The U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy breaks ice to support scientific research in the Arctic Ocean near Barrow, Alaska, in this file photo from July 2006 provided by the Coast Guard. In addition to the medium-class Healy, the U.S. just has two polar-class icebreakers — one of which will be decommissioned soon. Prentice Danner/AP hide caption

itoggle caption Prentice Danner/AP

Greenland's economy is heavily dependent on fishing. The influx of money from drilling would have a dramatic impact on the island. Philip Reeves/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Philip Reeves/NPR

Murmansk, Russia, is the largest city above the Arctic Circle. If Russia follows through with plans to explore for oil and natural gas offshore in the Arctic Ocean, the city and its port could see significant economic benefits. David Greene/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption David Greene/NPR

The Louis S. St Laurent icebreaker slices its way through the ice of the Northwest Passage. Jackie Northam/NPR hide caption

itoggle caption Jackie Northam/NPR