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Only Three Years of Offshore Oil in the Arctic

Huffington Post, 25 July 2012

Recently released US government documents show there is a scant 3.3 years worth of oil sitting off the shores of the Arctic — one of the last pristine places left on the planet.

According to the US Geological Survey in a report titled "An Evaluation of the Science Needs to Inform Decisions on Outer Continental Shelf Energy Development in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, Alaska," there is an estimated 23.6 billion barrels of oil that is "risked, undiscovered, technically recoverable oil" in the Arctic seas.

Sounds like a lot right?

The United States consumes around 7 billion barrels of oil a year. We use this oil for all sorts of things, fueling our cars, planes and ships for example. This estimate is made by the US government's Energy Information Agency, which is in charge of monitoring and reporting energy use for the country.

The math is simple now. We use 7 billion barrels of oil a year and there are 23.6 billion barrels in the Arctic Seas, so we come to just over three years worth of oil. And these numbers are conservative because I am assuming consumption of oil over the next decade remains the same and doesn't go up. Also, the US Geological Survey estimate of 23.6 billion barrels is a best guess, there may be more "discoverable" oil, but there may also be a lot less.

Writing on the Huffington Post just the other day, music legend Paul McCartney said that we must "come together to save the Arctic."

MacCartney is baffled that:

As the ice retreats, the oil giants are moving in. Instead of seeing the melting as a grave warning to humanity, they're eyeing the previously inaccessible oil beneath the seabed at the top of the world. They're exploiting the disappearance of the ice to drill for the very same fuel that caused the melting in the first place.

As we speak, massive offshore oil rigs owned by oil giant Shell are slowly making their way to the Arctic Seas and they plan to anchor in the remote, dangerous and pristine waters of the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas (think World's Deadliest Catch), where they will pierce the bottom of the ocean with giant drills in the hopes of finding oil.

If they find oil, the rush will be on and the Arctic will never be the same. All for just 3.3 years of oil. Join the Arctic Rising movement today and stand with over a million people worldwide who believe the Artcic should remain untouched.

The US Geological Survey Report can be downloaded here, but be warned it is a 20MB PDF file.

And also props to my Greenpeace colleague, Senior Legislative Representative Kyle Ash, for walking me through the numbers I used in this post.