Home Institution

Tufts University

Publication Date

Spring 2020

Program Name

Iceland: Climate Change and The Arctic


The discovery of oil on Alaska’s North Slope in the 1920s began a century of fossil fuel exploration, development, and production in the Arctic region. Alaska became integral to the nation’s growing energy dominance. However, since 1988, oil production on the North Slope has been in steady decline. In 2015, Shell, followed by several other oil majors, terminated their Arctic Alaska operations. This past year, BP made waves by ending six decades of operations in Alaska. Most recently, five of the six major U.S. banks announced they would no longer finance Arctic oil and gas projects. This paper analyzes these decisions by evaluating the environmental, economic, and reputational risk of engaging in Arctic oil exploitation. A thorough review of existing literature demonstrates waning interest in the region’s fossil resources. Operating in and likely harming the pristine and fragile Arctic Alaskan ecosystem requires companies to incur added costs and face growing backlash that diminished potential returns can no longer justify. Consequently, I conclude that despite recent efforts by President Donald Trump to revive the region, Arctic Alaska will lose relevance for national oil production in the coming decades and possibly as early as the mid-2020s.


Climate | Energy Policy | Environmental Health and Protection | Environmental Studies | Natural Resources Management and Policy | Oil, Gas, and Energy | Place and Environment


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