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A group of 68 lawmakers are trying to maintain the momentum of protest against Arctic oil drilling by calling on U.S. Department of Interior Secretary Sally Jewell to exclude two sectors of the Alaskan Arctic Ocean from future oil and gas lease sales.
The areas in question are the Chukchi and Beaufort seas, which have been approved for drilling by the Obama administration.
The Chukchi Sea is believed to hold 15 billion barrels of recoverable oil and 78 trillion cubic feet of recoverable natural gas, while the Beaufort Sea could hold 8 billion barrels of oil and nearly 28 trillion cubic feet of natural gas.
The signatories of a letter sent to Secretary Jewell—led by California Democrat Rep. Jared Huffman--argue that by banning drilling in Chukchi and Beaufort, the U.S. would be positively contributing to the climate change goals of the Paris Agreement.
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"Ending oil and gas development in the Arctic would send a powerful international signal that the United States is committed to investing its resources in a climate safe, clean-energy future," the letter from the lawmakers stated.
Overall, the lawmakers are calling for the administration to adopt a tougher stand on fossil fuels, and for them, Alaska is ground zero for this.
"Scientific consensus tells us that the vast majority of known fossil fuel reserves must be left undeveloped if we are to avoid the worst effects of climate change," the letter went on.
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On the other side of the divide there is significant disappointment that Royal Dutch Shell has pulled out of Arctic exploration as of last fall.
U.S. Special Representative to the Arctic, Adm. Robert Papp said Shell’s decision diminishes U.S. focus on the Arctic region, suggesting the U.S. could lose influence over the area’s resources.
Through its withdrawal, Shell has removed a major incentive to invest in much-needed Arctic infrastructure, Papp told a Brookings Institution conference.
By Charles Kennedy of Oilprice.com
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Charles is a writer for Oilprice.com