U.S. access to Arctic mineral and oil wealth depends on accession to UNCLOS
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Determination of who owns the Arctic Ocean and any resources that might be found beneath those waters will have significant economic implications. The U.S. Department of Energy predicts a decline in petroleum reserves and, despite oil prices topping $146 in June 2008, the demand for oil is growing.6 In addition to the vast mineral resources, the unpredictability of the Persian Gulf region makes the Arctic region even more attractive for exploitation. Russia and Norway have already submitted their claims to the Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (“the Commission”), while Canada and Denmark are collecting evidence to prepare their submissions in the near future.7 All of these nations can gain considerable oil and gas resources as a result of the Convention.
However, one Arctic state has so far failed to join the race. Unlike the other Arctic nations, the United States has not ratified the Convention. Although the United States has complied voluntarily with the Convention, the failure to ratify the Convention could foreclose its ability to tap into potential energy resources. This failure could prevent significant contributions to American energy independence, and increase security threats. Thus, the best way to guarantee access to the Arctic’s resources and to protect other economic and non-economic interests is for the United States to become a party to the Convention.
According to the U.S. Geological Survey, the Arctic region is the largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on earth with an estimated ninety billion barrels of undiscovered oil reserves, and 1,670 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. In addition, the unpredictability of the Persian Gulf region makes the Arctic region even more attractive for exploitation.