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Home Editorial Wealth and instability - the oil package

Wealth and instability – the oil package

“The centrality of oil to the modern world is well known. Oil is integrally related to virtually every aspect of our way of life, from transportation, communication and the mass production of goods, to food, heat, light and military power. Access to oil is therefore essential to modern living, as well as being crucial in maintaining military dominance – as was amply demonstrated in both World Wars.”

“The problem the U.S. faces is that while its appetite for oil is virtually unlimited, its reserves are QUITE limited. It consumes roughly 25 percent of all the oil produced in the world each year, but has only 3 percent of the world’s crude reserves. To make up for the shortfall, the U.S. relies heavily on oil from outside its borders, leaving it vulnerable if key reserves are under the control of hostile nations.”

– pg. 2, WAR, BIG OIL, AND THE FIGHT FOR THE PLANET, by Linda McQuaig, Anchor Canada, 2004.

“The simple truth is that oil is a finite resource. It is stored solar energy from the distant past – a one-time inheritance that we’ve foolishly squandered, consuming it recklessly for the past hundred years. At this point, there is not enough oil left in the earth’s crust for us to go on living as we have for much longer.”

– pg. 3, ibid.

“A report in February 2005 by the U.S. Department of Energy’s National Energy Laboratory gives us a sense of the scope of the dilemma. ‘The world has never faced a problem like this,’ the report noted, ‘… Previous transitions (wood to coal and coal to oil) were gradual and evolutionary; oil peaking will be abrupt and revolutionary.’”

“And none of this even touches on the most devastating of all problems related to our oil addiction: global warming. So we’re left in a strangely paradoxical situation: there’s not enough oil to meet the world’s growing consumption, but that growing consumption is itself threatening to imperil the world.”

– pg. 4, ibid.

KENULE “KEN” BEESON SARO-WIWA (10 October 1941–10 November 1995) was a Nigerian writer, television producer, environmental activist, and winner of the Right Livelihood Award and the Goldman Environmental Prize. Saro-Wiwa was a member of the Ogani people, an ethnic minority in Nigeria whose homeland, Ogoniland, in the Niger Delta has been targeted for crude oil extraction since the 1950s and which has suffered extreme environmental damage from decades of indiscriminate petroleum waste dumping. Initially as a spokesperson, and then as president, of the Movement for the Survival of the Ogoni People (MOSOP), Saro–Wiwa led a nonviolent campaign against environmental degradation of the land and waters of Ogoniland by the operations of the multinational petroleum industry, especially the Royal Dutch Shell company. He was also an outspoken critic of the Nigerian government, which he viewed as reluctant to enforce environmental regulations on the foreign petroleum companies operating in the area.

At the peak of his non-violent campaign, he was tried by a special military tribunal for allegedly masterminding the gruesome murder of Ogoni chiefs at a pro-government meeting and hanged in 1995 by the military dictatorship of General Sani Abacha. His execution provoked international outrage and resulted in Nigeria’s suspension from the Commonwealth of Nations for over three years.

– from WIKIPEDIA, the free encyclopedia

Amongst themselves, the European peoples, and a thousand years ago they were “tribes” (just as how they referred to Africa and indigenous American peoples after their invasion and conquest of Africa and America in the fifteenth and sixteenth centuries), waged bloody wars among themselves for centuries after centuries. As a result of these unending wars, the various European peoples developed gunpowder, artillery, cavalry, and sophisticated techniques of warfare which gave them a noticeable advantage over the Africans and indigenous Americans when they entered Africa and America.

The Europeans were also able to exploit the relative innocence of native peoples, in the sense that many native cultures prized honesty and honor amongst men of noble rank. In Mexico in 1521 and Peru in 1532, Hernán Cortés and Francisco Pizarro, respectively, brought levels of dishonesty and treachery to the New World which the natives had never experienced. In addition, these Europeans conquistadors took advantage of longstanding divisions amongst major ethnic groupings. It was not a case of a few Spaniards just massacring many natives. There were natives from groupings which had been oppressed by Moctezuma in Mexico and Atahualpa in Peru who made strategic alliances with the conquistadors in their quest for revenge.

Oil was discovered in the Spanish Lookout area of Belize’s Cayo District and began being pumped and shipped about eight years ago. A few years ago, more oil was discovered in the Never Delay area of Cayo. Fifty million barrels of oil were recently discovered in the Gallon Jug area of the Orange Walk District, but this oil lies beneath rock which will present penetration difficulties. In the Sarstoon/Temash, an oil company called U.S. Capital Energy, supported by the Government of Belize, has been exploring for oil in an extremely aggressive manner, despite the public and legal protestations of the Kek’chi Maya who claim the relevant area as their “customary lands.”

On its Wednesday evening newscast this week, Channel 5 reported that the 17 UDP area representatives in the House of Representatives have each received $50,000 to spend in their constituencies for Mother’s Day 2014. Five months ago, each of the UDP 17 received $90,000 to spend for “Christmas cheer” in their divisions, while the 14 Opposition PUP representatives each received $25,000 for a similar purpose, as did the 14 UDP “caretaker” standard bearers in the PUP areas. On the occasion of Mother’s Day 2014, however, only the 17 UDP area reps received moneys.

In Belize City, meanwhile, moneys have been spent over the last two years as if there is no tomorrow. All over the old capital there has been an overwhelming amount of infrastructural work, featuring building of parks, cementing of streets, upgrading of water distribution pipes, expansion of sewerage services, and overall digging and covering, digging and covering, digging and covering … Money does not appear to be a problem.

The wealth which is generated in a country because of oil discoveries and the prospects of same, always contributes to socio-political instability. In the case of Saudi Arabia, there was an oligarchical tribal structure in place which benefited from, while withstanding the shocks of, the incredible wealth which oil brought to that desert kingdom. Saudi Arabia exports a certain amount of instability to the world, however, because the Saudis finance radical Islamists and outright terrorists within Saudi Arabia itself, in order to appease domestic interests which are then able to operate abroad.

In the case of revolutionary Libya under Muammar Gaddafi, he did major human resources work, but eventually the oil wealth was so overpowering that corruption and confusion began taking place at the highest levels. Gaddafi became too regionally ambitious for the NATO powers of Europe, and they conspired with Gaddafi’s Arab enemies to overthrow him violently.

The oil package brings some problems with it. The first is serious environmental pollution. Another problem is crazy political greed/corruption. The most devastating is societal instability, wherein people who have lived together as neighbors for centuries become jealous and suspicious of each other to the point of internecine violence.

In the case of Belize, some of us have begun turning against the Sarstoon/Temash Maya. These are people who have been stalwarts of our agriculture, our military, our police, and our overall society for many decades. Suddenly, some of us feel the Kek’chi are standing in the way of all of us getting rich. It’s not that simple. Ask the Indonesians. Ask the Iraqis. Ask the Nigerians.

The transnational oil companies are the most vicious predators of the modern world. In order to defend Belize against them and get what is rightfully ours with a minimum of destabilization, we Belizeans must first love one another as we have loved one another on the journey to nationhood. It’s that simple, yet that difficult at the same time.

Power to the people.

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