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Guest MINDSETTER ™ John Loughlin: National Security is Embedded in the Arctic

Sunday, August 02, 2015


In recent years it has become obvious that energy independence is at the centerpiece of our national security. As the Middle East becomes more volatile and as the ground gained by our efforts disappears, ensuring that we have our own sources of energy is the challenge facing our political leaders. And I’ll be blunt: for as much as I’d like to think that renewable energy will power our future, wind, solar, hope, change do not fill the tank today and are unlikely to power our factories, heat our homes and operate our vehicles in the near future. Our best path forward is to responsibly tap into the resources we have access to — this means going to the Arctic to explore for energy.

The Arctic is changing rapidly and with those changes come new opportunities and challenges.  It should be noted that interest in exploring this region of the world is not isolated to the eight Arctic nations which border its seas, but also countries as far away as China and India, who are eyeing new economic interests.  According to the Council on Foreign Relations, China may be interested in potential shipping lanes through the Northern Sea Route — sometimes referred to as the Northeast Passage — to shorten trade routes. 

Russia’s interest and actions in the Arctic may be our greatest source of concern.  Heather Conley, a Senior Vice President with the Center for Strategic and International Studies, reported recently on Russia’s activities in the area including:  “unannounced military exercises in the Arctic … Moscow’s authorization of the use of military force to protect Russian interests…the planned reopening of over 50 Soviet-era bases along Russia’s Arctic coastline, and Russia’s recently Unified Arctic Command, as well as Russian Deputy Prime Minister Dmitry Rogozin’s pronouncement that ‘the Arctic is Russia’s Mecca’.” 

So how is this geopolitical chess match unfolding?  The good news is that President Obama made a bold step to recognize the Arctic potential, and allow Alaska offshore oil and gas exploration to proceed this summer and give us a leg up in the world. The bad news is that he was immediately slammed by naysayers and extremists.  Fortunately, the President has — so far— stood by his decision, and I hope he continues to do so.

In the meantime, I hope that the naysayers recognize the importance of tapping our rich offshore resources.  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 most importantly, reduce our dependence on foreign sources of energy.  

We have an important opportunity to position our country for a strong future by making sure that we aren’t squeezed out of the Arctic. Let's not allow naysayers and extremists squander this chance to end our reliance on foreign oil. It’s high time we stopped buying oil from people who want to harm us.


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