WASHINGTON — The United States should immediately begin a push to exploit its enormous trove of oil in the Arctic waters off Alaska or risk a renewed reliance on imported oil in the future, an Energy Department advisory council said in a study submitted Friday.
The nation has drastically cut imports and transformed itself into the world’s biggest producer of oil and natural gas by tapping huge reserves in shale rock formations. But the government predicts that the shale boom won’t last much beyond the next decade.
In order for the United States to keep domestic production high and imports low, oil companies should start probing the Artic now because it takes decades of preparation and drilling to bring oil to market, according to a draft of the study’s executive summary.
‘‘There will come a time when all the resources that are supplying the world’s economies today are going to go in decline,’’ said Rex Tillerson, chief executive of Exxon Mobil and chairman of the study’s committee. ‘‘This is will be what’s needed next. If we start today it’ll take 20, 30, 40 years for those to come on.’’
The study, produced by the National Petroleum Council at the request of Energy Secretary Ernest Moniz, comes at a time when many argue the world needs less oil, not more. US oil storage facilities are filling up, the price of oil has collapsed from over $100 a barrel to around $50, and prices are expected to stay low for years.
At the same time, scientists say the world needs to drastically reduce the amount of fossil fuels it is burning in order to avoid catastrophic changes to the Earth’s climate.
The council, which is made up of energy company executives, government officials, analysts, and nonprofit organizations, said the technology to operate safely in the region is available now.