America can take leadership role in Arctic Council

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson - Guest Columnist

Chances are, most Ohioans are not thinking of the Arctic Circle. But something big is going on up there, something that could set our nation on a course for serious energy discovery, and sustain Ohio’s own energy economy far into the future.

Later this month, President Obama is traveling to Alaska to join leaders of our neighboring Arctic nations and those with a vested interest in the Arctic, as part of the GLACIER conference. This is a golden opportunity for the United States to show leadership, as our nation begins our new role as Chair of the Arctic Council.

The Arctic Council is an intergovernmental forum that includes Canada, Iceland, Denmark, Sweden, Norway, Finland, Russia, and the United States. As Chair of the Council for the next two years, America can demonstrate leadership in the safe and responsible development of Arctic energy resources.

This opportunity starts this summer, as Royal Dutch Shell begins exploration in the Chukchi Sea. Right now, the massive vessels that will lead this drilling effort are moving into place. The Obama administration, citing “rigorous safety standards” and a long review process, granted approval for this project.

Watchers of energy news probably saw the ironic spectacle of the Seattle “kayaktivists” who were protesting Shell’s efforts to get exploratory drilling underway. I say ironic, because the paddling protestors were in kayaks mostly made of plastic materials from oil-based petrochemicals.

Despite years of federal delays and the actions of environmental extremists, the company is prepared to explore leases held in the Outer Continental Shelf. To prepare for this vast undertaking, Shell has spent more than $5 billion, and will draw on several decades of experience in Arctic regions. The company has said its top priority is a commitment to safe and environmentally responsible operations.

This energy initiative in the Arctic is critical not just to increase domestic energy supply, but also to reassert and maintain our nation’s leadership role in the world.

The Arctic region of Alaska alone is home to the world’s largest remaining untapped gas reserves and some of the largest undeveloped oil reserves. Tapping these reserves and getting the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline flowing at peak capacity again would create thousands of jobs, add billions to our economy, and reduce our dependence on unreliable foreign sources of energy. All we lack to gain access to 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas is leadership.

Let me emphasize something about the Trans-Alaskan Pipeline. Did you know that many of the compressors on this pipeline came from Ohio? This Arctic-region pipeline is proof positive that Arctic energy matters greatly to Ohio, and not just to increase supply, but also to sustain our current energy economy.

Arctic exploration has the potential to sustain an average of 55,000 new jobs for 50 years, with nearly 100,000 jobs at peak employment. These jobs will exist throughout the nation, but especially in Ohio, because of our place as a premier manufacturer of supplies critical to the oil and gas industry. Our steel industry, as well as compressor, bearings, and tubular manufacturers, to name just a few, will be well positioned to participate in Arctic energy production. In addition, our state is a world leader in polymer research and products, which depend on petroleum as a feedstock.

Ohio’s Utica and Marcellus shale regions are making serious contributions to America’s growing energy supply, thanks to repurposed technologies to improve hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling. In fact, we’ve surpassed Saudi Arabia to become the world’s largest producer of petroleum.

Right now, this summer, our nation has the opportunity to lead in the Arctic. My sincere hope is that this opportunity is not squandered. I hope we work with our Arctic Council neighbors, to show our citizens at home and to observers all around the world that economic development and environmental stewardship are not antagonistic, but complementary goals.

U.S. Rep. Bill Johnson

Guest Columnist

Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, represents Ohio’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.

Congressman Bill Johnson, R-Marietta, represents Ohio’s 6th Congressional District in the U.S. House of Representatives in Washington, D.C.