(Now you've sailed the seas of the Arctic, tell us what's happening there.) I sailed a long time ago and at the time global warming wasn't even on the horizon. Things have changed quite a bit, the ice is not as extended or as thick, so the ocean is now more accessible. (Does that explain why these talks are happening now?) Only partially, this was going to happen anyway. There's a timeframe which ends in 2009 for claiming sovereignty over the Arctic Shelf and this is not something which can be put off. (These countries are hoping for oil, but how much are we talking about?) The area we're talking about is deep ocean, which has been largely un-studied when it comes to potential. Even if there is oil, it's going to be deep and the recovery of it has yet to be proven. (This also might be a new trade route with melting ice.) This is an open prospect. (Would this affect the environment?) Most definitely. Invariably, heavy shipping brings about its own problems of environmental degradation. (The US has signed on but has not ratified this 1982 convention. What's holding the US back?) I think in practice the US has already shifted opposition. The general consensus is that it would be good for the US to ratify this. (In the near term, what will this mean for US dependency on foreign oil?) If all this works out and new sources of oil are found, the demand for oil will not diminish and we'll use up all the oil until it's all gone.