“Grave environmental damage looms – German NGO warns…” was the caption of a Front-Page article we carried on May 22. The subhead pointed to the damage done currently (9 billion cubic feet of gas) and that Guyana’s EPA issued clearance for such flaring to go on for the next two decades, speaking to potentially hundreds of billions of cubic feet of gas to be flared.
All Guyana would be furious with this unending eye-pass, and still another kind of pass once favored by irate Guyanese. We must manage our rage and be temperate, as we ask: What is going here? Who is counting the financial and environmental impacts to Guyana?
That 9 billion cubic feet of gas already flared represents much seepage into the atmosphere, and much lost revenue to this country. Guyana cannot spare a single cent more, given that one-sided contract and the numerous costs that this country have to pay on Exxon’s behalf. What makes this still more outrageous is that Exxon has the technology to do better but does not give a damn, despite its pious talk, about concerns for the environment and about dealing fairly with its Guyanese partners. It has gotten by elsewhere, so what is happening in Guyana is standard Exxon playbook.
Exxon is fully aware of what is involved and what it has to do as a global oil presence and a partner with many poor nations. It has been doing so, but only when enormous pressure is brought to bear on its operations and its chiefs. Consider this account of a former excutive: “His Hamlet-like performance on carbon taxation and climate change did him little credit, but he had led a determined drive to reduce the greenhouse gases emitted by the company’s own operations and had delivered real results. On his watch, ExxonMobil had reduced gas flaring…by more than half” (Coll, Steve; Private Empire ExxonMobil and American Power, Penguin Press, New York, 2012).
The man referred to in the above extract is Rex Tillerson, who was Chairman and Chief Executive Officer of ExxonMobil from 2006 to 2017. Coll also wrote that, “In Nigeria and other countries with weak governments, the corporation had missed announced targets for the elimination of flaring; it blamed the failure of its partner regimes.”
In the instance of its extraction of Guyana’s oil, it is now obvious that ExxonMobil has taken a backward and reckless approach, which provides further evidence of the low to zero regard that it has for this country, its leaders, and its peoples. Here it can and does get away with anything, inclusive of what has to be tantamount to corporate felonies. This is how the ExxonMobil(s) of the world take advantage of, what Mr. Coll calls, “weak governments”. To that, we could easily and safely add any divided and sharply polarized society. With such an illuminating track record, Guyana is tailor-made for ExxonMobil to have its way, which it does, and the latest example being costly and alarming gas flaring (the “Grave environmental damage” which the German NGO identified, and as was stated in our caption).
As these draining actions are exposed by us in one story after another, it is now undeniable that ExxonMobil has taken us for a ride.
Kaieteur News will continue to draw attention to the unfair and exploitative nature of this predatory partnership. We should not be doing it alone, however. It would be a great development, one that rings with the sturdiest patriotic fervor, if groups of citizens will make public manifestation of their anger and disgust and raise the bar on the volume of protests that is brought to bear. Continuing public expressions of dismay by citizens may move the company and those complicit in our political leadership to think twice on how it handles its partnership with Guyana going forward. Only continued pressure may make it yield some ground.
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