Caribou graze in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in Alaska. Photo: U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service / Getty Images

Fatih Birol, head of the International Energy Agency, doesn't expect to see much oil flowing from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for more than a decade.

On the record: The IEA chief told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee Tuesday that modest prices and the bountiful shale opportunities will temper industry interest despite the region's proximity to the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and potentially huge hydrocarbon resources.

“With the current context, it will be difficult to believe that there will be a substantial amount of oil production coming from that region before 2030, unless we see some surprises in the markets." Birol tells Senate panel

Why it matters: The tax overhaul bill that President Trump signed late last year authorizes oil-and-gas leasing on ANWR's coastal plain, providing a big victory for Alaskan officials and oil-and-gas advocates who have fought for decades to open the region.

  • However, Birol's comments lend weight to the view that development will likely be slow to materialize once leases are sold. The tax bill requires Interior to hold the first lease sale within the next four years.

Yes, but: Birol was more bullish on the prospect of LNG exports from Alaska. It's a prospect that's gaining new attention following a preliminary agreement between Chinese companies, the state of Alaska and the Alaska Gasline Development Corporation.

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