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Category — Chevron

Petroleum Development in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Setting the Record Straight (Part III: Did International Oil Firms Despoil Eastern Ecuador’s Environment?)

[Ed. Note: This concludes Douglas Southgate's review of Ecuador’s claims of “reckless environmental damage” against Chevron, and through them international oil companies (IOCs). Part I challenged the facade that Ecuador's passive view of its own resources led to exploitation by Big Oil; Part II examined the economic benefits of fossil-fuel development in the country.

This post refutes the charge that environmental damage is the responsibility of foreign firms alone. Indeed, it is the state company, Petroecuador, that was chiefly responsible for environmental despoliation in the Amazon region. These postings are timely in light of a recent article in The New Yorker, [1] a new book about the construction of a trans-Andean pipeline, [2] and other literature in which IOCs’ actions in Ecuador are criticized.

Billions for Government, Nada Environment

Opponents of petroleum development in the Amazonian lowlands (Oriente) of eastern Ecuador maintain that damage to the region’s natural resources has been the result of IOCs’ dominance of the country. But in the first of three postings about the anti-oil campaign, I show that the Ecuadorian government actually exercised considerable power in its dealings with foreign companies. Soon after petroleum was discovered in the Oriente, Ecuadorian authorities obliged IOCs to spend tens of millions of dollars on transportation infrastructure in order to facilitate colonization, in which the firms had no real interest. [Read more →]

February 17, 2012   2 Comments

Petroleum Development in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Setting the Record Straight (Part II: Oil wealth & socioeconomic progress in Ecuador)

[Ed. Note: This series addresses key issues at the heart of Ecuador’s claims of “reckless environmental damage” against Chevron, and, through them, international oil companies (IOCs). Part I challenged the facade that Ecuador's passive view of its own resources led to exploitation by Big Oil. Part III tomorrow addresses the misperception that environmental damage in this small, South American nations is the responsibility of foreign firms alone.]

 Oil and gas has been a 40-year economic driver in Ecuador. With the national treasury benefiting from oil and gas revenue, any lack of socioeconomic progress during the last decades cannot be blamed on international oil company (IOC) profit-making there.

Indeed, no serious observer claims that Ecuador has failed to experience development. Criticism has focused instead on waste and misallocation of the large cash bounty that multinational investment created for Ecuador.

Who Got the Money?

Much of the blame for misallocation rests with the uniformed services, which have received a sizable portion of the country’s petrodollars. Military expenditures averaged 45 percent of the national budget from 1972 through 2000, which has enabled the armed forces to acquire a fleet of oil tankers, an airline, and other commercial enterprises.[1] However, oil wealth also has been spent on social services and subsidies for the public at large.

Despite waste, corruption, and misallocation, gross national income (GNI) per capita improved during this period. So did non-economic indicators of human well-being, including the infant mortality rate (IMR) and life expectancy at birth, thanks to better water supplies and public sanitation, wider access to pharmaceuticals, and, most importantly, improved nutrition.

Conditions in 1967

At the time when oil was discovered in the Oriente, mean GNI in Ecuador ($260) was barely half the Latin American and Caribbean average ($478); only in Haiti’s GNI per capita was appreciably lower. [2] The country’s standing in terms of non-economic measures was a little better. [Read more →]

February 16, 2012   No Comments

Petroleum Development in the Ecuadorian Amazon: Setting the Record Straight (Part I: Was Ecuador ever subservient to foreign oil firms?)

[Ed. Note: In this three-part series, Douglas Southgate, an economist and professor at Ohio State University, addresses key issues at the heart of Ecuador’s claims of “reckless environmental damage” against Chevron, and, through them, international oil companies (IOCs). Part II and Part III will address two other charges: that the small, South American nation has benefited little from energy-resource development, and that environmental damage is the responsibility of foreign firms alone.  These postings are timely in light of a recent article in The New Yorker,[2] a new book about the construction of a trans-Andean pipeline,[3] and other literature in which IOCs’ actions in Ecuador are criticized.]

Part I in this series challenges the charge from the Ecuadorian régime’s (and its U.S. backers) that:

(1) Ecuador was an innocent seduced by the siren song of Big Oil, and became a vassal to their interests;

(2) Ecuador’s relationship to its oil potential was merely passive; and

(3) Oil development monies did not benefit Ecuador.

In fact, the country moved aggressively to capture the lion’s share of the benefits created by private investment. Nationalization and taxation left the government with 97.3 percent, or $22.7 billion, of the monetary returns created by the concession originally developed by Texaco and Gulf between 1972 (when production and exports began) and 1992 (when the state oil company gained complete ownership of the concession).[1]

The Legal Setting

Continuing appeals of a February 2011 ruling by a district court in the Amazonian lowlands of eastern Ecuador and charges of fraud leveled against plaintiffs’ counsel [4] are recent and noteworthy developments in a legal campaign launched nearly two decades ago against Texaco, which along with Gulf Corporation began drilling for petroleum in the region during the 1960s and which has been affiliated since 2001 with Chevron. [Read more →]

February 15, 2012   3 Comments

Chevron CEO: “The Imperative of Affordable Energy” (Moral substance trumps ‘green’ form)

“It’s time to move the debate past the dogmatic view that carbon dioxide is evil and toward a world view that accepts the need for energy that is cheap, abundant and reliable.”

- Robert Bryce, “Five Truths About Climate Change,” Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2011.

“Every [energy] policy objective should be viewed through the lens of affordability.”

- John S. Watson, Chairman and CEO, Chevron Corporation
Remarks at the Peterson Institute for International Economics, Washington, D.C., October 19, 2011.

Chevron CEO John Watson delivered a major address last month in Washington, D.C. that reorients energy sustainability from controversial neo-Malthusian notions toward consumer affordability and reliability. As such, it marks an end to the ‘apologetic’ era launched by BP’s John Browne in his 1997 Stanford University speech, which proclaimed that fossil fuels were problematic in relation to anthropogenic climate change. The moral high ground of consumerism also points to market capitalism in place of political capitalism.

Watson’s speech follows verbatim with subtitles added.

This is one of those places in our nation’s capital where serious minds turn to serious matters. The spirit of the Institute is to take the long view, to look past election cycles to the fundamentals of good policy, in this country and beyond. That’s an attitude that serves us well in any place and time, and certainly right now, in this fourth year of low economic growth, high unemployment and many other challenges.

This room is filled with people who spend a lot of time analyzing these problems, and advocating policy prescriptions to deal with them. And few policy issues are more contentious than energy.

There’s a reason for that. When it comes to energy policy today, we’re talking past one another. We all want a secure source that
minimizes adverse environmental impacts. But we’re failing to be clear about what our central priority ought to be among our energy objectives.

Affordable Energy

Today, I’d like to share what I believe that priority should be. I submit to you that affordable energy is the priority that should underpin all of our actions. Every policy objective should be viewed through the lens of affordability.

To make the case, think back over the last 150 years. We’ve seen the greatest advancements in living standards in recorded history because we have developed abundant, affordable energy. Light, heat and mobility have been made available to billions of people.

Agriculture has been mechanized, freeing populations to spend time developing other industries and toiling less for the very basics of life.

The evolution of energy supply over that time period has been just as stunning. As late as 1910, about a quarter of all U.S. farmland was still devoted to feeding horses used for transportation. Today, we use half as much land for all of our roads and highways, oil pipelines, refineries and wells combined.

Since Edison switched on his first generators in 1882, the average price of a kilowatt hour of electricity has fallen almost without interruption. Markets have driven a diverse portfolio of affordable energy sources that is anchored by oil, natural gas and coal, but also includes nuclear, hydropower and other renewables.

And we’re using our energy more efficiently. It takes 60 percent less energy today to produce a dollar of GDP than it did in 1949.

Affordable energy supports the very foundation of American life. Americans love their mobility, whether for business or pleasure. The population has roughly doubled since 1950, but gasoline consumption has quadrupled, even as gas mileage has improved. And we’re flying more. U.S. airlines use about 80 percent more fuel today than when I was in college, even as they have became more fuel efficient. [Read more →]

November 25, 2011   2 Comments

Getting Real: The Oil Majors Move Away from Political Energy (Government-dependent wind, solar are not ready for prime time)

A recent article in the New York Times, “Not So Green After All: Alternative Fuel Still a Dalliance for Oil Giants,” chronicled the move away from politically correct (but economically incorrect) wind and solar energy by the oil majors.

Royal Dutch Shell and BP, in particular, recognize wind and solar as what they are: dilute, intermittent energies that are not consumer friendly or economic. And their investment returns in the same have been lackluster. Shell and BP have found out what Exxon Mobil learned in the 1970s.

“Oil giants worldwide are skeptical that President Barack Obama’s plans to move the economy away from petroleum will be successful,” Jad Mouawad wrote in the Times. “Many of the oil companies are sticking to their hydrocarbon business model and some are backing away from commitments to renewable power.”

Mouawad summarizes the thinking from these three majors: [Read more →]

April 9, 2009   5 Comments

Those Energy Company Advertisements

There is way too much money being spent on advertising by the major energy companies–at least from the viewpoint of a nonpolitical energy world.

The December 8, 2008, Wall Street Journal, for example, contains a phenomenal 4 1/12 pages of industry ads. For the 20-page front section A, that comes out to about 20%–surely an all-time record. There was a lot of industry advertising back during the energy crises of the highly regulated 1970s, but nothing like this! [Read more →]

December 27, 2008   5 Comments