The Northwestern Passage: A Great Economic Opportunity, But Not Without Environmental Sacrifice
Freight shipping through Canada’s North Western Passage in the Arctic will increase drastically in the coming decades
Thawing ocean or melting ice simultaneously opened up the Northwest Passage and the Northeast Passage (and within it, the Northern Sea Route), making it possible to sail around the Arctic ice cap. Awaited by shipping companies, this ‘historic event’ will cut thousands of miles off their routes.
Aside from Russia and China, the U.S. and Canada obviously have important roles in the establishment of this soon-to-be commercialized freight shipping route. Furthermore, most nations will be touched by developments in the Arctic because the region’s shipping, fishing, energy and mineral production, scientific research, and other activities affect national economic welfare and security. For instance, shorter trade routes through the Arctic could be a boon to export-driven nations like China. A voyage from Shanghai to Hamburg via the NSR (shown below in blue) shaves roughly 30 percent of the distance off a similar trip via the Suez Canal (shown in red), and it also avoids pirate-infested waters.
However, shorter shipping routes are just a small reason for interest in this area. The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS), estimated that nearly one-quarter of the earth’s undiscovered, recoverable petroleum resources lie in the region: 13 percent of the oil; 30 percent of the natural gas; and 20 percent of the liquefied natural gas. More than 80 percent of these are thought to be offshore.
“The extensive Arctic continental shelves may constitute the geographically largest unexplored prospective area for petroleum remaining on Earth,” – U.S. Geological Survey
Regardless of whether Canada is for or against capitalizing on economic opportunities in the Arctic, large-scale commercial use of the Northwestern passage will commence, and money will be made – whether Canada profits from this is up to our government regulations, as well as the actions of capital ventures. In my opinion, I think we should set up shop in the Arctic and watch the money flow in – for those arguing for the environmental consequences of this, I say, it’s going to happen anyway, so we might as well capitalize while the opportunity is here, and it will be here very soon.
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