As Arctic ice melts away, opening the way for greater oil development and mining, the White House outlined a plan on Thursday to promote safety and security in the region by building ports, improving forecasts of sea ice, and developing shipping rules.
With warmer temperatures leaving Arctic sea passages open for longer periods of the year, billions of barrels of oil could be tapped beyond what is already being produced in the region. A loss of seasonal ice could also allow greater exploitation of precious minerals considered abundant in the Arctic.
Extreme weather conditions, however, make the region a challenge to navigate and develop.
The White House plan was released on the same day that Royal Dutch Shell canceled drilling this year off Alaska, after a series of costly mishaps in the harsh conditions, as part of efforts to cut spending.
The U.S. Defense Department will lead an interagency effort to forecast icy conditions by launching a satellite and improving analytic methods to forecast icy conditions.
The Department of Commerce, meanwhile, will lead coordination on surveying and charting of U.S. Arctic waters to ease shipping and improve adaptation to climate change in coastal communities.
"Our highest priority is to protect the American people, our sovereign territory and rights and the natural resources and other interests of the United States," said the plan, which is part of President Barack Obama’s National Strategy for the Arctic Region he announced last May. The plan can be seen at :
In addition, the State Department will attempt to reach an agreement with Canada on the Beaufort Sea maritime boundary, and the Department of Homeland Security will lead work on developing an international code for ships operating in polar waters.