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Polar Geopolitics?

Polar Geopolitics?

Knowledges, Resources and Legal Regimes

Edited by Richard C. Powell and Klaus Dodds

The polar regions (the Arctic and Antarctic) have enjoyed widespread public attention in recent years, as issues of conservation, sustainability, resource speculation and geopolitical manoeuvring have all garnered considerable international media interest. This critical collection of new and original papers – the first of its kind – offers a comprehensive exploration of these and other topics, consolidating the emergent field of polar geopolitics.

Chapter 16: Pipeline politics in northwest Canada

Mark Nuttall

Subjects: environment, environmental law, law - academic, environmental law, politics and public policy, international politics, international relations


Across the global North, oil, gas and mineral exploration and extraction projects are underway in greater numbers, as international interest grows in the resource potential of the Arctic. Northern lands and seas are being surveyed and described as places of opportunity, speculated to be significant economic prospects for developing extractive industries to supply global energy demands. Exploration and development activities are likely to expand into remoter places, and the potential of the Arctic emerging as a major region for hydrocarbon production and mining is becoming a critical economic, geopolitical and societal issue (Nuttall 2010a, 2012). In northern Canada, several energy megaprojects are either currently under review or are about to undergo formal assessment processes overseen by federal, provincial and territorial regulators. Northern megaprojects are considered essential for shaping Canadaís resource map and for determining the countryís economic trajectory. Approval of large-scale project applications is necessary for the extraction and development of natural resources in the countryís high latitudes and for Canadaís stated aim of becoming a petro-state and economic powerhouse (Nuttall 2010b). Central for the success of many of these projects in Canadaís northwest is the construction of oil and gas pipelines which are increasingly regarded as nation-building activities in the same way as the development of resources has long been viewed historically with the idea of a Canadian national polity and, indeed, a global economic role for Canada (Innis 1930; Zaslow 1971).

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