Want the United States to gain legal access to the vast amount of oil and natural gas in the underwater Extended Continental Shelf? Get LOST.
Specifically, the U.S. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which often goes by the acronym LOST. The Obama administration wants the Senate to act on the treaty, which has been around since 1982. Sen. John Kerry (D-Mass.) recently held a hearing to make the case for LOST.
According to its advocates, we need LOST for a variety of reasons. One of them concerns the oil and gas resources located in the outer limits of our continental shelf. The treaty’s proponents say we can obtain legal title to it only by signing on to the treaty.
“If the United States does not ratify this treaty, our ability to claim the vast extended Continental Shelf off Alaska will be seriously impeded,” Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.) has said. Without LOST, we’re told, we won’t be able to develop the hydrocarbon resources beneath the Extended Continental Shelf in areas such as the Gulf of Mexico and the Arctic Ocean.
Sounds pretty dire -- and, at a time of fluctuating prices for gasoline and other forms of energy, alarming. Fortunately, it isn’t true.
Under international law and long-standing U.S. policy, we already have access to these areas. Presidents dating back to Harry Truman have issued proclamations -- and Congress has passed laws -- establishing America’s maritime laws and boundaries. And no one has challenged them.
Perhaps LOST’s proponents would like this to change. They tend to be fans of superfluous international agreements, and frequently back policies that would tie the hands of the U.S. and prevent us from acting in our own interests. But the fact remains that their claim about LOST being necessary to obtain legal title to the oil and gas under the Extended Continental Shelf is pure fiction.
A big part of the reason this matters is that a lot of money is at stake. It’s hard to say exactly how much hydrocarbon deposits there are beneath the Extended Continental Shelf, but according to the ECS Task Force, “Given the size of the U.S. continental shelf, the resources we find there may be worth many billions if not trillions of dollars.”
Forgoing such a treasure isn’t the only way that the United States could lose out financially under LOST. Environmental activists are high on the treaty, too. That’s because they anticipate suing the U.S. if it joins LOST -- to force America to adopt the radical climate-change agenda they’ve been unsuccessful at imposing. So far, at least.
Climate-change alarmists have tried again and again in recent years to secure an international agreement. In Denmark, Mexico and South Africa, they’ve tried to come up with a legally binding climate-change pact. Considering what an economic wrecking ball such an agreement would represent to the U.S. and its allies, we can be glad they failed. But now they think they’ve found a solution: LOST.
Groups such as Greenpeace would love a chance to make the U.S. pay in international court. And that’s just what we’d do under the U.S. Convention on the Law of the Sea: pay. “In addition to needlessly exposing itself to baseless environmental lawsuits,” writes The Heritage Foundation’s Steve Groves, an expert on LOST, “the United States would be required to transfer billions of dollars in oil and gas royalties … to the International Seabed Authority for redistribution to the developing world.”
What does this mean? In short, it means that the United Nations will have an independent source of income, courtesy of the United States.
So who has Sen. Kerry invited to testify at his hearings? Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Secretary of Defense Leon Panetta, and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey. All of them are proponents of the treaty. So don’t expect to hear a word about any of its many drawbacks.
LOST amounts to little more than an expensive power-grab by America’s detractors worldwide. President Reagan was right to reject it 30 years ago. The U.S. Senate should do the same thing today.