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This week in the Arctic: Energy investment and indigenous education

  • Author: Alaska News
  • Updated: August 26, 2016
  • Published January 22, 2016

Here are some of the stories from around the Arctic that we've been following this week:

Despite price drops, Arctic energy attracts investment

Oil prices slipped to new lows this week, making expensive petroleum development in the Arctic seem an ever more remote prospect. One company in the sector, Primorsk International Shipping Ltd., which runs a fleet of Arctic oil tankers, filed for bankruptcy protection. The move comes after the company undertook what the Wall Street Journal termed "an ill-timed expansion that loaded the company up with too much debt at the same time global markets crashed, significantly reducing world trade."

But even as Primorsk went bankrupt, Korea's Daewoo Shipbuilding and Marine Engineering launched the world's first Arctic-class LNG tanker. The ship is designed to break through ice up to 2 meters thick and transport 170,000 cubic meters of liquefied natural gas, reports High News North. It will serve Russia's Yamal LNG project. That project, a large natural gas field in Russia's Arctic, is on schedule to begin producing next year, reports Bloomberg Business, despite doubts that it will be economical at current prices. The project has seen some $15 billion in investment so far, the head of Novatek, which owns a controlling stake in the project, told Bloomberg.

Meanwhile, Norway's Arctic oil prospects will continue to see substantial investment too, with Statoil green-lighting a $7 billion boost in investment to develop prospects in Norwegian waters in the Barents Sea.

Inupiat and Inuit education faces obstacles

Facing a shortage of fluent Inupiaq speakers, schools on Alaska's North Slope are turning to to younger teachers who are also learning the language, even as they teach it to students. That hasn't always sat well with community members. "With our first learner-teacher, the feedback we got from the community instantly was, 'What are you doing hiring a non-speaker in the classroom to teach the language?' " said Pausauraq Jana Harcharekm, who's director of Inupiaq education for the district.

Meanwhile, the University of Copenhagen has suspended admissions to its "Eskimology" program, the only Inuit language and culture studies program in Denmark, for 2016, reports The Arctic Journal. The move is a cost-cutting measure and intended to be temporary. Still, the program has been considered for elimination in the past, and an administrator warned the program is facing admissions freezes (Eskimology is one of 13 such programs at the university). The move comes as Denmark is emphasizing the Arctic in its foreign policy, and has sparked concern both among Greenland representatives in the Danish parliament and in the business community. "We need more research, not less," said the manager of the Danish group Arctic Business Network. "If you want to do business in Greenland, it helps if you understand Greenlanders."

Further reading:

- The Harper government made big promises about investing in military infrastructure in Canada's Arctic to protect national sovereignty there -- promises that have mostly gone unfulfilled, writes a former Canadian Armed Forces member in NOW Toronto.

- Even if global warming continues apace, the Northern Sea Route -- which connects Europe and East Asia by way of Russia's Arctic coast -- wouldn't be a better investment for shippers until 2035 according to analysis conducted by the Copenhagen Business School's Maritime Division and reported by High North News.

- Inuuteq Holm Olsen, a diplomat who is Greenland's "Man in Washington" (and who studied at the University of Alaska Fairbanks), will now represent the autonomous Danish territory in Ottawa too, reports NunatsiaqOnline.

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