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Executive Summary for January 12th

We review and analyze the latest news and most important developments in the Arctic, including a surge in Norway’s gas exports to Western Europe, renewed interest in using cargo airships in northern Canada, and Denmark’s decision to revisit its tougher immigration policies.

Published on Jan. 12, 2016 Read time Approx. 3 minutes

Canada: Airships Could Provide Access to Northern Communities

Cargo airships could fill a transportation gap in Canada’s north and bring goods to remote communities, reports Vice News.

Ice-choked waterways, high fuel costs and uncertain ice roads drive up the price of groceries and other merchandise transported to the north. A 2014 survey by the Nunavut Bureau of Statistics found that the average price of a 1kg (2.2lb) chicken was CDN$16 and a 2.5kg (5.5lb) bag of flour cost CDN$13, compared to country-wide averages of CDN$7.77 and $4.86, respectively, according to the survey.

Warmer winters in Canada’s northern regions are challenging those who build the winter ice road systems, CBC News reported. Thin ice, felled timber from forest fires and thawing permafrost make it more difficult for crews to build the ice roads and maintain them.

Modern airships are under development in Europe, South America, North America and Russia, Barry Prentice, a professor of supply chain management at the University of Manitoba, wrote in a report submitted to Canada’s transport ministry.

Canada’s government has studied the use of airships before. A House of Commons committee recommended in 2013 that cargo airships should be given a closer look. The committee heard that a lack of infrastructure, trained personnel and licensing regimes were among the barriers to their widespread use.

The U.S. Federal Aviation Administration recently approved a plan that would allow Lockheed Martin and Hybrid Enterprises to sell its Hybrid Airship. The blimps would be able to operate in temperatures as low as -40C (-40F) and could be operational by 2018, Canadian Manufacturing reported in November.

Norway: Gas Exports to Western Europe Hit Record High

Norway piped more than 108 billion cubic meters (3,814 billion cubic feet) of gas to Western Europe in 2015, a 7 percent rise over 2014, reports the Independent Barents Observer. Russia remains the major gas supplier to the European Union, selling 159 billion cubic meters (5,615 billion cubic feet).

In the wake of the Paris agreement, Norwegian environmentalists had called for a stop to oil and gas activity in the country. Green Party M.P. and spokesperson Rasmus Hansson said parliament should cancel the 23rd licensing round for 57 blocks and partial blocks in the Norwegian and Barents seas, the Local reported in December.

Twenty-six companies have applied for production licenses. The government will award the new production leases in the first half of 2016, according to an announcement by the Norwegian Petroleum Directorate.

Denmark: Government to Debate Immigration Policies

A controversial immigration bill will be at the center of discussion in Denmark’s parliament on Wednesday, reports the Voice of America.

The bill, proposed in December, called for a border search of migrants and would have seized cash and valuables in excess of the equivalent of $437. It would have also kept refugee parents from their children for up to three years, according to Bloomberg.

Danish prime minister Lars Loekke Rasmussen told reporters on Tuesday that the plan would “limit the inflow” of refugee arrivals, Bloomberg reported.

The U.N.’s refugee agency, UNHCR, has criticized the bill, saying it would reduce asylum space and put refugees’ lives at risk.

Recommended Reading

Top image: Ice roads provide winter access to many northern communities in Canada. Cargo airships are being proposed as an alternative mode of transportation. (Flickr/Ian Mackenzie)

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