Scraping the Barrel… 25 July 2012

As part of an insightful special report on Resource Curse ‘poster child’ Nigeria, guest columnist Patrick Dele Cole gives us his take on the devastating impact the theft of the country’s oil is having on the country’s bottom line. Up to 400,000 barrels per day of oil could be being lost to the thieves, the equivalent of a sizeable oil field, meaning that a third of the federal budget ends up under the control of a criminal cartel. The Nigerian armed forces, where in Dele Cole’s words ‘you will never find a poor admiral’ are part of the new task force set up to finally deal with the issue, but given their deep involvement in this murky underworld, how far can they be expected to bit the hand that feeds them? The column offers a personal perspective on the dramatic impact of the industry on the social and economic fabric of villages in the Niger Delta and calls for international cooperation and the tracking of the origins of final oil products, in order to turn the discerning consumer in Europe, Asia or the US into an ally.

You may or may not be lucky enough to be with us in Berlin to catch Edward Burtynsky’s exhibit of haunting, post-apocalyptic images of today’s oil industry, which opened last week. Those who are not may have to settle for hearing Edward’s thoughts on this ‘world unseen’ via his 2005 Ted Talk. Either way you will find an intriguing mixture of anger at the devastation resulting from our modern-day reliance on the black stuff, to the haunting beauty of many of the images of desolate fields dotted with lonely nodding donkeys. Burtynsky professes to seek a dialogue between attraction and repulsion with his images, and I think he achieves it. Worth a look.

Chevron has become the latest oil major to fall foul of the government in Baghdad over a contract signed with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG). Other majors such as French Total will be paying close attention as they assess the risks of making a play for Kurdistan’s oil riches, where production-sharing arrangements are seen by some execs as more workable than the service contracts offered by Baghdad. Chevron has no material stakes in the South, but the Iraqis are on the defensive, amid comments that ‘if Total joins the procession, will signal the transition from a trickle to a flood’. 

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