A slower approach to oil extraction is wiser

A slower approach to oil extraction is wiser

Dear Editor,

Most, who possess sound senses, would not go barreling down a dark unknown road that proves more treacherous at numerous hairpin curves and steep drops along an unending stretch of travel that alarms by the moment.  But that is what I understand that Guyana’s Hon. Vice President intends to do with this country’s oil.  Aggressive production it is called, which prompts me to make my own call: what’s the hurry, bub?

Barring a war, I do not foresee a sustained spike in energy demand at a robust level within the next 2-3 years.  Oil glut, Saudi-Russo hiccups, pandemic fears, and related economic strictures have all combined to beat demand senseless and into the ground, while depressing world market prices to unprofitable levels.  At such levels, Guyana’s take is not as prospering.  In such an environment, global and local, the opportunity is ripe to get Guyana’s oil equivalent of ‘two sweetness out of one bone’.  Meaning through a sensible production cap, which is less than whatever is contemplated by ‘aggressive’ and allow this country to develop expert trustworthy bench strength, build and refine our knowledge bases, and establish an oversight framework that gives deep insight on what is going out there below the seabed, what should be pursued, what should be held back, and only do what is best for us.

That is, what is best for us to maximize our oil returns to benefit the greatest number of citizens.  A lower and slower approach is wiser.  It affords the time and space to learn and grow as we advance.  And not just to go along with anything that Exxon shovels down our throats.  I urge caution, and that we always remember that Exxon is not looking out for Guyana’s best interests, but what is best for company and shareholders.  There is nothing malicious in this by Exxon; rather, it is simply the swift rapaciousness that means so much magnificence for Exxon’s reeling bottom line.  Guyana is its lifeline to get back on its foot and to the top of the hill.  Aggressive production aligns prettily with the visions of company’s leaders and strategic planners.  The quicker they get the oil from Guyana’s ground, the wider they can cast their nets and discover more oil gems.  Aggressive, it is and must be; and should we proceed down this road, then it is highly likely that irreversible damage will be done.

Let’s face this hard truth unflinchingly: in the field of knowing about our oil, we know nothing.  We are illiterates.  We don’t even have a canoe (or a ballahoo) to paddle along behind Exxon and peek at what it is doing, what it’s up to; and even if we did, we do not know enough, because Exxon is slick enough to pull the wool over eyes.    We are unaware of any caprices that Exxon practices.  For all these reasons, I find the insistence on and haste of the Hon. Vice President towards aggressive production to be unseemly.  Again, that question comes back: what’s the hurry, bub?  Why the mad rush, given all the times that we have been burned badly in our short oil history?  Against my better judgement, I give the Hon. VP, the benefit of no untoward objectives, yet something troubles.

Editor, I hear clearly the VP speaking of time not standing still and talking of a possible new world energy order sans fossils.  I understand what he is saying and the implications of where he is going.  Meaning, strike while the iron is hot, as time is of the essence.  First, I think that we could have revolutionary developments that render the fossil fuel sector obsolete in less than two decades.  Notwithstanding that, I also think that it would take a tremendously long time to dismantle a multitrillion dollar industry of global proportions.

From the foregoing, I believe that Guyana should use the next two years (or less) to put its arms and mind around what we have, through accumulating as much wisdom on what we have, and what is the best way on how to go about exploiting it.  To this point, Exxon has been calling all the shots, which our political leaders parrot slavishly.  Now is the time, and this is one, on which we can slow things down, not to a crawl, but to that pace which is safe and securing of our future.  We must stop being like a shop owner, who cannot read nor write, and one who depends on his workers and partners to tell him how much stock he has in the warehouse, how quickly he must reorder, and how fast he must sell.  Such dependency is a recipe for the disaster of promised bankruptcy.  Aggressive production means we run the risk of running ahead of ourselves and tripping over our feet.  Let us not do this.  Let us get this one right and on our terms.

Yours faithfully,

GHK Lall

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