What the Arctic drilling freeze means for the US energy industry

A decision by the Obama administration Friday to postpone new offshore oil-and-gas exploration in U.S. Arctic waters deals a setback to energy companies hoping to stake a claim in a hydrocarbon-rich region thought to contain some 27 billion barrels of oil and 132 trillion cubic feet of natural gas. But the move will likely also spur the energy industry to push for opportunities elsewhere under a new presidential administration, including controversial areas like the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska and parts of the eastern Gulf of Mexico and Atlantic, currently off limits to oil exploration. As the clock winds down on Barack Obama’s presidency, the administration is moving to bar industry from encroaching on some of the nation’s more environmentally sensitive areas. After declining on Friday to include new leases within the Chukchi and Beaufort seas north of Alaska in the Interior Department’s next five-year plan (spanning 2017–2012), the administration also moved Monday to prohibit mining across some 30,000 acres of land north of Yellowstone National Park.

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