The Arctic This Week - News for February 6 - 13, 2012

News for February 6 - February 13, 2012


Alaska legislators headed to Washington to lobby for drilling in ANWR. Side note: turns out that legislators don’t always tell reporters the truth! (The News Tribune) Looks like their efforts were worthwhile from an editorial in the WSJ lauding the passage of HR7, the American Energy Infrastructure and Jobs Act, which opens 400,000 acres of ANWR to exploration. Maybe paradoxically, the Alaska House of Representatives passed an angry resolution expressing general irritation that the federal government has failed to plug more than 130 exploratory wells drilled in the National Petroleum Reserve. (Anchorage Daily News)  

Meanwhile, in an effort to revive and speed the Keystone XL project, the US House is considering a bill to move authority for the pipeline from the State Department to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, (Tweet from @CQEnergy) and  Shell is still hoping to drill in its Arctic properties this summer, despite being well behind schedule. (Anchorage Daily News)

It might help for a general read to see this fairly detailed coverage of the Alaska Northern Waters Task Force’s recommendations to Congress.  (

In Russia, Gazprom is considering taking a stake in another LNG project in the Nenets region, Timan Pechora, (Barents Observer) while TNK-BP is spending $12 billion to develop four fields in the Yamal region. (Bloomberg)

In other regions, we’ve got an excellent interview from Al Jazeera English with Kuupik Kleist, prime minister of Greenland, regarding their resources. Norway is expanding its surveying activities, and is particularly hopeful for the area around the recently settled Norway-Russia maritime border in the Barents. (Reuters) This should help with that: ConocoPhillips has a new ice-ready rig in design, working with a company in Singapore. (Nasdaq)

As a nod to renewables, Radio Sweden reported that last year wind power energy production went up by 74 per cent to 6.1 terrawatts, according to the Swedish association for wind power, and that 354 new wind generators were started in 2011, a 50 per cent increase on 2010.  However, wind power still only accounts for 4.4 per cent of electricity used in Sweden.


Volumes on the Northern Sea Route are expected to double next year.This should benefit the Murmansk region, with plans for additional coal and oil terminals as well as housing. (Barents Observer)


Not sure what this might entail, but Russia is to deploy by 2020 a combined-arms force to protect its political and economic interests in the Arctic. (RIA Novosti) The US Coast Guard is also preparing for an increased role in the less and less frozen North, with large-scale drills planned for the summer of 2012. (The Day)  Similarly, exercise Arctic Ram is the Canadian military’s latest effort to prepare Canadian Troops to work in Arctic conditions. (Edmonton Journal

This week also saw Canada award a contract for the construction of its next polar icebreaker, to be named the CCGS John G Diefenbaker, to the tune of $9.5million.  (, no link) This site, which is a diverting look into Canada’s icebreaker fleet, puts the price of the project closer to $720 million, which seems more realistic.

Despite the military news, we have plenty of soothing, conciliatory talk this week. The US Ambassador to Norway Barry White said, in general terms, that we all have an interest in “preserving the Arctic area even as we pursue sustainable development.” Whatever that might mean. (Barents Observer)  

Simultaneously,  Boris Nemtsov, an opposition leader in Russia, indicated little patience with the idea of Russian-Canadian competition in the Arctic (Toronto Sun) and Mark Entwhistle of the Canadian Defence and Foreign Affairs Institute argued that Canada is paying insufficient attention to its relationship with its even larger neighbor across the Arctic Ocean. (Winnipeg Free Press)

China, still looking for a secure foothold, is giving up on Norway as its Arctic Council buddy, and moving on to Denmark. It's like dating in junior high school. (Alaska Dispatch) In fact, it looks like the Danes in general are looking to make friends. Danish Prime Minister Thorning-Schmidt is expected at the White House for a visit later this month, and Arctic cooperation is on the agenda.  (White House press release, no link)

Non-littoral state Finland’s first conservative president since the 60’s will be taking the reins. Sauli Niinisto won Sunday’s election. (Telegraph

After all that conciliatory talk, this new video game should really help to keep the rhetoric around an Arctic war toned down. (Montreal Gazette)


We have numbers! A study published in Nature suggests a ballpark estimate of 1,000 cubic miles of ice lost from 2003-2010, or approximately 8 times the volume of Lake Erie. (National Journal) We also heard that Canada’s tundra is shrinking as happy shrubs thrive in their warmer environs. (Ottawa Citizen

Perhaps in an effort to mitigate such things, the US Department of the Interior is pouring money into substantially better monitoring systems to support “better decision making” in the Arctic. (CBS News) Dare to breathe a small sigh of relief: as yet, loss from high glaciers in Asia is insignificant.  (Guardian)

Also from Canada, we received a comprehensive (if speculative) portrait of life on Ellesmere Island 50 million years ago, including an early sort of hippopotamus, the coryphodon, (Montreal Gazette) as well as word that the Canadian Space Agency is preparing to launch an aurora webcam. From space. (Alaska Dispatch) Thank you, Canada. 

As a side note, the clearly nonpartisan site Earth Justice wrote a very general indictment of Arctic abuse that will tell you nothing new. It does, however include a fantastic 9-minute eco-porn segment from wildlife photographer Florian Schulz.


Monday was the national day for Sami people around the European Arctic, celebrating the date of the first Sami congress, in Trondheim in 1917. (Radio Sweden)
The visit of a North Korean delegation to Kirkenes for the Barents Spektakel has drawn much attention, including more than million views on YouTube for their rendition of Norwegian band A-ha’s hit “Take On Me.” (Barents Observer)

For fun, here is a video of an Icelandic ice worm, Iceland's answer to the Loch Ness monster
The Telegraph has published several mouthwatering descriptions of travels to Arctic Europe; I’ll let you dig them up for yourself.