Carbon Colonialists

“Poverty is the worst form of violence.”  – Mahatma Gandhi

In the fourth season of the Discovery Channel’s hit show Gold Rush, Todd and Jack Hoffman took their mining operation to the jungles of Guyana. Fresh off a successful campaign in which the family-led outfit mined more than 800 ounces of gold in the Yukon, the Hoffmans bet it all on the hope that rich deposits of the precious metal could be found in the small South American country. With a large assembly of expensive equipment in tow, the ragtag group set out to find their fortune.

It didn’t go so well. From one setback to another, the Hoffman’s adventure in Guyana devolved into disaster. After months of back-breaking work through unruly terrain and equipment failures, the group had only two ounces of gold and a small handful of diamonds to show for the effort, hardly enough to offset the operation’s significant expenses. Out of cash and with few prospects, the Hoffmans headed home in defeat. Guyana may be open for business to foreigners, but the mere presence of abundant natural resources is no guarantee of success.

A swing and a miss | Discovery Channel

Around the time the Hoffmans were beating their hasty retreat, a rather more sophisticated outfit was doing a little prospecting of its own. Having initiated an exploratory drilling program for black gold in 2008, a consortium led by ExxonMobil began to announce a series of massive offshore oil discoveries in 2015. The news set off a rush of activity, with billions in foreign investments pouring into the country:

With more than 11 billion barrels of oil equivalent resources estimated so far offshore Guyana, ExxonMobil and partners Hess and China’s CNOOC have made over 30 discoveries in the Stabroek Block – and more are anticipated. First oil at a third project, Payara, began in November. Production is slated at two more sanctioned developments, Yellowtail in 2025 and Uaru in 2026, which is projected to bring Guyana’s total output to 800,000 boe/d.

At the time of ExxonMobil’s seminal announcement, Guyana’s gross domestic product (GDP) averaged just $5,668 per capita, less than a tenth of that enjoyed by citizens of the US. With a population a shade higher than 800,000, the country’s insignificant energy footprint was grouped into the category of “Other” in the annual Statistical Review of World Energy. Since that time, Guyana’s GDP per capita has more than tripled and its economy is among the fastest growing in the world. In a few short years, its citizens can expect to be as wealthy as their counterparts in the UK, a country that counted Guyana as a colony as recently as 1966.

In more balanced times, witnessing a comparatively impoverished country win the natural resources lottery would be a cause for celebration. Not so for the apostles of the Church of Carbon™, for whom Guyana’s newfound economic success is generating panic. In a video that went viral last week, the president of Guyana was confronted by a BBC reporter about the carbon footprint associated with all this winning. We turn to The Telegraph for more details (emphasis added):

The president of an oil-rich South American country has scolded a BBC reporter for ‘lecturing’ his nation over climate change. Irfaan Ali of Guyana sat down with host Stephen Sackur of the BBC HardTalk show for an interview that has now gone viral.

The country has seen a rapid growth in its oil reserves over the past decade. But Mr. Sackur was quick to challenge the president on the potential environmental impact of this industry.

He said: ‘Over the next decade or two, it’s expected that there will be $150 billion worth of oil and gas extracted off your coast. It’s an extraordinary figure. But think of it in practical terms. That means – according to many experts – two billion tons of carbon emissions will come from your seabed from those reserves and released into the atmosphere.’

But the 43-year-old head of state was quick to jump in with a rebuttal.

“Let me stop you right there.” | BBC

Why did this video strike such a nerve? It would be easy to attribute the response to schadenfreude—there was no small amount of satisfaction to be had in watching someone so smug land on the receiving end of a well-deserved humiliation—but we suspect there is more than meets the eye with this episode. The incident portends a dim future for the climate change movement and the global relevancy of the West’s ruling elite. Let’s take a look at the moving pieces behind the viral exchange.

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