This little tidbit didn't make the mainstream news, but it has created a lot of buzz. Speaking at the World Petroleum Congress in Madrid recently, U.S. Geological Survey scientist Donald Gautier told the assembled delegates that the Arctic could hold as much as 100 billion barrels of oil. That's billion with a b. Adding a little fuel to a growing fire about just what is available at the top of the world: Gazprom says its fields in the Barents Sea may contain up to 113 trillion cubic feet of gas. And a rather conservative estimate of the East Greenland Rift is that as much as 9 billion barrels of oil and 86 trillion cubic feet of gas may be present. In his address, Gautier says, "The Arctic is almost completely unexplored." He added that throughout the world, there is a better than even chance that there is excess of 500 billion barrels of recoverable oil in fields yet to be discovered. Right now, there is a dispute among the Arctic nations--Russia, Norway, Canada, Denmark and the U.S.--over where one nation's territory ends and the next one's begins. Russia has planted a small flag at the bottom of the Arctic Ocean and laid claims to millions of square miles, while Canada is beefing up its military presence in its own Arctic frontier region. Also, Canada recently awarded exploration leases to BP Plc, ConocoPhillips and MGM Energy Corp. for offshore blocks in its Arctic region. Take Gautier's comments, the fact that much of the polar region will be free of ice this summer and you have all the makings of a good, old-fashioned donnybrook. Gautier said it won't be technology holding back what could be the next race for oil and gas. It will be politics. "The real issue in the Arctic is access to those continental shelves," he told the delegates. Stay tuned: Watch developments at the North Pole shift into high gear very quickly and out of sight of the mainstream media. Watch Russia move more ships into the Arctic region as it carries out giant scientific research missions. The story is a long way from being finished. –John A. Sullivan, News Editor, Oil and Gas Investor,,