Posts Tagged ‘ExxonMobil’

What’s a Tree Worth?


Godefroy Edzoa is the traditional chief of Ekabita.  The pipeline crosses straight through the fields of Ekabita where people grow cocoa, avocados, mangoes, safou, papayas, and a variety of crops including bananas, corn, cassava, squash and peanuts.

Edzoa tells me that when the pipeline people came to Ekabita, they told residents there would be compensation for damaged crops.  They also said that once the pipeline construction was completed, residents could farm their lands again.  However, no fruit trees could be planted on the 30-meter wide easement, as tree roots could damage the pipeline.  Farmers were told that the easement would be cleared several times a year, probably after harvests, but were given no firm details. Even today farmers can not tell me exactly when the easement will be cleared, as the calendar seems to change each year.

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Pipeline Dreaming


What happens when a major American oil company comes through two poor African countries with a project to drill for oil in one and transport it across the other?

Dreams.  Fantasies.  Unrealistic expectations. False hopes. As Samuel Nguiffo, founder of the Center for the Environment and Development in Yaounde told me, “People hear oil, America, dollars, jobs. They hear it’s a 25-year project.  From  there it becomes money and jobs for everyone for 25 years.”

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Langue de bois


Watching the hands turn...

I’ve been in Cameroon for a week now, and there’s lots to talk about.  I have to begin, though, with my efforts to get anyone connected with the pipeline project to speak to me.  As I’ve been spending many hours in waiting rooms, I felt that this photo kind of summed up a good part of my week.

“Langue de bois” is a French expression: literally, a wooden tongue.  Cliches. Hackneyed phrases. Spin. Waffle. What politicians and business leaders do when they want to talk without saying anything, avoid answering difficult questions, steer our attention away from unpleasant subjects, etc.

“As you can imagine, ExxonMobil receives many worthwhile requests from news organizations for interviews.  Unfortunately, it is impossible to respond affirmatively to all these requests. Due to timing and other business constraints, representatives of Esso Chad will not be available to participate in the opportunity you present.  However, for information, I’ve enclosed a case study of the project, as well as a 2008 news release that notes the benefits of the project.”

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Cargo of Hope

In October 2003, Exxon Mobil took out a page in the New York Times to announce the first shipment of crude oil from Chad:

“Voilà. A new chapter in world energy markets opened in early October when the first cargo of crude oil from the African country of Chad was loaded onto a tanker off the coast of Cameroon….And so with the first oil loaded, an extraordinary project begins to supply energy to the world as well as a better life and a cargo of hope to the people of Chad and Cameroon.”

You can see the entire page at: Voilà!

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ExxonMobil buys stakes in Ghanaian oil blocks (not)


UPDATE: The Ghanaian government refused to allow the ExxonMobil – Kosmos deal to go through and ExxonMobil was unable to acquire Kosmos’ share of the Jubilee Field. The reasons that President Mills’s government blocked the sale are complicated, but at the center of the dispute are alleged kickbacks that Kosmos made to the previous Ghanaian administration. Kosmos has become one of the operators of the Jubilee Field, a role the company did not originally envisage.

ExxonMobil heads west…

With the discovery of large offshore oil reserves, Ghana is set to be Africa’s next petro-state.  And as of October 12th, ExxonMobil is officially a partner in Ghana’s oil industry.

Not surprisingly, the Ghanaian government has pledged that oil development will benefit the population of the country. Ghana is not Chad, of course, but there are many lessons to be learned from the Chad Oil Project as much of what went wrong in Chad and Cameroon can easily happen in Ghana. A lack of meaningful citizen involvement, insufficient communication with local populations and a premium on speed (the Chad-Cameroon oil pipeline was finished one year ahead of schedule) all reduced the Chad Oil Project’s chances of success from the get-go. A recent report from Oxfam, “Ghana’s big test: Oil’s challenge to democratic development,” notes that citizen participation and communication are also lacking in Ghana’s oil planning.  The report warns of the risks associated with moving ahead too quickly — now that ExxonMobil is involved, this risk may become more significant.

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Paradise and the Pipeline


Kribi.  It could be paradise.  The small beach town on Cameroon’s Atlantic coast is one of the country’s prime tourist attractions. The dense rainforest stretches almost to the water’s edge; a strip of white sand beach is all that separates the greens of the forest from the turquoise waters.  Just south of town the famous Lobé waterfalls tumble over black volcanic rocks directly into the ocean.  Market women sell and prepare fish right off the boats at the town’s small port.

The first time I visited Kribi was in December, 1994, and the beauty of the place was stunning.  Of course, most of the town was rundown and ramshackle. Electricity ran intermittently and the water was not fit to drink. Unfortunately this was (and is) the story of much of Cameroon.  But Kribi managed somehow to have a certain charm and people spoke proudly of their little corner of paradise.

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