The BBC News channel had an interesting documentary on Ecuador’s Oil Gamble. It talked about the an oil field located the Yasuní forest in the heart of the Amazon.
Underneath the most biologically diverse forest on the planet1 lies an estimated 900 million barrels of oil - about 20% of all of Ecuador’s oil reserves. Instead of drilling it and devastating the environment and those who inhabit the area, Ecuador is proposing to leave the oil untouched in exchange for compensation by the International Community worth half the money it would have made.
That equates to $3.6bn2, which will be paid to Ecuador over 13 years. The first $100m needs to be paid by December, of which only $37m have been raised so far (and $35m of that as part of a debt swap with Italy).
So its not looking good. While many countries support the scheme in theory, few have committed financially. The UK ambassador to Ecuador, Linda Cross, says it “goes against the countries policy of ensuring energy supplies”, and although the UK will support in Ecuador in other ways it will not support financially3.
For me, that policy is deeply disturbing. Many Western countries have been adopting policies like these for a while now, knowing that there will come a time when oil becomes scarce. These countries will need to ensure that they have access to the remaining supplies. In 50+ years time, how far will these policies go? Will we obtain oil by force? (Some might say we already have, in Iraq.)
Also, when oil does become scarce, will Ecuador keep its promise? Will it be able to?