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The Politics of Oil by Oil firms and government on influencing Climate change Policies

On August 3, 2016, The Daily Monitor reported that the Petroleum Directorate from the Ministry of Energy hailed the coming of four new international oil firms into the Ugandan oil world. These included “Australia’s Armour Energy Limited, WalterSmithPetroman Oil Limited, Oranto Petroleum International Ltd and Niger Delta Petroleum Resources Ltd from Nigeria.” These firms were to join the existing UK’s Tullow Oil PLC, France’s Total E &P and China’ Cnooc. Alongside this, Ugandans (still) continue to have high hopes that this natural resource will dawn our country into the new age of globalization like the Asian tigers.

Almost all these companies belong to the greater lobbyist corporations like FuelZero (representing the likes of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, among others) and The US Chamber of Commerce.

However, the emergence or increase of these firms calls into question the issue of the fossil fuel industry corporations and if they are influencing on Uganda’s climate and energy policies. Almost all these companies belong to the greater lobbyist corporations like FuelZero (representing the likes of Exxon Mobil, Shell, Total, among others) and The US Chamber of Commerce. These corporations with their conflicting interests continue to advise, write and influence UN climate change agreements by any necessary means.  The response of these hailed companies to shy away from the Ngaji block bid due to scare ‘smear campaign from environmental groups’ shows how politicized the question of climate change and oil exploitation language can be. 

Why does ‘everyone’ like the Climate Change card?

Currently, Uganda seats on the untapped rich resource of crude oil in the Albertine region. Also, Uganda could be one of those developing economies that might share on the $100bn by year 2020 from developed countries to transform its economy without emitting or relying on fossil fuels extraction. The Uganda Oil sector itself notices to have faced similar challenges of this oil exploitation thus the lead time for exploration and exploitation in some cases, has been extensive since the world prices of oil tremendously hit lowest 40$ per barrel.

This itself brought in two dilemmas than the country had not foreseen. One, Uganda’s crude oil exploitation meant to be halted in its extraction due to low demand and competition from the world markets big producers like Saudi Arabia, and two; it increased more of its fiscal dilemmas of which it’s alleged big importer and consumer – China, was pampering in money in the extraction construction.

This itself brought in two dilemmas than the country had not foreseen. One, Uganda’s crude oil exploitation meant to be halted in its extraction due to low demand and competition from the world markets big producers like Saudi Arabia, and two; it increased more of its fiscal dilemmas of which it’s alleged big importer and consumer – China, was pampering in money in the extraction construction.

Besides, the West was beginning to panic over China’s hands on Uganda’s oil, the former British colony. The country also looms in survival politics where there is no guarantee that corruption won’t plague the oil sector. With some prominent politicians calling it ‘their oil’, one wonders how will issues of climate change and global warming would be combated or ideally, the benefits from this resource shared for the benefit of all citizens.

In policies like The Uganda National Land Policy 2013 where Climate Change is talked about, it is not broken down to represent issues of who does what and why from the household to the national level, in category of sex, gender, class, race, among others.

Therefore the issue of climate change and reliance on fossil fuels (oil, gas, petroleum, coal) is a political issue filled with political interests. In policies like The Uganda National Land Policy 2013 where Climate Change is talked about, it is not broken down to represent issues of who does what and why from the household to the national level, in category of sex, gender, class, race, among others. And unless climate change policies start incorporating or taking into account with specificity the different categories of people and their expectations, climate policies will always be manipulated by these big oil corporations and political interests at the mere cost of the citizens.  Thus, ‘everyone’ seems to like playing the climate change card because it’s an easy way to channel the blame as something beyond human/stakeholder control, something vested within the hand of God.

Ibrahim Bahati is currently a Climate Tracker’s Fossil Fuel Online Fellow, (2017 Cohort). Email: bahabris@gmail.com

Ibrahim Bahati

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