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Last week at Brazil’s Rio Oil and Gas Conference and Exhibition, Roberto Castello Branco, Chief Executive Officer of the state-owned oil giant Petrobras shot off some comments which only served to reinforce legitimate concerns about the management of Guyana’s oil and gas resources. Reuters News reported him threatening to leave behind exploring the same resources in the north of Brazil because, according to him, “Guyana is having a party now.”
His discontent with the Government of Brazil is that for him the authorities are taking too long to issue project permits for oil and gas companies. It is his opinion Brazil is yet to provide an attractive and predictable regulatory framework. But even as he bemoans this, he pointed out that the country has a “good global track record” in the business but thinks it is “not enough.”
Brazil is presently dealing with serious environmental problems. Most notable has been the crude oil spill in August 2019 in the northeastern region that has affected the water and more than 2,250 km of its coastline. The disastrous impact of this spill to human life and the environment is still being felt. Should a similar ever happen in Guyana under our present regulatory structure our fate may be worse.
Guyana’s oil and gas regulatory framework is not only archaic, but the speed at which the government is willing to bend over backwards and give away blocks worth multi-billion United States dollars to anyone who comes first, makes some think the country is having a party. It is party time not only for those who can buy their way to Guyana’s wealth on a dime but also those who harbour no inhibitions destroying the environment to get their hands on the wealth.
It is party time for those salivating at the thought of getting rich and becoming wealthier and do not care about the necessity for sustainable development; do not care about the United Nations Paris Climate Agreement. It is party time for those who do not believe in environmental science and think global warming is a hoax.
Petrobras is a Brazilian multinational business. A company that threatens to leave its country behind and come to Guyana because it thinks their regulatory framework is unattractive and unpredictable, is not kudos for Guyana. It is an acknowledgement that in this industry Guyana is a Wild West, without (modernised) laws, foreign capital is allowed to do as it pleases, and might is right.
Guyanese do not want their country to be thought of as “having a party.” It matters not whether it is a party for foreigners or the few privileged locals. Guyanese want our natural resources to be exploited in a sustainable manner and for the benefit of all. Guyanese want a fair deal from those who want to exploit our resources. Guyanese despise being taken advantage of.
The one-year old industry is already attracting international condemnation from environmental and rights organisations. As recently as two weeks ago concern was expressed about ExxonMobil flaring techniques and the risk to personal health, water, air and the environment. ExxonMobil continues to attract negative international press and dire warnings from international organisations. One such is the United Nations (UN). The UN Committee on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women (CEDAW) expressed concern about Guyana’s policies on girls and women in this new economy, and recommended review of our energy and climate change policies to alleviate the risks.
A press release (July 23, 2019) issued by the Centre for International Environmental Law cited CEDAW’s observations and warnings. The Centre referenced the Committee’s observation that “ExxonMobil estimates Guyana’s offshore oil fields hold more than 5.5 billion barrels of oil and gas, and plans to begin producing 120,000 barrels per day [this year and] if burned, this would be the equivalent of 18.8 million metric tons of CO2 greenhouse gas emissions per year—more than nine times the total annual CO2 emissions of Guyana’s entire population.”
CEDAW went further in stating that, “The proposed project would put Guyana in serious violation of the Paris Agreement and jeopardise international efforts to slow down climate change.” These aforementioned statistics are not signs that even if Guyana is having a party, given the stats and archaic regulatory framework, that this is a party worth having. In the present state it poses existential threat to man and the environment. This is a red flag (not a party’s flag) waving in the air to do something to avert what could be a crisis.
Guyana is not having a party for those who want sustainable development, safe exploration and exploitation of oil and gas, who want assurance there will be proper management of spill should such occur, who want preservation of our water, aqua life and air. Guyana is not a party for those who want to live in a healthy environment, breathe healthy air, avoid health risks associated with irresponsible drilling, and leave a planet intact for future generations. It situation reads like a horror story for those who know archaic regulations and a free-for-all attitude can destroy the country, world and lives as we know them. Guyana is not having a party for most Guyanese, Mr. Roberto Castello Branco.