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Govt is delicately balancing environment and oil activities

In the recent past, a host of countries, especially those from the West  to achieving “net zero” in a few decades. In pursuit of this, huge cutbacks in the fossil fuels industry are expected to be undertaken with a target of replacing them with new green technologies that are considered “environmentally- friendly” by 2050.

Many environmental-leaning civil society organisations in Uganda have fanned the flames on this issue to the extent of opposing the development of Uganda’s oil and gas project. Environmentalists have reached out to funders and discouraged them from providing financing to the Uganda oil project.

Norbert Mao, the president of the Democratic Party, recently penned an article in one of the local dailies laced with pessimism on the likely success of the recently-launched East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP) project which is intended to transport crude oil from the Albertine graben in Uganda to the Tanzanian port of Tanga for access to the international market.

Mao’s pessimism about the project may be premised on some of the recent reports published by several global environmental bodies, which claim that fossil fuel-reliant countries will see a 51 per cent drop in oil and gas revenues in the next two decades as the world moves to cut emissions.

Contrary to this, a recent report by the US Energy Information Admiration (EIA) estimates that global energy demand will increase by 50 per cent by 2050 and most of this increase in demand will come from non- OECD (Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development) countries.

EIA also asserts that in order to achieve net zero emissions by 2050, primary energy demand needs to fall by 17 per cent between 2019 and 2030, to a level similar to 2006, even though the global economy is twice as large.

Africa, and the developing world, historically (and presently) have the lowest emissions. The World Economic Forum projects that a three times increase in use of natural gas to meet energy (electricity) needs in sub-Saharan Africa only would increase carbon emissions by one per cent of global emissions.

With fossils fuels still taking up 84 per cent of the worlds’ energy mix, and the universal use of the clean energy sources still in its infancy, it is clear that upon commencement of production in 2025, Uganda’s oil will have a ready market for a period of at least 40 years.

This is backed by the fact that there is a large part of this market that lies within the developing world whose reliance on fossil fuels cannot be easily replaced by the onerous green technologies.

Countries like Norway that have projected themselves as global champions in transitioning to clean energy are already facing a big paradox. In 2020, Norway’s export of crude oil, condensate and natural gas exceeded €30 billion.

About five per cent of total employment is directly or indirectly within petroleum and petroleum-related industries. This goes further to show that fossil fuels still have a significant role to play in transforming the economies of the developing and underdeveloped world.

The recent launch of the Uganda Oil Projects on April 11, 2021 at which the key agreements for commercialisation of Uganda’s crude oil were signed points to great strides made by the country in ensuring sustainable exploitation and utilisation of Uganda crude oil resources.

This milestone will not only enable the shareholders raise the required financing for the EACOP project, but also de-risks the upstream and refinery projects.

The current global energy demand indicates that oil and gas will continue to play a leading role in the world's energy mix and will remain the largest sources of fuel needed to meet 2040 global demand. Uganda's oil will surely have market, both locally and internationally.

Energy experts have predicted that fossil fuels will still be relevant by 2050 and beyond given the gradual process that all major energy transitions take and the fact that the growing demand for fossils driven by commercial transportation and feedstocks for the chemicals industry still stands.

Whereas the rapid transition will bring new opportunities, energy transitions have been, and will continue to be, inherently prolonged affairs. In large nations with high levels of per capita energy use and massive expensive infrastructure, it is impossible to accelerate this transition even with highly effective interventions.

For developing countries such as Uganda, there is need to consider a balanced approach that does not curtail development of the oil and gas projects. These projects are contributing and will continue to contribute to socio-economic transformation as a result of the opportunities, revenues and impact on other sectors of the economy.

Lastly, to quote NJ Ayuk, the executive chairman of the African Energy Chamber, “On a continent where millions of families are using traditional, hazardous biomass for cooking, where 600 million people lack access to reliable electricity, the idea of leaving valuable oil and, especially, natural gas, in the ground seems neither practical, palatable, nor appropriate.”

corporateaffairs@pau.go.ug

The author is a corporate affairs officer at the Petroleum Authority of Uganda

Comments   

0 #1 Olum S. 2021-09-16 00:38
This is a very misleading headline: the article provides no clear evidence at all of how the government is ‘delicately balancing’ oil exploration and extraction while protecting the environment.

In reality, there is no such evidence available anywhere of this.

The truth is Uganda’s Government has totally abandoned its environmental responsibilities. Uganda’s natural reserves are being depleted at one of the highest rates in the world.

This is due to runaway population explosion, forest reserve and swamp encroachment and destruction, land grabbing by powerfully connected individuals, rampant corruption, the Government’s underfunding of the responsible enforcement agencies, and climate change.

If the above is the reality, then how on earth can the same regime be taken seriously in its attempt at ‘delicately balancing’ the two activities as the columnist claims?
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0 #2 Olum S. 2021-09-16 00:39
Most Ugandans may not be aware, but all oil, coal, and gas explorations and developments must be stopped now, and long before 2030 if the world is to have any chance of successfully combating climate change.

The truth is therefore, if Uganda’s Government seriously valued the nation’s natural reserves, and wanted to protect and preserve them, then it would never have embarked on this oil project in the first place.

Right now, nations are pumping CO2 into the atmosphere at dangerous record levels every year, further increasing global temperatures until they will very soon spiral beyond control.

According to the US-based Environmental Law Alliance, the burning of the 210,000 oil barrels a day that will be transported by the pipeline will produce over 34m metric tonnes of carbon annually, much more than the carbon emissions of Tanzania and Uganda combined.
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0 #3 Olum S. 2021-09-16 00:40
As to whether this project is of any benefit to Uganda, below is a excerpt from a recent article on this topic in the Guardian UK by Diana Nabiruma of Africa Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO); Bill McKibben of 350.org, and Omar Elmawi of #StopEACOP campaign:

“Even on purely economic terms, it’s a terrible bargain. In 2015, the Ugandan government estimated that climate crisis damages will collectively amount to 2-4% of the country’s gross domestic product between 2010 and 2050.”

“This is about $3.2 to $5.9bn annually, losses that will exponentially rise if crude oil extraction, export and use is encouraged. The climate crisis is costing lives and livelihoods in Uganda now, with flash floods and landslides taking lives and destroying public infrastructure such as roads and farmlands. Currently, communities that lived near Lake Albert have been displaced due to increased water levels. Sealed oil wells near Lake Albert were also submerged last year.”
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0 #4 Olum S. 2021-09-16 00:42
Another piece from the above article:

“Other fears about the pipeline are well documented: physical and economic displacement; a delayed compensation process; threats to lives and livelihoods from oil spills; destruction of sites of spiritual value. More than 2,000 sq km of protected wildlife habitat faces significant disturbance. The governments and companies involved won’t even disclose key documents to the public to allow meaningful participation and informed consent. Not surprisingly, more than 1 million people have signed a global petition calling for the project to be axed.”

The climate crisis waits on no one. It doesn’t take into consideration political promises, assurances, pleas for more time by governments or corporations to adjust to the new reality. The change is happening, whether we like it or not.
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0 #5 Olum S. 2021-09-16 00:43
It is therefore clear this project is only alive today because it will mainly benefit the few at the top; namely the President, the First Family, his regime and their hangers-on.

The hoped for revenue from this project is what M7 has been greedily eyeing for years, as it will be used to ensure his army, his regime remains in power.

It is one of the main reasons he has resisted stepping down from power. In the end, this project will end up as nothing but a curse to Uganda. Just another country falling victim to the dreaded oil curse.
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