to be drilling, excavating and carrying tonnage through fragile Arctic waters at a hasty clip.
Last night on The National, the CBC showed a map to accompany a report on Harper's trip north. It looked like a set for Let's Make a Deal, with gold appearing on one part of the north, diamonds on another and oil and natural gas sites marked in the fragile northern seas.
Warnings from environmentalists appear to be unheeded. Not to worry, says USGS director Mark Myers. He stressed before any decisions can be made about "protection of endangered species, native communities or the health of our planet, we have to know what's out there."
Like Cassandra, environmentalists are left to warn of risk to Arctic residents, as well as the world's population and generations to come, if they come. Not to mention the natural world. Tony Clarke, executive director of the Polaris Institute in Ottawa, says development in the Arctic is akin "to playing with fire as far as nature is concerned." Andrea Harden-Dolnahue, energy campaigner for the Council of Canadians, believes it is critical to conduct social and environmental impact studies before "rushing into an energy gold rush."
Famous last words.
And remember, for oil alone, we're talking about only a three year supply from the development of all the undiscovered oil resources in the entire Arctic, of which Canada has only a fraction.