As oil and natural gas supplies from traditional sources decline and as prices rise, so the exploration and development of oil and gas fields turns to smaller fields in remote and difficult to access places. The reason why BP drilled for oil at Deepwater Horizon was not because BP though it would be fun to see if they could extract oil from under the Gulf of México, but because the supply of oil was limited, the demand high and it made commercial sense for it to extract the oil.
Similar considerations apply to a proposal by Cairn Energy and Shell to drill for oil in the Arctic’s Beaufort Sea and Chukchi Sea. This is drilling exploratory wells but when the exploration proves viable and oil prices rise further these areas of the arctic will be used for commercial drilling in a very difficult marine environment, putting at risk a marine wildlife about which we know less than that of the Gulf of México and affecting the way of life of the Inupiat who live in these regions.
As more Arctic ice melts away each year and as the region warms more land will become exposed and more seas will become free of ice. The economy of the region will change and there will be tensions between those nations that claim rights over the Arctic – Russia, the United States, Canada, Norway and Denmark.
The Inupiat are not recognised as a nation and therefore they have no rights. When an Inupiat hunter hunts he shares the proceeds of the hunt throughout the community. When the multinational companies of the developed nations hunt for oil they do not share the proceeds of what they take. The rights of the Inupiat will no doubt be ignored and perverted as the rich and wealthy nations seek to become richer or to maintain their wealth.