US missing out on tremendous economic gain from exploiting oil, gas, and mineral resources outside EEZ
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Likewise, with $100-a-barrel oil prices and nearly one-third of all the world’s hydrocarbons being produced off-shore, it would be folly for the U.S. to ignore the need for access to extended outer continental shelf (OCS) oil and gas resources. The great irony of the U.S. debates over the Law of the Sea Convention is that for years (since the Reagan Administration rejected the treaty in the early 1980s) we have been focusing on the wrong seabed resources. Although the original UNCLOS was rightly rejected because of its absurdly drafted provisions on the mining of manganese nodules (including the creation of an international mining consortium, known grandiloquently as “The Enterprise”), UNCLOS has relatively fewer provisions on such ocean resource activities as lifting oil and gas reserves beyond 200 nautical miles, mining polymetallic sulfides and other exotic substances found at mid-ocean ridges, bio-prospecting the unique flora and fauna of the ocean abyss, and salvaging historic shipwrecks.13 That the United States might extend its Arctic continental shelf off Alaska as far out as 350 nautical miles has the oil industry – and Alaska’s Senate delegation – salivating at the possibilities. But that extension would only be possible if the U.S. accedes to UNCLOS and files a claim before the U.N. Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf.14
If the U.S. does not ratify UNCLOS, it risks losing the remaining three possible seabed mining sites, with billions in the strategic minerals manganese, copper, cobalt and nickel at stake. A single seabed mining operation would spur the economy with total capital purchases of close to one and a half billion dollars and would stimulate robust job creation.