Beneath Antarctica, a wonderland of oil awaits exploitation

posted at 5:21 pm on May 4, 2015 by Noah Rothman

A report in The New York Times published on Monday revealed that the Chinese are aggressively engaged in securing the country’s energy future overseas. The People’s Republic is courting Latin American governments, securing its ties to African strongmen, is building up a military presence in the South China Sea, and has sent hundreds of advisors to the Caribbean; all in pursuit of energy security.

One of the PRC’s latest targets is the frozen continent of Antarctica, where an international accord reached in 1959 prohibits mining and military activity. “But [Chinese President Xi Jinping’s visit to a south Australian port last autumn] was another sign that China is positioning itself to take advantage of the continent’s resource potential when the treaty expires in 2048,” The Times reported, “or in the event that it is ripped up before, Chinese and Australian experts say.”

And the stakes are high for China and every other nation interested in exploiting the resources beneath Antarctica. “If the accord does expire, Antarctica could become the next major source of hydrocarbons on earth. The region is believed to have an approximate 200 billion barrels of oil, in addition to being the largest single repository of fresh water on the planet,” Business insider reported.

That’s right. 200. Billion. Barrels of oil. And over 90 percent of the world’s freshwater ice mass.

The very existence of the southern continent undermines virtually every apocalyptic climate change argument ever made.

“The document, released Thursday, is a kind of road map of hazards meant to help U.S. intelligence agencies decide which of the world’s biggest problems to study most intensively over the next four years,” Foreign Policy reported last year. “Water shortages, as well as fierce competition for food and energy, will continue to bedevil leaders in the United States and abroad, the document concludes.”

But necessity is the mother of invention, and the imperative of having access to fresh water is the mother of all necessity.

As for the thoroughly debunked concept of “peak oil,” that theory fell out of favor when hydraulic fracturing and horizontal drilling technology revolutionized the energy exploitation industry. As a result of the discovery of a vast reserve of crude under Antarctica, that hypothesis should now be dead and buried. It is, however, instructive to revisit the doomsday predictions associated with that theory, too.

In 2005, The New York Times noted that American regularity agencies were warning that the irreversible depletion of the world’s oil reserves was imminent:

One of the starkest warnings came in a February report commissioned by the United States Department of Energy’s National Energy Technology Laboratory. ”Because oil prices have been relatively high for the past decade, oil companies have conducted extensive exploration over that period, but their results have been disappointing,” stated the report, assembled by Science Applications International, a research company that works on security and energy issues. ”If recent trends hold, there is little reason to expect that exploration success will dramatically improve in the future. . . . The image is one of a world moving from a long period in which reserves additions were much greater than consumption to an era in which annual additions are falling increasingly short of annual consumption. This is but one of a number of trends that suggest the world is fast approaching the inevitable peaking of conventional world oil production.”

In fact, the only argument that the self-described scientific community can muster in order to preserve the viability of these and other nightmare scenarios is by erecting still more nightmare scenarios about what would happen if these resources were exploited. Many will resent being held accountable for their predictions that never materialized, but those who claim they are purely empirical shouldn’t be spared from being exposed to the evidence against them. While the so-called scientific community will attempt to shame those who read their past work into keeping quiet about it, it would be irresponsible to fail to remind the most apocalyptic voices around us of their dubious track records.


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Comments

Bow to the Chinese, our (now) and future overlords.

bernzright777 on May 4, 2015 at 5:33 PM

I guess Antartica can now be called the Far Southern Resource Area.

While the oil probably will be tapped in due course, the water is another story. I’m old enough to remember the grand scheme of towing icebergs from the Northern Atlantic to the Arabian peninsula (and the corollary Bering Sea-to-Japan ice route).

Steve Eggleston on May 4, 2015 at 5:34 PM

Atlantis runs off of it.

UnstChem on May 4, 2015 at 5:34 PM

Why would you want water from Antarctica? Its cheaper to desalinate…

deadite on May 4, 2015 at 5:39 PM

Why would you want water from Antarctica? Its cheaper to desalinate…

deadite on May 4, 2015 at 5:39 PM

There isn’t enough solar panels to run the desalination plants though.

Steve Eggleston on May 4, 2015 at 5:47 PM

And the stakes are high for China and every other nation interested in exploiting the resources beneath Antarctica. “If the accord does expire, Antarctica could become the next major source of hydrocarbons on earth. The region is believed to have an approximate 200 billion barrels of oil, in addition to being the largest single repository of fresh water on the planet,” Business insider reported.

That’s right. 200. Billion. Barrels of oil. And over 90 percent of the world’s freshwater ice mass.

How did they estimate this figure? Has anyone drilled a well in Antarctica and struck oil?

In reality, the 200 billion barrels is relatively small compared to the estimated reserves of shale oil in the Rocky Mountains (western CO, eastern UT, and southern WY) estimated at 500 to 1,100 billion barrels in a 2005 study by Rand Corporation. This oil is currently off-limits due to environmental regulations, but it would be much cheaper to recover than any oil which might be under Antarctica, which would require drilling through thousands of feet of ice before drilling through bedrock.

If China is looking for new sources of oil, it would be much more feasible for them to drill offshore near their own coastline than in Antarctica.

Antarctica is probably the worst place in the world to drill for oil, since most of the land mass is covered by ice thousands of feet thick, and temperatures are well below freezing all year round. Even in the Arctic Ocean, maximum ice thicknesses are less than 30 feet, and temperatures do go slightly above freezing for about four to five months a year.

Steve Z on May 4, 2015 at 5:52 PM

And if the Chinese decide to just move into Antarctica and plant their flag?

Seriously- who will stop them?

Not Obama.
Not Hillary, or Bernie, or Liz.

Certainly not Jeb.

The 6:00 news images now run our foreign policy- since Dubbya’s public flaying by the MSM thought controllers, what politician will promote another blood-for-oil war while the media runs chyrons (I first typed charons- appropriate, heh?) at the bottom of the screen with the body count each day.

I fear none. We can no longer win WW3 because the video is just too awful.

Dolce Far Niente on May 4, 2015 at 5:57 PM

200. Billion. Barrels of oil.

But, but, but . . . I thought we passed peak oil. Why do we keep finding more and more oil?

rbj on May 4, 2015 at 5:57 PM

But, Penguins!

davidk on May 4, 2015 at 5:59 PM

Have no fear, SecState John Kerry is going to handle this…since he’s adding ‘climate change’ to the list of TOP Diplomatic Issues – joining terrorism, democracy, and the global economy as the nation’s top diplomatic priorities. (Did it bump enabling Iran from the list?)

Athos on May 4, 2015 at 5:59 PM

The Chinese have something against energy prices that necessarily skyrocket?

antipc on May 4, 2015 at 6:00 PM

But Mr. Xi’s visit was another sign that China is positioning itself to take advantage of the [Antarctic] continent’s resource potential when the treaty expires in 2048 — or in the event that it is ripped up before, Chinese and Australian experts say.

… and President Insein Obama is just the man to rip it up.

J_Crater on May 4, 2015 at 6:03 PM

It’s also the most hostile unforgiving environment in the world. You can extract resources there but it won’t be cheap.

DFCtomm on May 4, 2015 at 6:04 PM

Eight Years Ago Today: UN Scientists Say We Have Only Eight Years Left To Stop Global Warming.

Star Bird on May 4, 2015 at 6:20 PM

summer ice cap is thicker and covers 1.7million square kilometres MORE than 2 years ago…despite Al Gore’s prediction it would be ICE-FREE by now

Star Bird on May 4, 2015 at 6:21 PM

I’m willing to bet Obama has already signed an EO giving it all away to China and whoever… US involvement likely to be just paying to mine/pump the resources to hand over to other countries… As absurd as that sounds it’s not any worse than several agreements he has already signed!

Caseoftheblues on May 4, 2015 at 6:29 PM

Matt Savinar once the leading expert on the Peak Oil theory in the United States now tells fortunes and runs an astrology website.

The Stupid burns brightly in him.

Johnnyreb on May 4, 2015 at 6:53 PM

For those keeping score at home, we (the world, Homo sapiens edition) produce 30 billions barrels a year. So this amounts to 7 years of global production supply (we generally use what we produce through the magic of Mr. Market).

FWIW.

PrincetonAl on May 4, 2015 at 7:03 PM

Aw right, let’s start exploring for the best drilling spots.

jake49 on May 4, 2015 at 7:18 PM

Let me get this straight. Oil under Antarctica means at one time it was warm enough to support massive amounts of fertile life. But we’re warmer now in 2015 than we’ve ever been before. What am I missing?

Nas on May 5, 2015 at 2:08 AM

The New York Times noted that American regularity agencies were warning that the irreversible depletion of the world’s oil reserves was imminent:

Noah, is this the National Metamucil Association (pronounced “enema”) you are referring to?

virgo on May 5, 2015 at 2:46 AM

Let me get this straight. Oil under Antarctica means at one time it was warm enough to support massive amounts of fertile life. But we’re warmer now in 2015 than we’ve ever been before. What am I missing?

Plate tectonics??? :)

TxHotGas on May 5, 2015 at 7:52 AM

Antarctica is probably the worst place in the world to drill for oil, since most of the land mass is covered by ice thousands of feet thick, and temperatures are well below freezing all year round. Even in the Arctic Ocean, maximum ice thicknesses are less than 30 feet, and temperatures do go slightly above freezing for about four to five months a year.

Steve Z on May 4, 2015 at 5:52 PM

It’s worse than that. The icecap is actually a glacier, slowly moving downhill toward the sea. The rocks underneath are stationary. Sooo… after a little while, the hole through the ice will not line up with the hole through the rocks. The drill pipe will be sheared off, and that’s the end of that oil well. Unless you can figure out how to move a hole sideways through half-a-mile of ice.

ReggieA on May 5, 2015 at 3:13 PM