U.S. Takes Int'l Approach to Arctic, Offshore Energy


Exploiting oil and gas resources in the Arctic and the Gulf of Mexico, while also avoiding disastrous spills, will require an eye that looks far beyond America’s borders. “This is an international challenge,” Christopher Smith, the Energy Department’s principal deputy assistant secretary for fossil energy, said Monday at a conference organized by the Bipartisan Policy Center in Washington, D.C. “When we think about the opportunities and the challenges and the risks in the frontier areas, be they in the Gulf of Mexico or the Arctic, we have to realize that we are in an international game.” In short, "We have to balance the challenges of caution with our desire to make sure that the United States is taking a true leadership role in this environment," Smith said. Smith’s comments came amid a number of recent developments in the energy sector: notably, an ongoing boom in natural gas production in the Midwest and threats from Russia to cut off natural gas supplies to Ukraine and, by extension, parts of western Europe. Meanwhile, almost exactly four years after the BP Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded in the Gulf of Mexico – a disaster that killed 11 people and ultimately dumped millions of gallons of oil into the Gulf – a range of experts, reporters and advocacy groups have been pointing out the spill's effects and asking whether the federal government has done enough to prevent a similar disaster from occurring again. Asked about safeguards developed since the Deepwater spill in April 2010, Smith insisted that while “you’re never finished, you’re never done.” He said even though the technological and regulatory “goal posts continue to move,” the Energy Department has nonetheless “seen real progress.” He added that protecting the waterway also requires the United States to work closely with Mexico. “It’s become increasingly obvious that it’s important for us to be working with entities in Mexico to think about the research, development, the regulatory environment,” he said. “We have to get things right on our side of the border, but we also need to work with our colleagues on the other side of the border as well.” Similar cooperation, he said, will be needed in the Arctic, both to head off potential disasters and to mitigate carbon emissions and climate change. "There are a lot of countries that share that one space," he said. "As issues on climate change the way that we think about accessibility in the Arctic, it also increases the need for us to make sure we’re working with all the entities that share that body of water."



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