Wed, Aug 28, 2019 - Page 9 News List

Climate change turns Arctic into strategic, economic hotspot

Climate change turns Arctic into strategic, economic hotspot

By David Rising and Seth Borenstein  /  AP, TASIILAQ, Greenland

That includes today’s Thule Air Force Base, 1,200km south of the North Pole.

After the war, the US proposed buying Greenland for US$100 million after flirting with the idea of swapping land in Alaska for parts of the Arctic island. The US also thought about buying Greenland 80 years earlier.

Trump “may not be as crazy as he sounds, despite his ham-fisted offer, which clearly upset the Danes, and rightly so,” Hampson said.

Greenland is part of the Danish realm along with the Faeroe Islands, another semi-autonomous territory, and has its own government and parliament.

Greenland’s 56,000 residents got extensive home rule in 1979, but Denmark still handles foreign and defense policies, with an annual subsidy of US$670 million.

Its indigenous people are not wealthy, and vehicles, restaurants, stores and basic services are few.

Trump on Sunday said that he is interested in Greenland “strategically,” but its purchase is “not No. 1 on the burner.”

Although Danish Prime Minister Mette Frederiksen called Trump’s idea to purchase Greenland an “absurd discussion,” prompting him to call her “nasty” and cancel an upcoming visit to Copenhagen, she also acknowledged its importance to both nations.

“The developments in the Arctic region calls for further cooperation between the US and Greenland, the Faeroe Islands and Denmark,” Frederiksen said. “Therefore I would like to underline our invitation for a stronger cooperation on Arctic affairs still stands.”

Greenland is thought to have the largest deposits outside China of rare earth minerals used to make batteries and cellphones.

Such minerals were deemed critical to economic and national security by the US Department of the Interior last year, and as demand rises “deposits outside of China will be sought to serve as a counterbalance to any market control that could be exerted by a single large producer,” said Kenneth Medlock, senior director at the Center for Energy Studies at Rice University.

Off Greenland’s shores, the US Geological Survey estimates there could be 17.5 billion undiscovered barrels of oil and 148 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, though the remote location and harsh weather have limited exploration. Around the Arctic Circle, there is potential for 90 billion barrels of oil.

Only 14 offshore wells were drilled in the past 40 years, according to S&P Global Analytics.

So far, no oil in exploitable quantities has been found.

“It’s very speculative, but in theory they could have a lot of oil,” Strategic Energy & Economic Research president Michael Lynch said.

“It’s perceived as being the new Alaska, where the old Alaska was thought to be worthless and turned out to have huge reserves. And it’s one of the few places on Earth that’s lightly populated, and it’s close to the US,” Lynch added.

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Michael Byers, an Arctic expert at the University of British Columbia, said there are better approaches for Washington than the politically awkward suggestion of purchasing Greenland.

“There’s no security concern that would be dealt with better if Greenland became a part of the United States. It’s part of the NATO alliance,” he said.

“As for resources, Greenland is open to foreign investment. Arctic resources are expensive and that is why there is not more activity taking place. That’s the barrier. It’s not about Greenland restricting access,” he added.

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