Latest update May 28th, 2023 12:59 AM
Mar 25, 2023 Editorial
Kaieteur News – Stunning revelations are coming out about the partnership of ExxonMobil, Shell, and the Dutch Government that placed profits over national safety. The enormous Groningen gas field found in the Netherlands in 1959/60 stands as a prime exhibit of what results when national governments and leaders collude with oil and gas operators. When the corporate and political parties collude in secrecy, then they become the best of friends in misleading citizens, while impressing upon them how much they have their interests at heart.
Groningen was a godsend to the people of the Netherlands, and especially in the depressed area that over 2.7 billion cubic meters of gas were found. The Netherlands got its own gas supply, it also got profits from shareholdings, and gas revenues contributed significantly to the country’s move to a State with many social welfare benefits for its citizens. Additionally, many citizens got jobs in the gas sector. It was what was hidden behind the scenes that hold many warnings for Guyanese.
The full amount of natural gas discovered was not disclosed to the Dutch people by their own government. Next, as early as 1963, ExxonMobil (then operating as Esso) and Shell commissioned a study about something called subsidence, but which was kept from the public. Simply put, subsidence is where the natural gas extraction leads to downward movement and decline of the earth’s surface where the natural gas extraction activity is happening. This was what occurred in the US and Italy. The study done by a Dutch engineer noted that the vertical decline could be as much as 1.5 meters (over four feet). It would be another 10 years before the concern about subsidence again came up for mention in the Dutch parliament, when awareness that such a study existed trickled into the public consciousness. There was only one Dutch parliamentarian who raised concerns about the issue in the Dutch House of Representatives and, as was the case in the early 1960s when the huge amounts of gas was first discovered, questions went nowhere because of other members excitedly pushing ahead with their natural gas dreams.
What must be of interest to all Guyanese is that this is happening in a society as sophisticated as the Netherlands. The Netherlands is not severely limited, over-its-head, like Guyana. Yet, there was collusion, secrecy, and closing down conversations on a revealing study that was completed, what it warned about. What it warned about is what the Dutch have been living with since 1986, and more frequently since the early 1990s. Low-intensity earthquakes ranging from 2.4 to 3.6 on the Richter scale have been recorded. The occurrence of these earthquakes has now been accepted by the Dutch as induced by gas extraction. There can no longer be any stonewalling, hiding, or pussyfooting around the correlation. Beginning in 2014, the Dutch government took the unwanted step of limiting gas production, as part of a phase out that continues to this day. Final phase out is to be by 2030, but that has been brought forward to 2025-28, and could be even earlier.
There are several lessons here. Governments are extremely reluctant to give up ‘cash cows.’ Next, when national governments become partners in secrecy, then predicted dangers emerge, which is what the Dutch experienced. Further, when parliamentarians and civil society sit on their hands and seal their lips for fear of rocking the boat, or getting on the wrong side of powerful and ambitious politicians, then it is almost inevitable that calamity results. Though an aside, there is another lesson from the Netherlands for the government and people of Guyana. Esso and Shell did not want to alter the terms of a commitment made by the Netherlands prior to when the huge discoveries were known. The Dutch government was having none of it, insisting that the new amounts of gas scrapped earlier official promises made, and that new financial terms must be finalized. Guyana’s Government must learn from that instance of pushback and hardball.
All in all, the Netherlands’ experience must serve as Guyana’s guide. Playing with fire is courting danger. Secrecy results in the sickening. And colluding with oil and gas companies and their coverups tend to blowup in some of the worst ways possible.
No contracts cast in stone, except Norton and Jagdeo own!
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