The Arctic This Week - News for January 30 - February 5, 2012

News for January 30 - February 5, 2012


In the US, the attempt to use revenues from the opening of ANWR to fund costly transportation infrastructure is giving both sides of the aisle heart attacks. (
Politico) However, Alaska is calling for increased federal investment to remedy its “woeful” lack of preparedness for increased marine traffic. (Alaska Dispatch)

In Europe, the EU continued to discuss development of common safety standard for offshore drilling, but no concrete resolution is in sight. (
Bellona Foundation). Barents Observer reported that Norway’s minister responsible for the Barents region is being relocated, with no replacement yet named, and that traffic on the newly “liberalized” border between Norway and Russia has been booming. In the Baltic, a runoff election for president takes place on Sunday in Finland. (AFP) Results not in as of the time of this update. Meanwhile, Lithuanian Foreign Minister Audronius Azubalis made news this week by hopping on the bandwagon that sees the Arctic as a new site for potential armed conflict over shipping and oil and gas resources. (BBC International Monitoring, no link available)

A lovely long op-ed in 
the Hindu covered India’s interest in the Arctic and poked at the developed world for a certain amount of hypocrisy regarding carbon emissions, while, in a weird choice of words, China expressed a specific interest in a “peaceful” resolution of any differences of opinion over the Arctic with Canada. Is there a prospect of some other kind of resolution? (Montreal Gazette

PM Stephen Harper of Canada is headed to China for a visit, and the 
CBC covers the main talking points, including upping oil and gas trade with the Asian economic giant (point 1) and discussion of its interests in the Arctic (point 6).

In Nunavut, Inuit communities are not speaking with one voice when it comes to the prospect of local uranium mining (
Yale Environment 360), but Sami reindeer-herding communities continue to do battle with extractive industries in their heritage lands. (Radio Sweden)


Shell publicly says that its exploration focus will be Alaska and Greenland. (
Fox Business News), while plans emerged for the first deep-water development in the Norwegian Sea, the Luva gas field, by Statoil. Amazing engineering feat. (

In Russia, big talk about determination of the external border of Russia’s continental shelf in the Arctic (
Bloomberg). Meanwhile, Russian company Novatek is looking to sell a stake of 29% in a large gas project in the Yamal region to either Qatari or Indian investors. ( Gazprom may be in the market to sell Gazflot, says Barents Observer. Meanwhile, the company’s profits rose to $40bn on increased demand this year (Business Week), while it seems ready to invest only a little bit in Shtokman (Barents Observer). Statoil, meanwhile, reiterated its upgrade of estimated gas reserves in the Snohvit field to 210bn cubic meters, and said that it expects to maintain production capacity of 600,000 barrels of oil each day into the next decade. (

The risk/reward relationship for Arctic drilling continues to be in focus. Russia and Norway launch a joint project to work on the problems of exploration and production in the Barents. A lengthy list of illustrious names graces the supporters’ list. ( In the US, companies exploring or producing in US waters heard this week that they must reapply for waste water discharge permits. Formerly covered by a general Arctic permit, there are now separate permits for Beaufort and Chukchi seas (EPA). The Center for American Progress, a prominent American think tank, wrote a damning report on the risks of Arctic drilling, and the inadequacy of existent spill-response mechanisms, backed up by the Pew Environment Group, via Huffington Post. In Brussels, Satu Hassi, a Finnish Green party MEP, hosted a similarly-themed conference on the issue. (Bellona Foundation)

Meanwhile, one source argues, perhaps a little obviously, that higher prices for both oil and gas increase the economic appeal of Arctic exploration. Well, yes. (
Petroleum Economist)


Two Russian TU-95s made their first patrol of 2012 over the Arctic ocean, joined by European jets over neutral waters (, while the US decided to step back its air presence, moving all F-16s from Eielson Air Force Base in Fairbanks, Alaska much further south to Elmendorf AFB, outside of Anchorage. Simultaneously, it’s retiring its fleet of C-130s, large cargo planes. Rep. Don Young (R-AK) brings up, reasonably, that stepping back from the Arctic at this point might hinder both military and search-and-rescue capability. The US’s largest polar icebreaker, Coast Guard cutter Healy, returned to Seattle, doubtless to a heroes’ welcome, after four scientific missions during 2011 and the famous escort project of the Russian tanker to Nome, Alaska. (Coast Guard News)

In Asia, China hit back against Japan’s micro-scale media offensive against the larger country’s engagement with the Arctic. (


In general: Researchers at the University of Western Australia sounded alarm sirens about the Arctic approaching an assortment of different tipping points that might take it from carbon dioxide sink to net GHG emitter. (
Sydney Morning Herald) Our ability to track this trend, though, has taken a hit with the loss of theAmundsen, which, it turns out, will be dry-docked for the year in Quebec for repairs. (CBC)

In wildlife coverage, researchers from Manitoba have been crowdsourcing information from Inuit communities about the behavior of killer whales in the Arctic, and recently published their results (
Discovery News). They point out as well that disappearing sea ice offers great new hunting for the toothed whales, and shrinking protection for their prey. Simultaneously, further bad news for seals: In a new study, researchers make stronger conclusions about the relationship between ice cover and seal mortality in the Arctic. Weirdly, this is pitched as a position paper against Canada’s seal culling policies, of which little mention is made in the study. (Pacific Free Press) Despite all these pressures, new evidence from the fossil record may indicate that arctic animals might be able to adapt to climate change quickly. (Vancouver Sun) Finally, following up on last week’s story of masses of snowy owls heading south into the lower 48, we now have a culprit for the great migration: lemmings. (Chicago Tribune)

Cool new technology: Raytheon Canada Limited has been awarded a contracted by the Canadian government to test its high-frequency surface wave radar, potentially useful for monitoring both ship traffic and ice flows in the Canadian Arctic. (
Space Daily)

Science mystery: Iodine-131, a radioactive isotope, has recently appeared in trace amounts in the Barents Sea. All bordering countries are denying responsibility for a leak. (
Bellona Foundation)


Prospects for expanded broadband and telephone coverage in Canada’s Arctic continue to expand. (
Canada News Wire)

Sarah Barrell, in the UK’s 
Independent, encourages an Arctic cruise as the ideal vacation in August this year. How does this fit with TAI’s own coverage of the dangers of Arctic tourism? 

In (appropriately) Barking, England, two Greenpeace folks dressed up in a polar bear costume named Paula and filmed themselves for a bit in front of a Shell station, preparing perhaps for a protest YouTube flick? (
Barking & Dagenham Post

The real story behind the recent eco-feel-good movie “Big Miracle” about the rescue of three whales from ice in Alaska was written up in the 
Anchorage Daily News

Icelandic photographer Ragnar Axelsson puts on a new exhibit of 30 years of arctic photography. The
Independent features a 10-image preview, while older pictures - rare paintings from an 1854 book on the trip of the HMS Investigator are slated to be auctioned in Britain. (Telegraph)

A new book by Alec Wilkinson profiles the balloon adventure to the North Pole by Swede S. A. Andree. Review in the 
New York Times.