It is all about the benefits: the Russian state discusses Arctic energy development.

The Arctic has been providing Russia with large amounts of oil and natural gas over the last century. The environmentally sensitive region will face many natural and social impacts if the hydrocarbon industry continues to work in this way, however, the state’s leadership would not like the business to stop.

The recent study of Sidortsov has shown that the benefits of oil and gas development are clearly prioritized over risks in the Russian official policy discourse.

He analysed the official speeches and documents to reveal how government policies discuss new hydrocarbon projects and associated risks. He found that benefits are always discussed before risks, given more attention and presented as certain, while risks are seen as highly improbable. Also, the study has shown that the dominance of benefits over risks in the policy discourse strongly impacts the decision-making regarding new oil and gas developments.

Sidortsov says that ‘It would be an understatement to say that the Russian leadership likes to focus on occurring and potential benefits of oil and gas development. Every reviewed presentation or speech … began with a great deal of discussion about the realized and unrealized resource potential’.

The discussion of risks and benefits can be balanced, for instance, by creating two equally powerful agencies, advocating and safeguarding against hydrocarbon development, which literally means breaking up the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Environment (Minprirody) into two federal agencies. And administrative procedures could help balance official discussions of risks vis-à-vis benefits  in terms of the time allowed, sequence, and qualitative and quantitative presentation of risks and benefits.

Original source: Sidortsov, R. (2019). Benefits over risks: A case study of government support of energy development in the Russian North. Energy policy129, 132-138.

Online: https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/pii/S0301421519300795

Front image credit: Getty Images

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