January 01, 2003

United States Finds Alternative to Middle Eastern Oil

In the May/June 2002 Sustainable Transport e-Update, ITDP reported that U.S. congressional representatives—particularly those who receive campaign dollars from Big Oil and the automobile and highway lobbies—voted against raising vehicle fuel efficiency standards. The standards would have helped wean the U.S. off its increasingly expensive oil habit. Now that the Middle East is more flammable than ever, where is Uncle Sam going to get his fix?

Today the U.S. gets 15% of its oil from Africa. If current Bush administration oil hawks have their way, this figure will increase to 25% by 2015 ? as much as the U.S. currently gets from the Middle East. But that’s not all. The U.S. is also planning to establish a naval base in the Gulf of Guinea, West Africa, to ensure that there are no shenanigans.

And, as fate would have it, the World Bank recently decided to move ahead with the controversial Chad- Cameroon Pipeline, despite the conclusions of the Bank’s own internal Inspection Panel. The Panel found that the pipeline was in violation of at least ten bank policies and procedures, many of which were designed to redress the “Oil Curse.”

In theory, oil development in Africa should lead to a decrease in poverty. The facts, however, indicate the opposite. In Nigeria (where drinking water is often as opaque as “Texas Tea” itself), easy oil money subverts economic diversification and good governance.

The oil industry employs less than 2% of Nigeria’s population while supplying 90% of government revenue. Local fisheries are decimated. In addition, many scientists link Africa’s recent droughts to global warming, which has everything to do with oil.

So what benefits accrue to Africa’s majority? According to a proponent of tapping Africa’s oil, Rep. William Jefferson (D-LA), who earlier this year was among the aforementioned congressmen voting to prolong the SUV age, “Our tradeoff has to be to help to develop Africa with the things that we know in our country work: transportation and information technology.”

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