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Executive Summary for January 13th

We review the latest Arctic news, including Rex Tillerson’s confirmation hearings to become U.S. secretary of state, plans to curb the use of heavy fuel oils in the Arctic and Canada’s decision not to renew oil exploration licenses in its Arctic offshore waters.

Published on Jan. 13, 2017 Read time Approx. 2 minutes

Cooling U.S.-Russia Relationship May Stoke Arctic Temperatures

This week’s Senate confirmation hearings for Donald Trump’s pick for secretary of state didn’t spend much time dwelling on the Arctic, but his nomination could have important ramifications for the region.

After all, as Mia Bennett writes in her Cryopolitics blog, the nominee, Rex Tillerson, is the former head of ExxonMobil, a company that wants to exploit Russia’s Arctic oil reserves. It’s unlikely that Tillerson would continue Obama’s legacy of signing big climate agreements, Bennett says. Furthermore, she notes that, while Tillerson spoke of wanting to “bring down the temperature” of the relationship between the U.S. and Russia, his plans could have the opposite effect on the Arctic’s climate.

Push to Curb Heavy Fuel Oils Could Get Bogged Down Yet

Plans by the United States and Canada to curb the use of heavy fuel oils in the Arctic have been cheered by conservationists, but the commitment is extremely open-ended, as we reported this week.

As things stand, the pledge lacks any specific targets or deadlines. It also remains to be seen if the next U.S. administration, which lacks its predecessor’s enthusiasm for environmental issues, will follow through with the commitment. And while the U.S. and Canada have long called for a reduction of the use of this fuel, which turns into a sticky goop that’s extremely difficult to clean up in Arctic waters, Russia has so far resisted the idea, for fear it will make the Northern Sea Route less profitable.

Hope Fades for Oil Drillers with Canadian Arctic Leases

The Canadian government says it won’t extend the licenses of companies exploring for oil in the country’s offshore Arctic waters.

The companies hold leases, bought for a total of $1.06 billion (C$1.4bn) that expire over the next six years, Bloomberg reports. In December, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau and U.S. President Barack Obama both pledged to ban offshore oil development in most of their countries’ Arctic waters. Canada’s plan will see a review of this ban every five years, and it doesn’t forbid development of existing leases, but it now looks like the country is closing off that possibility. There’s currently no offshore oil development in the Canadian Arctic.

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