“It is an outrage.”
The source of Defense Secretary Leon Panetta’s anger? The fact that the United States has yet to approve a treaty known as the U.N. Convention on the Law of the Sea, which often goes by the acronym LOST.
Panetta was speaking after the election. His ire about LOST’s status suggests that the Obama administration may well make this a second-term priority.
It’s come close to being ratified by the U.S. Senate before -- it dates back to 1982, in fact. But LOST has never been able to gain enough supporters in the Senate.
That could change, however -- and quickly. Its advocates, hoping that their moment has arrived, are turning up the heat.
I don’t just mean administration officials. LOST has its defenders in the media, too. Bob Keeler of Newsday, for example, recently wrote that refusing to sign the pact is “unfathomable.” By rejecting treaties such as LOST, he says, we’re refusing “to be part of the family of nations,” and we’re “well on the way to becoming an outlaw nation.”
According to its supporters, we need LOST for a variety of reasons. The main one concerns the oil and gas resources located in the outer limits of our Extended Continental Shelf. The treaty’s proponents say we can obtain legal title to it only by signing on to the treaty.
According to Panetta, “there are countries that are making claims there, and we can’t even engage with those countries because we haven’t approved the Law of the Sea Treaty,”
Adds Sen. Richard Lugar (R-Ind.): “If the United States does not ratify this treaty, our ability to claim the vast extended Continental Shelf off Alaska will be seriously impeded.” Without LOST, we’re told, we won’t be able to develop the hydrocarbon resources beneath the 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.
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