Scraping the Barrel…. 23 July 2012

Turns out I wasn’t the only one baffled to come across a Kazakhstan special report by “the most trusted name in news” last week during my barrel-scraping duties. CNN’s “Eye On” series shed its spotlight on oil and mineral treasure trove Kazakhstan, yet wraps up its glossy images of the country’s new hydrocarbon purification plant, beaming images of state workers and references to ‘wise’ economic diversification plans with precious little mention of the Zhanaozhen riots  which have rocked the industry over the past year and murmurs of growing discontentHere, the beady-eyed correspondent from Eurasianet spots the logos of the state assets fund and President Nazarbayev’s economic forum hidden in the small print… “he who pays, picks the music”. Indeed.

An extractive industries summer school in Ghana has drawn attention to the uneven playing field encountered when under-resourced African governments come to negotiate complex oil contracts, faced with over-resourced teams of Big Oil lawyers. Oil booms in Ghana and other African producing countries won’t last forever and revenue capture is crucial to finance much-needed development before the fields run dry. Perhaps something radical is needed to tip the balance?

Justin Welby. One of the front runners to be next Bishop of Canterbury, Mr Bean look-alike, self-described as “one of the thicker bishops in the Church of England” and, until his ordination in 1992, a senior executive in the oil industry for over a decade, including a stint in the messy Niger Delta. Once upon a time, he would answer questions over what an ethical oil exec would look like with a terse  “someone who doesn’t fiddle their expenses and sleep with their secretary”. But in this interview he offers a slightly more nuanced take on the loaded and very current question of corporate sin, in the oil industry and beyond.

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