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I write in response to the Stabroek News editorial “No to gas” published online November 1, 2021. I share many of the sentiments expressed on corruption and identify strongly with the statement that “Guyana deserves an opportunity to extract and monetize its oil sensibly”. But I find the analysis and premise for “no to gas” lacking in a few key areas.
Firstly, achieving decarbonization and meeting both the spirit and the letter of the Paris Climate Agreement requires a fundamental restructuring of the global oil-based economy that will not occur overnight. That is why it is necessary to pursue an energy strategy that looks at every possible option to get us there with existing fuel sources. Guyana has abundant oil, natural gas, and hydropower potential.
The editorial correctly identified a key issue with heavy fuel oil; the primary fuel currently used in electricity generation. Replacing heavy fuel oil with natural gas achieves two things; it immediately lowers emissions, is a cleaner-burning fuel, and provides an insurance policy from intermittency of wind and hydropower. If there are changes to the climate that affect the rate of water flows, rain and wind patterns, Guyana will have a backup plan. It’s already clear that the climate will continue to change, even if we stop pumping oil tomorrow.
Secondly, if the energy crisis in Europe is any forbearer of what we can expect the energy transition to look like, we are in for a rough ride. Even closer to home, United States President Biden, after banning new oil and gas leasing on government land in the United States, recently called on OPEC to pump more oil so Americans can avoid paying higher prices at the gas pumps.
Meanwhile, much of the European Union depends on their adversarial neighbour Russia to supply natural gas for the coming winter, an unenviable position. Guyana should not abandon energy independence, energy abundance and the chance to usher in the lowest electricity rates in our lifetimes for a symbolic gesture.
Finally, the argument that Guyana forgoing gas to shore and favouring reinjection is the “ambitious move” needed at COP26 falls on deaf ears. India, the third-largest emitter of carbon dioxide, committed to net zero emissions by 2070, and China, the largest emitter, has made no new commitments. How could one then conclude that Guyana, a mere fraction of a percentage of global emissions, whose forests also act as one of the world’s largest and best-preserved absorbers of carbon will make any dent at all by forsaking gas?
The editorial cites the promise of “fair and just compensation for ecosystem services”. I call this a faint hope at best and a recipe for dependency at worst. Countries like the UK and Norway show no signs of stopping their own oil and gas production, no matter what they call on other countries to do. Perhaps that is the lead we should be following.