Arctic Energy Summit Speech

    Good morning. It is a great honor to be here helping kick off
this summit on the energy potential of the Arctic and how we
can better go about producing that energy.
• First, let me join in welcoming you to Alaska and to the
state’s largest city, Anchorage. It is truly appropriate that this
energy summit, that is set to explore both the potential for
Arctic energy and the means of producing it safely, using the
best technology, with the most environmental care, is being
held here in Anchorage.
• Anchorage is the northern air crossroads of the world,
equidistant between Europe, Asia and the continental United
States. In the last Century Anchorage grew to be the jumping
off point for travel and commerce into America’s Arctic – the
arrival point for so many pipeline and oil field workers
during development of Alaska’s Prudhoe Bay oil field – the
first and still largest currently operating most-northern oil
field. It is fitting that it serves as the jumping off point for
this summit to examine future energy developments in the
• As this conference likely will highlight, the production of
Alaska’s Arctic Slope over the past thirty years may prove to
be only the starting point – the preamble -- for energy
production from the Arctic in the years ahead. In this second
International Polar Year, it is worthwhile to think back on
how far the Arctic has come in global perception in the fifty
years since the first IPY, and more importantly, what may
happen in the Arctic during the next fifty years.
• This is not meant to be a global warming pun, but discussions
about the Arctic’s future are certainly a hot topic right now.
Just three weeks ago Time Magazine devoted a cover story to
the potential for Arctic energy development and the issue of
which nations may hold the rights to the energy riches lying
under the seafloor of the Arctic ice pack. Many other stories
recently also have focused on oil and natural gas potential in
the Arctic.
• Many of those stories are based on a misreading of a 2000
assessment by the U.S. Geological Survey, which has been
popularly characterized as estimating that the Arctic may
hold 25% of the world’s undiscovered oil and gas. The report
actually said that the seven basins then studied that crossed
the Arctic Circle may hold a quarter of the world’s remaining
hydrocarbons, but carefully pointed out that not all of that
energy likely lies solely under the Arctic.
• But the study actually assessed relatively few Arctic basins,
prompting the U.S.G.S. earlier this year to begin a systematic
new review of the region – an effort now expected not to be
finished until late next year. So far the survey has released
revised hydrocarbon estimates for northern Alaska and just
recently for the East Greenland Rift Basins.
• While I don’t want to overwhelm you with numbers, the
Arctic Alaska petroleum province, both onshore and off, is
now forecast to have a 50 percent chance of containing 50.7
billion barrels of recoverable oil and 227.3 trillion cubic feet
of natural gas -- more than twice the oil of the rest of the
nation and about as much gas as likely to be found elsewhere
in America. The Greenland report recently pegged East
Greenland’s likely total hydrocarbon reserves at the
equivalent of 31.4 billion barrels of oil.
• Throw in the known reserves of the new Snohvit (snow vit)
gas field off Norway and the Shtokman gas field in Russia,
and throw in the potential reserves in the dozens of other
basins of the High Arctic -- never before fully assessed
because of the problems of exploration and production in
pack ice conditions -- and the North may well be the globe’s
best remaining source for hydrocarbons outside of the Middle
East. The popular press’ estimate that the Arctic holds a
quarter of the globe’s remaining hydrocarbons may well be
proven not only to be correct, but also to be conservative.
• And as we all know the Arctic contains other types of energy
as well. While Alaska contains 6.1 billion short tons of
demonstrated coal, it likely contains 6 trillion short tons of
actual reserves, most located far above the Arctic Circle in
Northwestern Alaska. That means the Arctic in Alaska alone
may nearly match the known coal reserves of the rest of the
• The north also sports plentiful supplies of geothermal energy.
I’m sure President Grimsson of Iceland will talk about that
nation’s progress in harnessing the heat of the earth’s core to
generate electricity. I will only say that here in Alaska about
half of the state is likely to sport geothermal energy --
potential that can be utilized using either conventional or the
new enhanced geothermal systems. Enhanced geothermal
means effectively pumping water underground to be heated
by hot dry rocks – with the resulting hot water generating
• One of Alaska’s best geothermal prospects can be seen by
looking southwest across Cook Inlet from many of your hotel
windows, as it lies under the flanks of the Mt. Spurr volcano
about 20 miles away.
• Alaska also is proving to be testing ground where great
strides are taking place in developing lower-temperature
geothermal technology. At Chena Hot Springs, outside of
Fairbanks, geothermal technology was perfected that can
produce electricity from water that is just 160 degrees
Fahrenheit, significantly below boiling. That breakthrough,
using a binary organic rankine cycle power plant built by
United Technologies Co., was named one of the 100 most
technologically significant products created last year by R&D
Magazine. It opens the possibility for economic geothermal
power development to a far wider area worldwide.
• This morning I am pleased to announce that the next step in
advancing lower temperature geothermal technology is about
to be undertaken in Alaska. The U.S. Department of Energy
this morning is awarding a follow up grant to Chena Power, a
subsidiary of Chena Hot Springs, and its founder Bernie Karl,
to modify the technology to produce electricity from the
waste water separated during production from oil and gas
wells. The $1.45 million project, just over half funded by DO-
E, will use water separated from wells at the Prudhoe Bay
oil field – water that comes out of the ground at about 159
degrees Fahrenheit – to produce electricity.
• This is important for the nation since there are literally
thousands of wells in dozens of U.S. States that will be able
to turn waste water from oil and gas wells into clean
renewable electricity to add to the nation’s power grid should
this demonstration prove economically successful.
• (Optional) I understand that _____ from DOE is in the audience and I know that Bernie Karl of
Chena Hot Springs is also here. If either would like to
comment on the importance of the grant please come up and
say a few words…
• And to continue with my remarks, besides geothermal
energy, the North also is home to some of the highest tides
and strongest currents on earth. Tapping the oceans with
tidal, current and wave electrical generators also represents a
significant source of clean energy for the future – energy that
the oceans, bays, rivers and straits of the Far North offer in
• In the past many of these resources were off limits due to
climate, the state of technology, or the high cost of dealing
with the logistics of travel and work in the extreme cold and
rugged terrain of the Arctic. But as this conference, I suspect,
will fully document, there have been amazing breakthroughs
in both science and technology that allow energy and
resource production to proceed in the Arctic without
environmental damage and within the scope of current and
certainly likely future economics.
• In Alaska we have pioneered oil well technology that has
reduced the size of surface drilling disturbance by 88 percent
in just the past 30 years. We can now tap oil and gas reserves
more than 8 miles away from a single well pad, preserving
the surface habitat for animals and humans, from caribou and
polar bears to the Alaskan Eskimo. We, like all of you from
Arctic nations, now use ice roads that melt away in spring
and summer to access energy sites, from the well pads of
Alaska to the diamond mines of Canada, and increasingly the
mineral deposits of Russia.
• This conference, where a host of technical papers from
researchers, academic and industry representatives will be
presented on how energy development can be done better,
and at less economic and environmental cost, opens amid the
growing debate over the environmental effects of carbon
emissions on the global atmosphere. And fossil fuel use of
coal and oil, and to a lesser degree of natural gas, is the
leading source of that carbon.
• It is paradoxical that the warming that we have experienced
in the Far North over the past thirty years, may well be the
seminal event that allows the pace of Arctic development to
accelerate. That the warming may unlock the polar ice caps
and permit exploration and additional production of even
more hydrocarbons may seem like a cruel result.
• But I would like to suggest that it is both proper and
beneficial that the nations of the Far North work to discover
and unlock both the fossil and the alternative energy wealth
of the North, while we also turn our attentions to capturing
and storing the carbon emissions that use of any of those
hydrocarbons will entail. That is because global poverty,
being accelerated by the high-cost and growing scarcity of
energy, is an equal threat to the health, peace and well-being
of humankind.
• The technologies of the 21st Century that promise to do so
much to improve the quality of life for all of us, from modern
medical care to improvements in information gathering and
dissemination – from cell phones to computers – all require
increasingly larger amounts of energy. Unless more energy –
energy from all sources – is produced, its scarcity and higher
cost will impoverish billions of residents on this planet,
fostering war and civil unrest.
• We need to work every day to expand energy production,
while we also find new technologies to greatly reduce carbon
emissions to slow and ultimately stop any climate change that
may be occurring as a result. We need to increase, not curtail,
fossil fuel production, so it can provide a bridge to the
alternative technologies of the future.
• There are many issues on the agenda of Arctic leaders right
now. In America we debate whether to ratify the Law of the
Sea Treaty so that we can have more say in development of
the Arctic. I, by the way, am a strong supporter of
ratification and will work to help win approval of the treaty
in the U.S. Senate.
• The biggest issue, however, for all nations may be simply
how we handle the pace of change facing the citizens of the
Arctic. Alvin Toffler in his 1970 book Future Shock, warned
against the “shattering stress and disorientation that we
induce in individuals by subjecting them to too much change
in too short a time.” As we listen to the presentations on
technology change, let’s not forget how they will impact the
citizens and resources of the North. What will be the impact,
not just on the marine environment if an oil spill occurs from
a vessel attempting to run the fabled Northwest Passage?
What will be the impact on the culture and social fabric of
life for the Inupiat who have called the Far North home for
millennia should ships and commerce become a frequent
visitor to their coasts, especially if those ships disturb the
whales that is the basis for Native lifestyles.
• I, for one, believe we must continue our efforts to harness
science and technology to improve life in the Far North and
to lessen the impact of our human presence on the fragile and
beautiful land and marine environment. But we must never
forget the human impacts that new technology will cause.
I’m sure the participants at this conference will be mindful of
both the benefits and the costs of the new technology that
will be highlighted during the next three days.
• Again, let me welcome you to the state, wish you well at this
summit and leave you a slight paraphrase of the words of
American country music artist, Johnny Horton, who in 1950
wrote lyrics that almost seem prophetic today.
“Way up North,
“where the rivers are winding,
“ big nuggets they are finding, …
“ they’re goin’ North, North to Alaska,
“ the rush is on.”
The rush is truly on, not necessarily for gold nuggets, but for
nuggets of energy to fuel an increasingly energy-starved
world. Good luck in your discussions of ways in the future to
“mine” the energy of the Far North safely and for the benefit
of all.