Arctic oil and gas: The role of regions
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- IFS Insights 
Andreas Østhagen looks at oil and gas development across the North American Arctic coastal waters. How do the interests and positioning of elected regional governments in the Arctic contribute to the overall pace of natural resource development? Popular discourse, alongside a multitude of research and policy documents, tends to describe recent developments in the Arctic through generalisations. Yet for the thousands of people inhabiting the Arctic Circle – indigenous and non-indigenous – different challenges and opportunities present themselves. They are caused by variations across the Arctic in terms of resource potential, climate and infrastructure. Additionally, the systemic political set-up in each country determines how local and regional levels interact and formulate their respective positions on the development taking place around them. This article examines at the role of the regions and their interests – an important subject given that natural resource development is set to take place in the regions themselves, and under their remit. Of particular interest is offshore petroleum development in North America given that this part of the Arctic has been opened up for exploratory drillings in coastal waters faster than anywhere else. Initially, higher price levels for oil and gas, in addition to increased accessibility, set the context for increased commercial interests in the region. This, however, does not provide a complete picture. This is evidenced by the fact that the development of different parts of the North American Arctic has progressed at different speeds. Although they share many traits, the processes of developing Arctic oil and gas in the Northwest Territories, Alaska and Greenland are in fact remarkably diverse. It will be argued that decisions concerning how and when to open up new Arctic offshore areas for prospecting and exploratory drilling are as much a consequence of internal political factors arising from the interaction of national and regional levels of power, as to wider international trends. Since the final decision to allow exploratory drillings depends upon a competence struggle between federal and regional governments, understanding the role of regions in the process of opening-up new offshore leases is therefore crucial to understanding Arctic oil and gas development at large.