There are many people, even some Guyanese living here, who insist that we should not be extracting the oil that lies under our Atlantic Coast. One group of Guyanese, led by a UG Lecturer, has moved to our Constitutional Court, claiming that the Governments’ (the Coalition and the present PPP) approval of the ExxonMobil-led consortium’s developing our 11 billion barrels of oil and gas reserves off our Atlantic coast violates their legal duty “to protect the rights to a healthy environment, sustainable development, and the rights of future generations”.
We could have understood if that notion were being promoted by some foreign environmentalists living in comfort in one of those developed countries, which became “developed” because of their use of fossil fuels since the Industrial Revolution from the mid-18th century. Those environmentalists would have been living in countries that had created the problem, and they would have continued to live there, but would have wanted Guyana — with one-third of its population still living in poverty, and with pressures unleashed by one of their wars in Europe threatening to push inflation towards 100% — to freeze oil revenues.
Very simply, we do not have the option of even slowing down our oil spigot, much less turning it off, based on our dire condition. Our people badly need development in every facet of the concept: social, economic, cultural, political; and to satisfy any of these demands – our basic needs – at a minimum, needs money. As VP Bharrat Jagdeo succinctly said, “We have to make sure that we produce the oil and get as much development out of it for our people to invest long-term in other sectors, so that they can get wealthier and have a decent life.”
Now, as far as being environmentally responsible, as a county with not even one million persons in a world of EIGHT BILLION, the VP pointed out, “Guyana is a net carbon sink. More than 80% of our country – that is, the size of England – is covered by forests that generate oxygen and capture and store carbon; critical environmental and biodiversity services are provided with these standing forests. Guyana can be an oil producer while advocating for a zero-carbon economy.” In other words, we have nothing that should allow anyone to shame us into cutting back oil production.
Trinidad has been pumping oil for over one hundred years, and, as such, has an abundance of knowledge on the subject. Last month, the head of the T&T Energy Chamber advised that other oil-producing countries in South America and the Caribbean should be following in Guyana’s footsteps. “I think the key message here is to get your resources to market as quickly as you possibly can. This is something that policymakers should take into account; otherwise, you will be left with assets you cannot monetise in the future.”
Since the matter has moved from the economic to the moral, one would assume the countries that caused the looming crisis in Global Warming – which for decades they irresponsibly fought tooth and nail, even though the science was clear – have a greater moral responsibility to fix the problem. But they have drawn a very firm line in the sand: that they would not accept even a freeze on their present standard of living, but insist that they would continue using outsize portions of the world’s resources for their comparatively small populations. This means they will not cut back their consumption of fossil fuels.
US President Joe Biden has recently given permission to open public lands to fossil fuel development, holding the US’ first onshore lease sales and releasing a proposed plan for offshore drilling that could open parts of the Gulf of Mexico and Alaska’s Cook Inlet to leasing through 2028. Then the EU voted, on July 6, to label natural gas and nuclear energy as green alternatives, and will be increasingly burning coal. Why should Guyana become Climate Change’s Atlas?
Let’s drill as fast as we can; place the money in our NRF, and control the spending.