In late June, inside a squat concrete building in Georgetown, Guyana, on a noisy street flanked by telephone repair shops and beauty supply stores, two lawyers were waging one of the most significant legal battles in the global fight against climate change. Melinda Janki and Ronald Burch-Smith sat in a ground-floor office staring intently at a computer screen, ignoring the sounds of macaws, monkeys, tree frogs, and traffic packing the streets, waiting to connect to the country’s Supreme Court via Zoom. The internet is unreliable at best in Guyana’s capital city, and the fear that it would choose today to conk out was palpable.
The two lawyers were a bit of an odd couple. Burch-Smith is tall and meticulous. Ask him if he knows the time and he’s likely to answer “yes” rather than divulge the hour. Janki is a petite woman with warm eyes and a sharp wit, quickly moved to rigorous denouncements of injustice, from the war in Ukraine to the plight of the planet to the litter on the street. Burch-Smith has a framed Phantom of the Opera playbill above his desk. The art in Janki’s office is a little more confrontational: a life-size painting of a fierce yellow jaguar that appears poised to step out of a blackened forest and straight through the picture frame. Together, the two attorneys have mounted a novel and audacious attack on Exxon Mobil, one of the world’s largest corporations with the legal muscle to match.
In 2015, Exxon, which is known in Guyana as Esso, struck oil off the coast, the first significant find in the country’s history. The scale of the discovery, 11 billion barrels so
— source wired.com | Antonia Juhasz | Dec 20, 2022
That’s the title of a new piece in Wired magazine by investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz which details an effort to block ExxonMobil from drilling off the shore of Guyana, where more than 11 billion barrels of oil have been discovered.
Guyana is a coastal nation on the north Atlantic coast of South America. It shares a border with Venezuela, Brazil and Suriname. Critics of the plan say the drilling could be a disaster for Guyana and the world as the climate emergency intensifies. Today, Guyana is considered to be a carbon sink, thanks to its dense rainforests and low emissions. But if Exxon has its way, Guyana could soon become what’s known as a “carbon bomb.”
This is just such a critically important case. It’s a landmark lawsuit that Melinda has launched against Exxon’s operations in Guyana. And these are brand-new operations — Exxon started producing in 2019 — making Guyana one of the few countries in the world — when the rest of the world or much of the world is trying to get off of fossil fuels, Guyana is one of the few countries that’s entering anew into the fossil fuel era, and in a really big way, if Exxon has any say in it. Exxon wants to produce, by 2030, 1 million barrels of oil a day offshore Guyana, and that would make Guyana its single-largest source of daily oil production
Today, Big Oil giants Shell and ConocoPhillips formally reported their profits from the fourth quarter of last year, taking in an eye-popping $13.7 billion in the final quarter, bringing in $61 billion in profit last year. This marks a 121% increase in profit margins compared to 2021. While Big Oil profited massively in 2022, American consumers were overburdened with historically high gas prices at the pump.
As two of the countries’ largest oil companies enjoyed historically high-profit margins last year, their fourth-quarter earnings call revealed that they had spent $41 billion in 2022 on stock buybacks and dividends, further enriching their wealthy shareholders.
Canada’s TC Energy shut its Keystone pipeline in the United States after more than 14,000 barrels of crude oil spilled into a creek in Kansas, making it one of the largest crude spills in the United States in nearly a decade. The cause of the leak, which occurred in Kansas about 20 miles (32 km) south of a key junction in Steele City, Nebraska, is unknown. It is the third spill of several thousand barrels of crude on the pipeline since it first opened in 2010. The 622,000 barrel-per-day Keystone line is a critical artery shipping heavy Canadian crude from Alberta to refiners in the U.S. Midwest and the Gulf Coast.
Workers deployed a boom on the surface of Mill Creek, in Washington County, Kan., on Thursday to contain oil that leaked from the Keystone pipeline system.Credit…Kyle Bauer/KFRM Radio, via Associated Press
That’s the official line, and I could have swallowed it — except for a message I received from a very nervous source floating in the Caspian Sea. The source told me he’d been an eye-witness to the BP/Transocean oil rig blow-out — not the one in the Gulf, but an IDENTICAL blow-out in the Caspian that happened just 17 months before its Gulf companion exploded.
The hunt for the truth took me to Baku, Azerbaijan, in Central Asia (and detention by the dictatorship’s not-so-secret police), meetings with MI-6 sources in London, and beaches on the Gulf Coast and in the Arctic. Watch this video from my investigation for Britain’s Channel 4 Dispatches. It ran world-wide…except in the USA.
If you don’t know about the earlier blow-out, it’s because BP didn’t tell you, didn’t tell anyone but its drilling partners Exxon and Chevron — and in a top secret cable, George W. Bush’s State Department. The oil company chieftains kept the devastating information tightly concealed — even though US law required they report such rig failures to the US Department of Interior.
If BP had reported the disaster to Interior, the 11 men would be alive today, because Interior’s experts had tried to stop BP from drilling in the unstable deep waters of the
Last month, Nigeria’s President Muhammadu Buhari wrote an op-ed in the Financial Times. It might as well have been written by the Pentagon. Buhari promoted Brand Nigeria, auctioning the country’s military services to Western powers, telling readers that Nigeria would lead Africa’s “war on terror” in exchange for foreign infrastructure investment. “Though some believe the war on terror [WOT] winds down with the US departure from Afghanistan,” he says, “the threat it was supposed to address burns fiercely on my continent.”
With Boko Haram and Islamic State operating in and near Nigeria, pushing a WOT narrative is easy. But counterterror means imperial intervention. So, why is the Pentagon really interested in Nigeria, a country with a GDP of around $430 billion – some $300 billion less than the Pentagon’s annual budget – a population with a 40 percent absolute poverty rate, and an infant mortality rate of 74 deaths per 1,000 live births, compared to 5.6 per 1,000 in the US?
A US Naval Postgraduate School doctoral thesis from over a decade ago offers a plausible explanation: the Gulf of Guinea, formed in part by Nigeria’s coastline, “has large deposits of hydrocarbons and other natural resources.” It added: “There is now a stiff international competition among industrialized nations including the United States, some
On April 20, 2010, eleven men on the Deepwater Horizon were incinerated when the BP/Transocean oil rig blew out and exploded.
Here’s what I reported after a four-continent investigation for Britain’s Channel 4 TV and Europe’s ARTE channel:
Chelsea Manning and the Deepwater Horizon Killings
Just 17 months before the Deepwater Horizon destroyed 600 miles of Gulf Coast, BP covered up a nearly identical blowout in the Caspian Sea. We located an eyewitness with devastating new information about the Caspian Sea oil-rig blow-out, which BP had concealed from our government and the industry.
The witness, whose story is backed up by rig workers who were evacuated from BP’s Caspian platform, said that had BP revealed the full story, as required by industry practice, the eleven Gulf of Mexico workers “could have had a chance” of survival. But BP’s insistence on using methods proven faulty sealed their