Arctic Petroleum Resources in a Regional and Global Perspective

In Rolf Tamnes and Kristine Offerdal (eds), Geopolitics and Security in the Arctic: Regional Dynamics in a Global World. London, Routledge, 2014, pp. 97-120.

There is a potential for energy related conflicts in the Arctic, but it has been widely overstated, in terms of likelihood, magnitude and consequences. The resources are not located in no man’s land, but are mostly to be found on undisputed continental shelves. The risk of conflict due to disputes over the outer delimitation of the continental shelf is small, as a conflict would undermine the legitimacy of UNCLOS in the Arctic, a regime which is very important for all Arctic coastal states. Also other institutions prompting the littoral states to cooperate have been in place for decades. Arctic resource development is strongly influenced by developments taking place outside the region, and the commercial value of oil and gas in the Arctic must be compared to oil and gas reserves in other regions of the world. There are more political conflicts related to energy within major Arctic energy states than between them. In sum, the prospects for regional stability are not hampered by the potential for energy production in the Arctic. It is more relevant to question the commercial viability of these resources, and how they might contribute to regional and global energy security.