oil


You invade Bahrain. We take out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. This, in short, is the essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of Saud. (Pepe Escobar 4/2/11)

Why would the ouster of Qaddafi be such a high priority for the United States? One reason could be that Qaddafi has been leading a Pan-African movement under the auspices of the African Union, similar to the unification effort spearheaded by Hugo Chavez in South America. Libya’s oil revenues have played a large role in supporting Qaddafi’s African initiative, which aims for Africa’s economic empowerment by breaking the vestiges of European economic control of Africa. This is a key reason why Qaddafi enjoys varying degrees of popularity in what is sometimes called “Black Africa.” (Imam Zaid Shakir)

Some of the countries in Africa given an assist by Libya (click to enlarge enough to read)

original graphic here

Nov 24, 2010 (Reuters) – Libya is using money from oil exports to pour aid and investment into its African neighbours, a policy which diplomats and analysts say gives it increasing political clout on the continent.

Libyan leader Muammar Gaddafi said earlier this year he was offering to invest $97 billion in the continent to free it from Western influence, on condition that African states rid themselves of corruption and nepotism.

Libya is one of the biggest contributors to the budget of the African Union, the 53-country body which is supposed to function along the lines of the European Union. A senior Libyan diplomat told Reuters Libya is one of five countries — the others are Algeria, Egypt, Nigeria and South Africa — which cover 75 percent of the union’s budget.

BCA March 15, 2011. By 2002, subsidiaries of the country’s sovereign wealth fund, the Libyan Investment Authority (LIA), had accumulated or extended investments in at least 31 countries throughout Africa. The largest investments were in Zambian telecommunications firm Zamtel ($394 million) and in oil storage and pipeline infrastructure linking Moanda to Matadi in the Democratic Republic of the Congo (around $300 million). (h/t MoA)

So what exactly is going on? Here’s the deal:

You invade Bahrain. We take out Muammar Gaddafi in Libya. This, in short, is the essence of a deal struck between the Barack Obama administration and the House of Saud. Two diplomatic sources at the United Nations independently confirmed that Washington, via Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, gave the go-ahead for Saudi Arabia to invade Bahrain and crush the pro-democracy movement in their neighbor in exchange for a “yes” vote by the Arab League for a no-fly zone over Libya – the main rationale that led to United Nations Security Council resolution 1973.

The revelation came from two different diplomats, a European and a member of the BRIC group, and was made separately to a US scholar and Asia Times Online.

… only nine out of 22 members of the Arab League voted for the no-fly zone. The vote was essentially a House of Saud-led operation, with Arab League secretary general Amr Moussa keen to polish his CV with Washington with an eye to become the next Egyptian President.

Thus, in the beginning, there was the great 2011 Arab revolt. Then, inexorably, came the US-Saudi counter-revolution.

Exposed, above all, is the astonishing hypocrisy of the Obama administration, selling a crass geopolitical coup involving northern Africa and the Persian Gulf as a humanitarian operation. As for the fact of another US war on a Muslim nation, that’s just a “kinetic military action”. (Pepe Escobar 4/2/11)

This all fits into the big picture:

In the big picture, the combined role of the Pentagon global tentacles falls under the Full Spectrum Dominance doctrine, which aims to prevent any developing nation, or group of nations, from establishing alliances or preferential relationships with both China and Russia. (Pepe Escobar 3/24/11)

I would add that it is not just ties with Russia and China that are the target of full spectrum dominance, it is any south south ties that would strengthen the power of the developing world and its ability to control its own development and destiny. The Pentagon wishes to prevent ties among the countries of Africa, unless they function through its Africa Command. And they also wish to prevent African ties with Brazil and India, who along with Russia and China comprise the BRIC countries.

In the words of Zbigniew Brzezinski:

… the three grand imperatives of imperial geostrategy are to prevent collusion and maintain security dependence among the vassals, to keep tributaries pliant and protected, and to keep the barbarians from coming together.

And as Mahmood Mamdani points out:

War furthers many interests. Each war is a laboratory for testing the next generation of weapons. It is well known that the Iraq war led to more civilian than military victims.

The debate then was over whether or not these casualties were intended. In Libya, the debate is over facts. It points to the fact that the US and NATO are perfecting a new generation of weapons, weapons meant for urban warfare, weapons designed to minimise collateral damage.

The objective is to destroy physical assets with minimum cost in human lives. The cost to the people of Libya will be of another type. The more physical assets are destroyed, the less sovereign will be the next government in Libya.

The more a country’s physical assets are destroyed, the less sovereign that country will be, anywhere, any country. This is a great convenience for those who wish to exploit the natural resources of that country.

The West has tried to marginalize the African Union before, in Darfur:

For a time the African Union was able to stabilize the situation, … The European Union, who paid the troop salaries, began to withhold funds on grounds of accountability, and it gradually killed off the peacekeeping operations. … “There is a concerted attempt being made to shift the political control of any intervention force … from inside Africa to outside Africa.” In other words, the U.S. and Europe are eager to control the dynamic of what happens in Africa and not allow an indigenous, inter-state agency to gain either the experience this would provide or the respect it would gain if it succeeds. The African Union has been undermined so that only the U.S. can appear as the savior.

Prof. Sam Hamod believes that undermining the African Union is the main goal of the US/NATO assault on Libya. He writes:

… one of the major reasons the US and EU want to get rid of Libya’s Muammar Qaddafi. It’s not about “human rights.” That is a cover — they want to stop Qaddafi’s money that is going to form and support the African Union.

Without Qaddafi’s money, there will be no money for African Union peace-keeping forces, no major unity in Africa and no power to stop the continued colonialism of America and the EU from advancing further into Africa.

This is about not only the EU’s desire to control Libyan “sweet crude,” but also about the West’s attempt at stopping the full development of the African Union.

The reports are now public that the US had CIA boots on the ground in LIbya before the military action, that Obama authorized this secretly several weeks ago, and that the rebel leader has longstanding ties to the CIA. He has been living near Langley in Virginia for years. And he doesn’t just live near Langley, he has CIA ties going back to 1987.

A CIA commander for the Libyan rebels
The agency was very familiar with Hifter’s military and political work. A Washington Post report of March 26, 1996 describes an armed rebellion against Gaddafi in Libya and uses a variant spelling of his name. The article cites witnesses to the rebellion who report that “its leader is Col. Khalifa Haftar, of a contra-style group based in the United States called the Libyan National Army.”

A 2001 book, Manipulations africaines, published by Le Monde diplomatique , traces the CIA connection even further back, to 1987, reporting that Hifter, then a colonel in Gaddafi’s army, was captured fighting in Chad in a Libyan-backed rebellion against the US-backed government of Hissène Habré. He defected to the Libyan National Salvation Front (LNSF), the principal anti-Gaddafi group, which had the backing of the American CIA. He organized his own militia, which operated in Chad until Habré was overthrown by a French-supported rival, Idriss Déby, in 1990.

According to this book, “the Haftar force, created and financed by the CIA in Chad, vanished into thin air with the help of the CIA shortly after the government was overthrown by Idriss Déby.” The book also cites a Congressional Research Service report of December 19, 1996 that the US government was providing financial and military aid to the LNSF and that a number of LNSF members were relocated to the United States.

For more on who is sponsoring the rebels, with information on the British and French involvement as well see:
Who are the Libyan Freedom Fighters and Their Patrons?

So far the rebel forces don’t amount to much. If there is to be a war of rebellion, it will have to be entirely created by the United states, recruiting, arming, and training. The rebels are measured in the hundreds, not thousands:

The rebels are comprised of drivers, teachers, businessmen and other inexperienced fighters striving to shift from being protesters to infantry riflemen.

There is a small group of so-called Special Forces who appear to lead the rebels’ efforts at building a military operation, but they’re only slightly better equipped and trained than the great mass of anti-Gadhafi fighters.

The inexperience is evident: Many, if not most, rebels flee when actual fighting begins. Without allied airstrikes — there were none here on Tuesday — there is no moving forward.

The closer the sounds, the more panicked they became. The flank on the ridge collapsed in minutes as the rebels drove back. Most it turned out had no intention of fighting when it mattered.

Qaddafi is always problematic, even while saying and doing things that are of great benefit, his other words and actions make one cringe. But one can dislike Qaddafi and still understand Libya is a sovereign country.

Certainly, Qaddafi is no angel – likewise Slobodan Milošević and Saddam Hussein were guilty of despotism, crimes against humanity and more. But those who make such charges miss the irony of their rhetoric, given that they support the unbridled use of violence by far more powerful military forces against largely civilian populations, leading to death tolls that far exceed those committed by the puppet dictators they seek to overthrow. That these dictators and despots committed their own atrocities with weapons supplied by Western nations is never mentioned, for doing so would lay bare their hypocrisy. “We must kill to avoid killing,” is the ideology they promote, oblivious to the inherent contradiction that lies within.

And of course, there’s little mention of the genuinely brutal oppression in places like Bahrain, where the Saudi military were called in to massacre protesters there, or the recent outbreak of airstrikes and incursions into Gaza by the IDF over the weekend. Because they’re our “allies” and their crimes – like our own – are completely permissible.
(Andy Dilks)

Libya has the largest estimated oil reserves of any African country. It is also the former home of a US military base, and the US would really like to start basing its Africa Command in Africa.

Qaddafi’s Pan-African effort coincides with the rising economic role of China in Africa. Since 2001, trade between Africa and China has increased from $10 billion to more than $110 billion. The United States has noticed the growing influence of Libya and China in Africa and has responded, in part, by establishing a new American military command for Africa (AFRICOM) in 2006. A critical objective of AFRICOM is to unite the continent’s 53 countries into a unified, pro-American strategic and economic zone, which would involve both regime changes and “humanitarian” interventions to stabilize the continent. Some critics of U.S. policy in Africa say the ultimate objective of AFRICOM is to ensure that America—and not China—becomes the principal foreign beneficiary of Africa’s tremendous wealth.

To date, no African nation has agreed to serve as the hosting country for AFRICOM’s primary base. All of that could change with the emergence of a post-Qaddafi regime in Libya that owes its existence to the US-led intervention. It should be noted that Libya was the home of Wheelus Air Base, the largest American military installation in Africa, before the coup orchestrated by Qaddafi against King Idris in 1969.

While nationalization significantly curtailed the development of Libya’s petroleum and gas resources, Qaddafi has sought to expand exploration and production in partnership with major western oil companies in recent years. The Libyan national oil company, however, still controls the terms of trade, which most western companies view as prohibitive. Western energy companies consider Libya a risky investment climate and are seeking better terms from the Libyan regime. Optimal terms [for the west] could only be obtained by something similar to an “Iraq oil law,” which remains unlikely in Libya while the Qaddafi-led regime is in power. A regime change is likely viewed by many foreign firms as a means to completely opening up access to Libya’s petrochemical resources.

For France, the conflict in Libya offers an opportunity to reassert its control over Niger’s uranium deposits, a critical goal for a country that relies on nuclear power as its primary source of electricity. For decades, France had a monopoly over Niger’s uranium production. Today, France still imports 40% of its uranium from Niger, where it is currently completing the world’s largest uranium mine. (Imam Zaid Shakir)

Humanitarian intervention, particularly the military version, is seldom humanitarian.

Iraq and Afghanistan teach us that humanitarian intervention does not end with the removal of the danger it purports to target.

It only begins with it. Having removed the target, the intervention grows and turns into the real problem. This is why to limit the discussion of the Libyan intervention to its stated rationale – saving civilian lives – is barely scratching the political surface. (Mahmood Mamdani)

Charles Onyango-Obbo in No-fly zone strikes terror in African leaders’ hearts, courtesy of Roger Pociask, discusses the reaction to the assault on Libya from African leaders. Some of them are experiencing a bit of buyers remorse, particularly Nigeria and South Africa who helped approve UN Resolution 1973. He says the public reaction of African leaders can be guaged by how much money they receive from the US. Even so, pro-US leaders feel that the US and NATO have overstepped their authority and are seeking regime change. In West Africa particularly, there is fear of the spillover of violence from Libya into nearby countries.

Some thinkers I have read recently think that the fall of Qaddafi and the end of his financial support will mean the end of Pan-Africanism. Others think that this deliberate assault on Libya will create a resurgence of Pan-African activism. I see signs in a number of places that a resurgence is already underway. The assault on Libya may well strengthen resolve and expand Pan-African efforts.

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The US Africa Command is now at war on the continent of Africa. And not surprising, the war is about oil.

“R2P” – Responsibility to Protect – is the Obama regime’s favored formula for pouring mud in the otherwise clear waters of international law. The philosophy – actually, a political position seeking legal recognition – amounts to a kind of super-power judicial waiver couched in the language of nobles oblige, the obligation of the strong to help the weak. In the real world, the strong only help themselves – in this case, to Libya’s oil reserves, the largest in Africa. (Glen Ford)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA - Arleigh Burke-class guided-missile destroyer USS Stout (DDG 55) launches a Tomahawk missile in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn on March 19, 2011. This was one of approximately 110 cruise missiles fired from U.S. and British ships and submarines that targeted about 20 radar and anti-aircraft sites along Libya's Mediterranean coast. Joint Task Force Odyssey Dawn is the U.S. Africa Command task force established to provide operational and tactical command and control of U.S. military forces supporting the international response to the unrest in Libya and enforcement of United Nations Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 1973. UNSCR 1973 authorizes "all necessary measures" to protect civilians in Libya under threat of attack by Qadhafi regime forces. JTF Odyssey Dawn is commanded by U.S. Navy Admiral Samuel J. Locklear, III. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 2nd Class Nathan Pappas) (20110320132841)

The US is starting its war from its seabase, as in the pictures above.

Libya is among the World’s largest oil economies with approximately 3.5% of global oil reserves, more than twice those of the US.

An invasion of Libya under a humanitarian mandate would serve the same corporate interests as the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq. The underlying objective is to take possession of Libya’s oil reserves, destabilize the National Oil Corporation (NOC) and eventually privatize the country’s oil industry, namely transfer the control and ownership of Libya’s oil wealth into foreign hands.

Libya is a Prize Economy. “War is good for business”. Oil is the trophy of US-NATO led wars.

Wall Street, the Anglo-American oil giants, the US-EU weapons producers would be the unspoken beneficiaries of a US-NATO led military campaign directed against Libya. (Michel Chossudovsky)

MEDITERRANEAN SEA - Petty Officer 2nd Class Joseph Fremen, with Helicopter Sea Combat Squadron (HSC) 22, calibrates the forward looking infrared (FLIR) system of a MH-60S Knight Hawk helicopter on the flight deck of amphibious assault ship USS Kearsarge (LHD 3) in support of Operation Odyssey Dawn, March 19, 2011. The FLIR system allows pilots a 360-degree view of the area surrounding the helicopter. (U.S. Navy photo by Petty Officer 3rd Class Scott Pittman) (20110320131427)

here was francis boyle on the kpfa program letters and politics friday morning (starting at 18:20 in)

if you read the [UN] resolution carefully, effectively it authorizes all-out warfare by the United States, Britain, France, any NATO states that want to join in against Libya, basically to steal their oil. I really think that’s what’s going on here….

It authorizes air strikes, drone strikes, cruise missile attacks on ground targets. The only thing that is expressly excluded is a foreign military occupation force, but that is a carefully drafted distinction from an invading force. When the United States invaded Haiti in 1994 it had 24,000 troops there in Haiti. We always maintained that this was
not a foreign military occupation force. So there is legally a distinction between invading and occupying. So technically, under this resolution, even ground troops can be deployed to Libya. (b real | Mar 18 | 20)

Libyan oil concessions

The workings of the imperial brain are plainly visible in the output of the corporate press, which act as ventriloquist dummies to power. Suddenly, the media have all undergone a crash course in the intractable nature of Libyan tribal politics – a subject until now totally unknown to the western press. After a quick education from the State Department and designated think tankers, corporate media dutifully prepare the public for the possible drawing of an American “line in the sand” somewhere before the gates of Benghazi [see the oil map below]…

“The West is clearly considering the ‘option’ of partitioning Libya.”

Western reporters, who are such quick studies when it comes to tribalisms and other perceived pathologies of exotic, non-western peoples, have not yet figured out who the rebels are, politically.

The western media, and the governments they serve, are caught in crossfire of contradictions. The U.S. wants desperately to position itself on the “right” side of some aspect of the unfolding Arab Reawakening. The West dearly wishes to appropriate to itself a section of the “Arab revolt,” so as to bomb an evil “dictator” on their behalf. The western media’s job is to do the public relations work, presenting these “pro-western” combatants in the most attractive light. However, it appears the media are having trouble packaging the Libyan rebels as sufficiently virtuous “freedom fighters” – one suspects because, on closer inspection, many turn out to be fundamentalists or tribalists.
the merest presence of Islamic fundamentalist fighters would have, in previous times, been reason for a U.S. attack and invasion – against those harboring such elements. (Glen Ford)

Libyan oil permits, oil fields, and pipelines. (click to enlarge enough to read) http://globalresearch.ca/index.php?context=va&aid=23605

Partition and dismemberment of countries with independent governments has been a strategy that the U.S., British and French governments employed in the Kurdish region of Iraq after the 1991 war, in Yugoslavia in the mid-1990’s, and recently in Sudan, which until January was Africa’s largest country. Of course, the biggest prize for imperialist expansion through the act of dismemberment was the break-up of the Soviet Union in 1991. For decades during the so-called Cold War the U.S. government, and especially the Central Intelligence Agency, crusaded on behalf of the “captive nations” of the Soviet Union. Its break-up was immediately followed by the eastward expansion of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization and the incorporation of the western and southern republics of the former Soviet Union into the U.S. sphere of influence.

The breakup or de facto partition of Libya would be a great historical tragedy for the people, but would become a boon for all of the western oil giants.

At the very moment that the UN Security Council condemned the Gaddafi government for the use of violence against the armed rebels in Libya, a U.S.-backed violent suppression of peaceful protestors was underway in Bahrain and Yemen. Today, in response to the killing of more than 40 unarmed protesters in Yemen, the White House statement urged “peaceful, orderly” dialogue, and “an open and transparent process.” The difference is that the Bahraini and Saudi monarchies, and the Yemeni government, exist as client dictatorships of the United States. (Brian Becker)

You can see in the last map just above, of oil permits, fields, and pipelines, that the majority of the permits and the pipelines are on the eastern side of Libya, south of Benghazi, the stronghold of the rebels. These rebels are the US chosen good guys. Keep in mind these “good guys” are prominent among those harassing and killing African migrants in Libya.

The Africa Command in Libya is engaging in imperial acquisition by calling it humanitarian. “They”, Africans, in this case Libyans, are helpless and dangerous, so “we” need to use guns to help them. Just as with other African countries, Libya is treated as a place without history or context, its politics and history characterized only as inexplicable tribal rivalries. This is only the beginning of the more condescension and more war promised by AFRICOM’s General Ham.

Anyone who claims that they know, for sure, that either Allassane Dramane Ouattara or Laurent Gbagbo won the election is fiddling with the truth. Dr. Nfor N. Susungi

Considering the facts, it is difficult for Angola to accept that there is an elected president in La Côte d’Ivoire. We believe however, that there is a constitutional president. Jose Eduardo dos Santos, President Of Angola

Estimated undiscovered and recoverable oil and natural gas off the coast of Ivory Coast, extending through Ghana, Togo, Benin, and the western edge of Nigeria.: 4,071 MMBO, million barrels of oil, 34,451 BCFG, billion cubic feet of gas, and 1,145 MMBNGL, million barrels of natural gas liquids, for the Coastal Plain and Offshore AU in the Gulf of Guinea Province, outlined in red. This does not include current existing discoveries, or fields already in production. Note that it extends along the entire coast of Ivory Coast.

“In any case, people should stop to consider the circumstances under which the election results were declared. The election result was not declared by the Electoral Commission of La Côte d’Ivoire. It was declared by one member of the Electoral Commission of La Côte d’Ivoire, in Hôtel du Golf, which is the Headquarters of the Opposition. He was accompanied to do that declaration by the Ambassador of France and the Ambassador of the United States of America.

Indeed, the declaration was not done before the Ivorian media. The declaration was done, exclusively before the French media. No Ivorian journalist was present when the declaration was made. And it was made in the Headquarters of the Opposition.”
Kwesi Pratt

OUTSIDE MILITARY INTERVENTION IN IVORY COAST

ECOWAS threatened military intervention in Ivory Coast if Gbagbo does not cede the presidency to Ouattara. In January the Commander of the U.S. Army Africa, General Hogg (misspelled Hagg in the article) toured West African countries, including Ghana, looking for commitments of proxy soldiers for military intervention in Côte d’Ivoire.

“Responding to a question from the Commander of the United States Army in charge of Africa, Major-General David Hagg, Lt Gen Blay said the GAF were overstretched because of their international engagements in peacekeeping operations in various trouble spots in the world and that the top brass had made that known to the Commander-in-Chief of the GAF, President John Evans Atta Mills.

He said the GAF also had their commitments to protect the territorial integrity of the country.

Major-General Hagg was in the country to officially find out whether or not Ghana would commit troops to Cote d’Ivoire, should the need arise.”

Gen. David Hogg, the United States Commander in charge of Africa (left), admiring a gift presented to him by Lt. Gen. Augustine Blay, Ghana's Chief of Defence Staff (CDS), at the Burma Camp in Accra, Jan. 12, 2011.

At his New Year’s Press Conference, H.E. President John Evans Atta-Mills presented Ghana’s foreign policy stance on Cote d’Ivoire as one which respects the territorial sovereignty of its neighbor, seeks to use peaceful diplomatic means to resolve the ongoing electoral dispute and puts a priority on the interests of Ghanaians. President Atta-Mills also said in his “personal opinion” he did not believe that military force will be beneficial in resolving the conflict in Cote d’Ivoire and therefore was opposed to a military invasion of Cote d’Ivoire.

President Mills opined that he believed we should be guided by the Fanti saying in relation troubles “Dzi wo fie asem, mind your own house/business. He received a lot of criticism for this, including from the BBC, whose David Amanor missed the point. A better explantion of the use of the proverb is provided by Nii Aryertey Aryeh. Mills consulted with the head of GAF, the Ghana Armed Forces, who said Ghana is already overextended with peacekeeping and does not have enough soldiers or resources to undertake military action in Côte d’Ivoire. It is also the case that at least a million Ghanaians live in Côte d’Ivoire. Their lives would be in significantly more danger if Ghana were to engage in military adventurism there. Mills advocates quiet diplomacy to resolve the situation in Ivory Coast.

The current planning for military intervention is hardly credible. Kwesi Pratt describes what has been committed so far. He gave an interview on Radio Gold (transcript) which is the most detailed description of the entire situation I have seen. Here is the excerpt describing the ECOWAS military commitment:

“You know, Suhuyini, I’d like to start with some definitions first. And then you will see how ridiculous the proposition to go to war is. Listen to me very carefully. I just checked, I am not a military man, so yesterday, I spent some time to go on the internet. And these are the definitions I got from the internet:

A platoon, a platoon, and fortunately Dr. Tony Aidoo is in the studio, having been Deputy Minister of Defence before, he may understand these things better than me.

Dr. Tony Aidoo: It is a small unit.
Kwesi Pratt, Jnr.: A platoon is twenty six to fifty five men. You understand? I will relate it to what I am going to say very soon. A platoon is twenty six to fifty five men. A company is eighty to two hundred and twenty five men. A battalion is three hundred to thousand three hundred men. And a regiment or brigade, is between three thousand and five thousand men and so on.

Now we are saying that the Ghana government is not committed to war. Other nations are committed to war. What is their concrete commitments? Look, ECOWAS chiefs of staff met in Abuja on the 28th of December last year, to consider the military option. So they said, everybody, bring what you have and let’s go to war. Look at what they brought, Suhuyini, it is very interesting!

Liberia…, Liberia, Liberia committed one infantry platoon. To go to war in La Côte d’Ivoire, Liberia contributed twenty six men!

Dr. Tony Aidoo: Hm hm hm! [chuckling]
Kwesi Pratt Jnr.: Sierra Leone committed one infantry company. That is all they committed. One infantry company! Senegal, Senegal which is leading the charge, Senegal and Burkina Faso which are leading the charge listen to what they contributed. Senegal is contributing one commando company, one motorised infantry company, and one battalion headquarters, take note, headquarters, not a battalion, one battalion headquarters with level two hospital. Benin decided to contribute only one mechanised company! One mechanised company!

It is getting more and more interesting. Now you can see the point I am making. Togo, Togo decided to commit one motorised company, and a possible commando company. A “possible”, it is not definite, commando company. Mali decided to contribute one transport company, one engineer company, and one motorised company.

Burkina Faso, Blaise Campoore’s Burkina Faso. Blaise Campoore who is touring the world to make the case for military intervention. He has been to Britain, he’s been to France, he is all over the place! Look at his contribution and you would laugh! Blaise Campoore’s contribution, Burkina Faso’s contribution is one mechanised infantry company, one commando company, and one engineer company. These are the contributions they are making.

This is a reflection of the commitment of West African leaders to war in La Côte d’Ivoire!

Kwesi Pratt, Jnr.: Nigeria’s contribution is this. One motorised or mechanised battalion. One! One F-17 Fighter Squadron,

Dr. Tony Aidoo: A squadron is five people.
Kwesi Pratt, Jnr.; Yeah. One M-135 squadron, one single company and battalion headquarters. Headquarters-ooh? Sea assets, and additional one or two infantry companies, as may be required. And indeed, Nigeria is making the highest contribution.

Dr. Tony Aidoo: They don’t even reach two thousand!

Kwesi Pratt, Jnr.: Master, this force is going to La Côte d’Ivoire to wage war against a regular professional army of eleven thousand men! This is the force that is going to La Côte d’Ivoire to wage war against a regular professional army of eleven thousand men!
… this is their death warrant being signed!

Dr. Tony Aidoo: Suicide mission.
Kwesi Pratt, Jnr..: This is a suicide mission! Suicide mission! My brother, listen to me very carefully. If you have been to Abidjan before, Abidjan is a densely populated city, with high rise buildings and so on To be able to take Abidjan, you need have total air domination. You need to have troops which would take complete control of the ground and so on. In fact, the estimates to be able to do that, the interventionist force needs not less than twenty thousand men, to be able to do this effectively and to do it quickly.

And yet, our leaders in Africa think that with less than two thousand men, and outdated equipment and so on, they will be able to do it! God bless them! They are only sentencing their soldiers to death, painful death on the streets of La Côte d’Ivoire.

I am happy that our Commander-In-Chief, and President, has taken the wise decision not push Ghanaian soldiers into this reckless adventure! The lives of Ghanaian soldiers are important to us!”

The AU is currently asking a group of African leaders to persuade Gbagbo to step down. Their mandate has been extended through February. So far it looks like a stalemate. Ouattara is recognized the winner by the international community, the US and France feature prominently among those declaring Ouattara the winner, and appear to have engineered the announcement that Ouattara won. So it behooves us to examine exactly what happened. The information below comes from Kwesi Pratt (1) Dr. Nfor N. Susungi (2) and The Socialist Forum of Ghana (3). You can listen to Kwesi Pratt’s interview on Radio Gold.

THE FACTS ON THE GROUND

“Now if you are going to respect the facts, what are the facts?

The African Union, which has joined ECOWAS and the UN in insisting on the military option, and insisting that Ouattara won the elections in La Côte d’Ivoire, sent an observer team to La Côte d’Ivoire to observe both the first round and the second round of the elections. The African Union Team was led by Koku Koffigoh, former Prime Minister of Togo.

At the end of the elections, Koku Kofigoh, made a public statement in Abidjan to the effect that the results of the elections were not credible. They were not credible! And that they were vitiated by extreme violence, stuffing of ballot boxes and so on. Indeed it is interesting that two of the AU observers were kidnapped by the New Forces, and it took the intervention of the United Nations to secure their release.

AU sends an Observer Mission, the Observer Mission says the elections are not credible, and yet the AU declares a winner! And insists that we should go to war in order to make the “winner” the President, when its own Observer Mission, headed by a former Prime Minister, says that the elections were not credible!” (1)

Dr. Nfor N. Susungi provides more detail:

Was the Presidential Election in Cote d’Ivoire Free and Fair?

For once, this is the easiest question to answer because the simple answer is NO. It was not possible to conduct free and fair elections in a country which was still cut in half with the rebel Forces Nouvelles (under the direct Command and control of Prime Minister Soro Guillaume) still controlling the northern half, having resisted all attempts to get them to disarm as required by the so-called Accords Politique de Ouagadougou. In spite of the fact that not even ONUCI with nearly 9,000 troops had succeeded in getting the rebels to disarm before the election, pressure was brought by the US and France, through the United Nations, for the elections to proceed.

The exactions that took place during the elections by armed groups in the rebel controlled north were detailed in consistent and concordant reports presented by various observer groups, including that of the African Union led by former Togolese Prime Minister Joseph Koffi KOFFIGOH, who all concluded that the scale of electoral abuses in the northern zone were on such a scale as to discredit the sincerity of the vote in many areas in the North.

Curiously, Curiously, Curiously, we started hearing voices to the effect that the credibility of local (African) observers was questionable. That is because the reports of European and American observers had already given passing marks to the entire election. The racist undertone to the denigrating commentary directed at African observers was absolutely unmistakable. That is when we all began to suspect that there was a grand agenda in this election which was not known to the public.

So who won the last election in Cote d’Ivoire?

Anyone who claims that they know, for sure, that either Allassane Dramane Ouattara or Laurent Gbagbo won the election is fiddling with the truth. …

The only thing that we know with absolute certainty is that Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko, the President of the CEI, having failed to announce the preliminary results within the stipulated 72-hour period, transmitted the election materials to the Constitutional Council after midnight on Wednesday 1/12/2010. Then on Thursday 2/12/2010 he went to Alassane’s campaign HQ at Golf Hotel to attend a press conference and ended up declaring Allassane the winner in a 3 minute speech. None were more stunned at this development than his fellow members of the CEI who were completely taken unawares.

The second thing that we know for sure is that Youssouf Bakayoko announcement at Golf Hotel was carried live on France 24 and other foreign media and that no Ivorian news network was present. The third thing which we know for sure is that the Constitutional Council declared Youssouf Bakayoko’s results invalid for being made after 72-hour deadline and for making it single-handedly in the campaign HQ of one candidate. The Constitutional Council went on to declare on Friday 3/12/2010 Gbagbo the final winner of the election after ruling on the validity petitions which were filed by Gbagbo to the Constitutional Council.

The last thing that we know with absolute certainty is that everyone seems to have taken sides since then and depending on whether you support Laurent Gbagbo or Allassane Dramane Ouattara, each side has been tuning only into the news networks which amplify the information which is favourable to their point of view.

The Constitution vs. the United Nations

Paul Yao Ndre is a Constitutional Lawyer of impeccable credentials and the ruling of the Constitutional Council under his Presidency cannot be dismissed just because he is reportedly a friend of Laurent Gbagbo. Whatever the case, since his ruling, he has come forward to defend the legal grounds on which he made his rulings whereas, nothing has been heard of Mr. Youssouf Bakayoko since he announced the results at Golf Hotel. The question is where is he and why has he gone into hiding? Who and what is he afraid of?

In all fairness to the camp of Allassane Dramane Ouattara, they may have been inclined to accept fatalistically the decision of the Constitutional Council … But unfortunately they were encouraged to engage in dissidence by the belief that there is another jurisdiction above the Constitutional Council when Mr. Choi, the UN Representative publicly disowned the results of the Constitutional Court by “certifying” that the winner of the election was Mr. Allassane Dramane Ouattara.

I listened, live, to the press briefing of Mr. Choi on ONUCI FM at which Ofeibea Quist-Arcton, a well-known Ghanaian journalist asked him, “Are you saying that there are two Presidents in Cote d’Ivoire now?” Mr. Choi replied in the affirmative. From that moment, I knew that Cote d’Ivoire was heading for an abyss and Mr. Choi was a very dangerous international civil servant who had triggered something very sinister which was now unstoppable.” (2)

U.N. mission chief to Ivory Coast Y.J. Choi (L) attends a meeting with Ivory Coast's Alassane Ouattara in Abidjan December 9, 2010. The U.N. Security Council has backed Ouattara as the winner of Ivory Coast's disputed Nov. 28 presidential election. REUTERS/Thierry Gouegnon

________

The Socialist Forum of Ghana fills in more detail with some thought to the long range consequences:

“It is clear that both leaders enjoy significant support and that their supporters genuinely believe that others seek to cheat them out of deserved victory. The imposition of either leader on Ivoirians can only escalate the conflict. La Cote d’Ivoire deserves better.

Pan-African activists must challenge recent declarations made in the names of ECOWAS and the AU as well as the processes through which our regional bodies make critical decisions. The “AU” position was announced by a secretariat official without Council approval and purely on the basis of the supposed ECOWAS position. The Abuja ECOWAS summit itself was attended by only 5 out of 15 eligible heads of State and was apparently conducted on the basis of their “seniority” – i.e. longevity in office. Three of the heads of state present (Presidents Jonathan of Nigeria, Wade of Senegal and Compaore of Burkina Faso) endorsed Ouattara. Presidents Sirleaf-Johnson of Liberia and Mills of Ghana urged caution and engagement. The only other ECOWAS leader that has taken a public position on the matter (President Jammeh of Gambia) has come out in support of President Gbagbo. Three out of sixteen is hardly a democratic majority. It is certainly inadequate for making life and death decisions affecting millions. That the majority of ECOWAS leaders have not spoken to the Ivoirian elections whether of reluctance to attract scrutiny to their own electoral credentials or fear of antagonising the “international community” or sheer short sighted indifference is simply not acceptable. We must demand more of our leaders.

More fundamentally we must challenge the narrative that suggests that La Cote d’Ivoire’s problem is an electoral one. A credible election in La Cote d’Ivoire would help to resolve the larger political crisis. However, the election dispute is only the most immediate of the deep divisions that afflict Ivoirians like. The fundamental division that drives African politics is the division between the incredibly wealthy foreign and local elites that control continental resources and the dispossessed and oppressed African poor that have to sell their labour and surrender their dignity to these elite machines just to survive. This fundamental division in African society has been compounded across the continent by many decades of elite divide-and-rule tactics that promoted secondary identity differences between ordinary working Ivoirians precisely to prevent them from uniting and challenging the elites responsible for their misery.” (3)

[Note: Horace Campbell provides more detail and background on Ivory Coast’s recent history, particularly the divisions mentioned above that have been ruthlessly exploited by the powerful to retain power, quoted here in January.]

“In Cote La d’Ivoire several factors allowed those identity divisions to take on a life of their own in the 21st century. These included the growing challenge to French neo-colonial hegemony in West Africa from the US and from certain regional interests. These also included the collapse of local elite coherence following the death of President Houphouet-Boigny. As neo-colonial power fragmented in the mid-2000s identity politics degenerated to militarisation and partition and a massive increase in the woes of the Ivoirian people. Obviously, the imposition by the “international community” of Alassane Ouattara on such a deeply divided society will not solve the La Cote d’Ivoire crisis. What it will do is however is advance the overall cause of neo-colonialism and set the scene for further conflict between France and the US and allied regional powers for control over La Cote d’Ivoire and regional resources – in particular oil and gas.” (3)

In the western media you will not see much about oil being an issue in Ivory Coast. The news stories all talk about cocoa. But if you look at the map above you can see the significance. And no doubt the prospect of oil money makes the Ivorian presidential contenders more contentious. Oil is most certainly the reason AFRICOM’s General Hogg was seeking troop commitments in January for military intervention.

ON COUNTING THE VOTES

Kwesi Pratt tells us more about the vote counts:

“… take the Vallée du Bandama region in La Côte d’Ivoire, the Electoral Commission comes up with votes, you understand, votes, for Ouattara, you add those votes, they come to one hundred and forty nine thousand votes, and yet the declaration of results gives Ouatarra two hundred and forty four thousand votes! Who would accept this? You go to some other constituencies, turn-out, eh? Is two hundred and fifty per cent of registered voters! Two hundred and fifty per cent of registered voters! Who would accept those results?

Indeed, I asked my colleague and friend, Comrade Kwesi Adu, to do an analysis of the election results, because he does these things. He was an election observer in Guinea and so on, so he is so good at it. And I asked him to do an analysis. In one constituency, Gbagbo won one hundred and eighty per cent of all the registered voters. In the same constituency Ouattara won one hundred and something per cent of registered voters. How do you accept these results? How can you say that these results represent the will of the Ivorian people? By what magic?

So, either people are deliberately lying, or they don’t know the facts, or they are being insincere in the discussion of the Ivorian crisis.” (1)

THE IVORIAN CONSTITUTION

Pratt continues to describe the constitutional issues:

“What Does The Law Of La Côte d’Ivoire Say?
The law of La Côte d’Ivoire says it very clearly that the Electoral Commission of La Côte d’Ivoire declares provisional results. That those provisional results ought to be validated by the Constitutional Council. That is what the law says. So, the Electoral Commission of La Côte d’Ivoire, does not declare who a winner is. It only declares provisional results. It is only the Constitutional Council of La Côte d’Ivoire, which can declare a winner in an election.

Then you have some apologists of Ouattara, they come up and they say, look, the legal position is that that provision of La Côte d’Ivoire Constitution was suspended because an agreement was reached under UN auspices! My brother, this is a joke! Is anybody telling me that the UN, ECOWAS, AU, or any International organisation, can amend the constitution of a country, without reference to the people of that country? Does it make sense?

Even if you accept that the Electoral Commission of La Côte d’Ivoire is an independent Commission, and you accept that the final constitutional authority for declaring results is the Constitutional Council, what you do have in La Côte d’Ivoire is a situation where the electoral Commission has declared one result, and the Constitutional Council has declared another result. What you do have is a political crisis! It is an issue of the legitimacy of two state institutions.
Do You Resolve That By Going To War?”
(1)

Pratt compares the situation to the recent elections in Belarus and in Egypt, in which nobody suggested interfering or sending in troops, despite questions of legitimacy.

“So they [the international community] are acting clearly from a self-interest point of view! And we say, that our self-interest does not matter! So when the President says “Dzi wo fie asem”, then there is a problem! But all of them, every one of them, France, the United States, Britain, all of them they are “dzing their fie asem”! All of them!

None of them is doing what they are doing because they love West Africans more than themselves! They are doing it because of their interests in the strategic resources of La Côte d’Ivoire!

And that is why it is important for us to wake up to that reality and to begin to raise the fundamental questions of law and constitutionality.” (1)

Dr. Nfor N. Susungi tells us more about the constitutional issues:

“The real adversary standing between Allassane Dramane Ouattara and the Presidency of Cote d’Ivoire is not Laurent Gbagbo; it is Professor Paul Yao Ndre, the President of the Constitutional Council. Contrary to what many people seem to think, Paul Yao Ndre is a very able and independent-minded legal thinker who is sure about the legal grounds on which he made his ruling. He has full constitutional powers to make any ruling on the regularity of any aspects of the electoral process including, above all, on the validity of the announcement which was made by Youssouf Bakayoko at Golf Hotel.

On this particular point, his ruling was that the announcement was null and void because it was made after 72-hour foreclosure deadline and in the partisan context of the campaign HQ of one candidate. This is the most important ruling made by Professor Paul Yao Ndre and it is valid and binding. Any one challenging this ruling is attacking an institution, not a person.

The venom which is being poured prematurely on Professor Paul Yao Ndre at the moment is a serious mistake with which the United States should not be associated because even if an ECOWAS intervention force dislodges Laurent Gbagbo, the Armed Forces of Cote d’Ivoire will never swear their allegiance to defend Allassane as President unless he is sworn-in by Professor Paul Yao Ndre. As things stand at the moment, even if the Presidency became vacant, Allassane cannot claim it automatically because Professor Paul Yao Ndre will have no grounds for swearing-in Allassane to occupy the post of President.

The Role of Regional Organizations
Equally shocking has been the role of regional organizations which took their decisions without bothering to hear both sides of the story. Allassane Dramane Ouattara has been proclaimed winner by the “International Community” while Laurent Gbagbo has been declared winner by the Constitutional Council of the Republic of Cote d’Ivoire. None can ignore the other because each one of them can claim to be standing on solid ground.
Clearly, the Ivorian crisis is breaking new ground in defining a new constitutional jurisdiction transcending the concept of sovereign states as defined and understood under the UN and AU charter. That new and emerging constitutional jurisdiction is known vaguely as “the International Community”. The powers that his new jurisdiction has arrogated to itself include the power to certify elections in a sovereign state and to declare war on a sovereign state. It is not yet clear whether the Ivorian crisis is a one-off situation or whether it is part of an emerging trend.

If it is part of a trend, then it is necessary for the world to get together very quickly and adopt some convention defining who “the International Community” is and what are its powers of intervention in the affairs of sovereign states. Failing that, we should expect that the world, and more particularly Africa, will enter a period of political instability on a scale never known before.

It is regrettable that it is only after the last ECOWAS summit unilaterally declared war on Laurent Gbagbo that they finally decided to send a delegation to deliver the ultimatum to Laurent Gbagbo. This is a watershed event in African history. The damage is already done. If the ECOWAS war does breakout, Africa will face its greatest challenge since the advent of independence in the Gold Coast in 1957. ECOWAS and UEMOA are now in deep trouble. The break-up of ECOWAS is on the cards if war breaks out and the withdrawal of Cote d’Ivoire from the CFA zone is also a possibility.” (2)

THE WHOLE PICTURE

Kwesi Pratt quotes His Excellency, Jose Eduardo dos Santos, The President Of Angola, who sums up the issues clearly and unequivocally.

“The facts specifically tell us the following;

One: The president of the Electoral Commission released the results of the second round of the presidential election, when it was out of his competence to do so, since his time, for purposes defined by law, was expired and since the issue had been transferred to the Constitutional Council for due consideration and treatment.

Two: The United Nations representative in Côte d’Ivoire in a hastened move, certified and announced those results when the relevant UN resolution states that the certification should focus on election results validated by the Constitutional Council, which had not yet made a pronouncement.

Three: The declaration by the United Nations representative misled the whole international community.”

And Listen very carefully,. The President of Angola says:

“The declaration by the United Nations representative misled the whole international community, since the Constitutional Council had not validated the provisional results released by the president of the Electoral Commission as a result of having accepted objections and complaints of serious irregularities and fraud which undermined these results.

Four: The Constitutional Council is in fact the only organ with the legal competence to validate and publish the final results of the elections.

Five: Under the law, The Constitutional Council should recommend the holding of new elections within 45 days, but it did not proceed in this manner and instead reported results that attributed the victory to another candidate.

Considering the above facts, it is difficult for Angola to accept that there is an elected president in La Côte d’Ivoire.

We believe however, that there is a constitutional president…,”

And this is very important, listen to the Angolan position:

“We believe however, that there is a constitutional president, the current president of the republic, who happens to be Laurent Gbagbo, who must remain in power until the new election as established by the electoral law of that country. The greatest difficulty now is that the 45 days are not enough to create a favourable climate for elections, and the current crisis complicates the matter further.

We are therefore of the opinion that any military intervention in the particular case of Côte d’Ivoire would have an adverse effect, with serious consequences beyond its borders.

The Angolan Executive supports and encourages dialogue and negotiations to overcome the crisis in this brother country, and believes that by demonstrating political will, wisdom, and realism, it is possible to find a solution that focuses, first and foremost, on the legitimate interests of all the people of Côte d’Ivoire.” (1)

Why does the international community want military intervention? The forces proposed are obviously hopelessly inadequate for the job. Nothing could be accomplished by them except to provoke instability and prolonged civil war. Is instability and civil war the objective? Would that help neo-colonial predators extract natural resources on their own terms? (death and suffering for you, money for us) Military intervention will burn all the parties involved, except perhaps certain multinational corporations engaged in extractive industries.

Côte d’Ivoire is in a state of profound political and constitutional crisis over the legitimacy of state institutions The imposition of either leader on Ivorians can only escalate the conflict. War will escalate the problems and delay any solutions. The country needs dialog and peaceful negotiations and diplomatic assistance. Angola’s President is correct in stating that Côte d’Ivoire has a constitutional president, but not an elected one. Ultimately Côte d’Ivoire needs to hold a new election. Although that may not help until it comes to better terms with who gets to vote, who runs the polls, and who counts the votes. The international community needs to back off from stepping in and overriding the constitution of a sovereign nation.

In February 2010 the USGS published: Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of Four West Africa Geologic Provinces (USGS Fact Sheet 2010-3006)

Four geologic provinces located along the northwest and west-central coast of Africa recently were assessed for undiscovered oil, natural gas, and natural gas liquids resources as part of the U.S. Geological Survey’s (USGS) World Oil and Gas Assessment. Using a geology-based assessment methodology, the USGS estimated mean volumes of 71.7 billion barrels of oil, 187.2 trillion cubic feet of natural gas, and 10.9 billion barrels of natural gas liquids.

Figure 1: Locations of four assessed geologic provinces located along the northwest and west-central coast of Africa.

Table 1. West Africa Provinces assessment results for undiscovered, technically recoverable oil, gas, and natural gas liquids.
Largest expected mean field size in million barrels of oil and billion cubic feet of gas; MMBO, million barrels of oil. BCFG, billion cubic feet of gas. MMBNGL, million barrels of natural gas liquids. Results shown are fully risked estimates. For gas accumulations, all liquids are included as natural gas liquids (NGL). Undiscovered gas resources are the sum of nonassociated and associated gas. F95 represents a 95 percent chance of at least the amount tabulated; other fractiles are defined similarly. AU, assessment unit; AU probability is the chance of at least one accumulation of minimum size within the AU. NGL, natural gas liquids. TPS, total petroleum system. Gray shading indicates not applicable.

West Africa Provinces assessment results for undiscovered, technically recoverable, gas, and natural gas liquids

The entire document is 2 pages, linked from here: Assessment of Undiscovered Oil and Gas Resources of Four West Africa Geologic Provinces. Due mostly to the odd way they have handled fairly simple graphics, the 2 page document is 7.5MB. I’ve made the map and the chart into web graphics here. You can click on them here to enlarge.

When you read about US foreign policy in West African countries, or about US Africa Command activities in West Africa, keep the map above in mind.

________

NOTE: The figures above refer only to undiscovered oil. They do not include fields that have already been discovered and whose size is known, and do not include fields already in production.

The areas marked on the map do include fields that have already been discovered, and fields already in production, since many discoveries and production are in those same geologic provinces where there are estimates of undiscovered oil.

Dec. 15, 2010 marked a great day in the lives of many Ghanaians because Ghana joined the list of countries producing oil on a commercial basis. The question on most people’s minds is: How does this benefit us (Ghanaians)?

Ghana's President John Atta Mills turns on the valve to allow the first barrel of crude to flow from the Jubilee offshore oil field on Dec. 15. Ghanaians welcomed their country's first oil on Wednesday, optimistic they can enjoy the economic benefits without the troubles that oil wealth has brought other African countries. CTM Communications/Tullow Oil/Reuters

His Excellency John Atta Mills, President of Ghana, was in Sekondi-Takoradi, where he was flown offshore to the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah to open the valves to make way for the flow of first oil. Jubilee Partners, which include Tullow Oil plc (34.7 percent), Anadarko Petroleum Corp (23.49 percent), Kosmos Energy (23.49 percent), Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC) (13.75 percent), Sabre Oil and Gas (2.81 percent) and E.O. Group (1.75 percent) participated in a formal celebration to commemorate the first oil, hosted by the president at the Takoradi Air force base.

The first phase of production at the Jubilee oilfield has begun, ramping up to 55,000 barrels of oil per day (BOPD) this month and 120,000 BOPD during the first half of 2011 as additional wells are completed. This marks the beginning of Ghana’s first significant commercial oil production and will allow the country to join the ranks of sizable West African oil exporters.

Estimates on the quantum of Ghana’s oil wealth vary hugely. The common starting point is that Jubilee will produce about 120,000 barrels per day and some $1.2 billion in government revenue a year for 20 years.

Map of Ghana offshore oil fields including Jubilee, Tweneboa, and Dzata

The adjacent Tweneboa field is reckoned to be as big as Jubilee’s, but industry experts forecast the biggest finds will be onshore in the Keta basin. With companies like Exxon Mobil, BP, ENI and Sinopec vying to buy equity in the Jubilee field, the assumption is that Ghana has several billion barrels of reserves.

Location of the Keta basin study area, wells and proximity to other fields in the Gulf of Guinea Province.

David Throup of Online Africa Policy Forums Blog points out that:

Ghana urgently needs to improve its infrastructure: it needs new sewers and water pipes and ring-roads in Accra, a revamped electricity grid, improved generating facilities at Akosombo, improved rail-links from Accra to Kumasi and Tamale and on to Burkina Faso, and a renewed and extended network of secondary and tertiary feeder roads through the rural hinterland. Others will argue for improving educational and health facilities. Such development spending would generate employment in construction and ancillary services, and hopefully promote sustained economic activity and growth. In a society where 60-70 percent of the population depends on smallholder agriculture for their livelihoods and 90 percent of the population in urban areas depends on the informal sector, such job-generating spending could be beneficial. But the money must be spent wisely and over a number of years if it is not to exacerbate inflation and exceed Ghana’s capacity to absorb the spending.

Ghana enters new era with oil field launch

TAKORADI, Ghana, December 15 – Ghana joined the ranks of Africa’s oil exporters on Wednesday, pledging to work to ensure lucrative new revenues further bolster one of the continent’s rising star economies.

John Atta Mills, the president of Ghana, wearing safety gear and blue overalls, opened the valves in a televised ceremony at the 330-metre-long floating platform some 40 miles (60 km) off the west African country’s Atlantic coast.

Initial production of around 120,000 barrels per day will rank Ghana as sub-Saharan Africa’s seventh largest producer, with output set to double within three years.

The start of commercial production came just three years after discovery of oil at the field, named Jubilee to mark the timing of the find 50 years after independence in 1957.

“After a long wait, the day has come,” Mr Mills said.

“But … it means that we are assuming a very serious responsibility. And especially for those who are in leadership positions, we must ensure that it becomes a blessing not a curse,” he warned.

Aside from state-owned Ghana National Petroleum Corporation (GNPC), top players in Jubilee include UK-listed operator Tullow Oil, US producer Anadarko Petroleum and privately held US energy firm Kosmos.

The event underlines the importance of the Gulf of Guinea as a growing source of energy to consumers such as the US, where some see it supplying a quarter of US oil by 2015.

The region already counts Nigeria, Equatorial Guinea, Gabon and Congo Republic as exporters and others such as Liberia and Sierra Leone are hopeful of joining the club.

Ghana has taken advice in how to manage its oil sector from countries including Norway, and is anxious to avoid the strife and corruption which nearby Nigeria’s oil has brought.

“It will be a blessing because we are all jobless and poor,” said Brian Salmon, a 17-year-old small-holder in the western region coastal town of Takoradi.

“Normally when oil comes everybody is fighting to get their daily bread, but we Ghanaians have an understanding and will avoid conflict,” he added.

Ghana is the world’s second largest cocoa producer after neighbouring Ivory Coast and Africa’s number two gold miner. It has a $750m eurobond currently yielding about 6.4 per cent.

Ghana expects Jubilee’s oil and gas to help double its growth rate to more than 12 per cent next year, funding projects to boost infrastructure and laying the foundation for new industrial sectors. New data on Wednesday showed inflation running at 18-year lows.

Analysts say that while two decades of multi-party politics have led to a level of governance others in the volatile region can only dream of, Accra has dragged its heels on drafting the legal framework needed to manage the oil revenues.

Total revenue from oil into the 2011 budget is put at only 1.9 per cent of GDP. Although this is due to rise over the years, the initial impact on the economy is seen as modest.

Many are concerned a complex petroleum revenue management bill has yet to be voted by parliament and note the current draft allows 70 per cent of revenues to be used as collateral against loans, a possible incitement to excess borrowing.

“As a country we have a fairly terrible track record of hedging our commodities,” said Emmanuel Gyimah-Boadi of Ghana’s Centre for Democratic Development.

Ghana failed to tuck away proceeds from its assets in time to cushion it from a price slump in 2000, forcing it to seek $3.7bn debt relief two years later. Its budget deficit is set to finish 2010 just under 10 per cent of national output.

In a saga that unnerved some potential investors, Kosmos in August called off what sources close to the deal said was a $4bn pact to sell its stake to ExxonMobil after resistance from GNPC, which wants to raise its own holding.

Ghana Pumps First Official Oil

History was recorded yesterday in the Western Region when President Atta-Mills turned the valve on the FPSO Kwame Nkrumah to signify the beginning of the production of crude oil in commercial quantities in the Jubilee oil field.

It was a memorable occasion for all Ghanaians many who stayed glued to their TVs at home and work places to watch the programme live. The function itself took place at the Takoradi Air Force base and was graced by two former Presidents, Jerry John Rawlings and John Agyekum Kufuor as well as Ministers of State, members of the diplomatic corps, Members of Parliament, Chiefs and Ghanaians from all walks of life.

Also present were the jubilee partners; Tullow Oil plc, Anadarko, EO Group, Cosmos, Sabre and GNPC who are the shareholders of the Jubilee field.

At about 10 am, President Mills arrived on the FPSO in a helicopter and went through the safety briefing before being led by a Tullow official to the pipeline where he turned open the valve to open the pipes for the crude oil to gush through.

Ghana’s oil is the light sweet crude kind that is much sought after in the international market. The Jubilee Field will produce an initial 55,000 barrels of oil per day, but with the development of more wells, production is expected to hit 120,000 barrels per day.

The first export of oil will be in the first week of January 2011 to the United States of America and other European countries with the rest being used for domestic purposes. President John Evans Attah Mills, after turning open the valve, went ahead to interact with some Ghanaian engineers and doctors working in the vessel. Dr. Claudia Donkor and trainee engineers Emmanuel Kojo Dei and Francis Antwi were part of those the President interacted with. They expressed their joy at being part of the historic occasion.

Addressing a large gathering at the Takoradi Air Force base later on, President Mills paid glowing tributes to Former Presidents Rawlings and Kufuor for their immense contribution towards the production of crude oil in commercial quantities in Ghana.

He said former president Rawlings “clearly laid a massive foundation for what we are witnessing today. President John Agyekum Kufour continued from where President Rawlings left off. He also devoted attention to the oil.”

President Mills also paid special homage to Former GNPC boss, Tsatsu Tsikata under whose watch great strides were made towards the discovery of crude oil in commercial quantities in Ghana.

The President also applauded the efforts of the Jubilee partners in concluding Ghana’s odyssey to crude oil production in commercial quantities but reminded them on the need to respect all the agreements signed especially the fact that local content in the production process must be a priority.

Touching on the concerns raised by Chiefs in the Western Region about the need to use 10% of the oil revenue to develop the region, the President assured them that the region would be given priority.

“The Western Region where the oil and gas is located will be given the pride of place as far as development is concerned. Indeed there will be a massive development within the Western Region in the next few months,” he said.

With production beginning, Ghanaians are hoping that the under development that has been the lot of the country for years would soon be a thing of the past.

I spoke with Ghana. Everyone was watching on tv and feeling some pride. We are all watching with hope and trepidation in our hearts. In all too many cases we are watching with greed in our hearts as well. May we protect ourselves from the ill effects of our own greed and the immense greed from outside Ghana’s borders. And may all Ghanaians share and enjoy the benefits and positive opportunities the oil offers.

We have a laboratory that shows us what happens to a vital and sensitive coastal wetland subjected to massive and repeated oil spills. So far very little has been done to study it. The Niger Delta, one of the 10 most important wetland and coastal marine ecosystems in the world, has experienced an average of one oil spill per day, collectively the equivalent of one Exxon Valdez spill per year, for five decades, 50 years. Half the life created in a warm coastal wetland is created in the top two millimeters of slime on the surface of the marsh mud, the food base of the entire coastal wetland, as illustrated below. If this layer is covered by oil and dies, all the animals up the food chain risk starvation. In the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold. you can hear a man telling us that in his Niger Delta fishing community where they have fished for generations, there is now no one who can make a living as a fisherman.

Half of the all the life created in the nature-rich Louisiana coast, one of the world's most productive estuaries, or in any warm coastal wetland, takes place in the thin layer of slime on top of the marshes. Microscopic creatures are a key part of the Gulf marsh ecosystem. (nola.com, click to enlarge enough to read)

Right now BP’s Deep Horizon well is spilling what may be the equivalent of one or more Exxon Valdez spills per week. The well may be compromised downhole (from dougr at the Oil Drum) and leaking in multiple locations. How, and even if it can be stopped are open questions to which no one appears to know the answer. In the Niger Delta we have the laboratory for how this massive a spill might effect people, plants, animals, land, and water. But it has been very little studied. The effects of this oil spilling on people has been almost completely ignored.

Meredeth Turshen wrote of the Niger Delta in 2004:

Specific effects of oil development on women’s health seem not to have been investigated. Although I found an article on the effects of exposure of crocodiles to sub-lethal concentrations of petroleum waste drilling fluid in the Niger Delta basin, I could find nothing on the health of women who live near oil wells and oil production stations, and nothing on reproductive outcomes in areas adjacent to petrochemical plants. Yet it is known that cadmium, chromium, mercury, and lead are contained in the refinery effluents that are constantly discharged into nearby bodies of water. At high concentrations these metals cause metabolic malfunctions in human beings. They enter the food chain through the drinking water and the local fish that people consume.

Right now we are just beginning to see similar exposure to US citizens.

Oil spills have destroyed lives and livelihoods throughout the Niger Delta. You can see and hear what has happened to people:
Click here to view the 8 minute video Curse of the Black Gold.
It is based on Ed Kashi’s book of the same name, Curse of the Black Gold.

Neither the oil companies nor the Nigerian government want anyone to know what is going on. Investigation and research is actively discouraged. Those engaged in research or reporting may find themselves threatened and at risk of arrest, beatings, injury and death. And now The Mercenaries Take Over, mostly hired by the oil companies to protect their interests and prevent interference and investigation.

The same thing is happening in the Gulf of Mexico. BP has hired mercenaries to keep the news media and the public away from the places the oil has come ashore and prevent investigation.
Louisiana response to Gulf of Mexico oil spill obstructed by BP and federal agencies, state officials say
or
Barriers to news coverage of Gulf of Mexico oil spill remain despite promises

Journalists covering the Gulf of Mexico oil spill have been yelled at, kicked off public beaches and islands and threatened with arrest in the nearly three weeks since the government promised improved media access.

The threats and dangers are not now as pervasive and severe as in the Niger Delta. But they are there, and this is just the beginning. You can see in the following picture the vast extent of the oil spill, covering 18, 473 square miles on June 19, and growing. Much of that oil will be coming ashore in the wetlands. Storms are likely to drive it to land and inland. Much oil remains suspended in the water along with a great deal of methane that has been escaping with the oil. The oil and methane will kill marine life and make their habitat uninhabitable.

Strong thunderstorms form large, dense masses of bright white cloud in this MODIS/Aqua satellite image of the northeast Gulf of Mexico taken the afternoon of June 19, 2010. But it's clearer than the MODIS/Terra image taken the day before, and reveals fresh oil upwelling around the location of the leaking Macondo well, source of the ongoing BP / Deepwater Horizon oil spill. Slicks and sheen span 18,473 square miles (47,847 km2) on this image. Thin patches of slick and sheen appear to be making landfall from Gulf Shores, Alabama to Perdido Key in Florida, and from Grayton Beach State Park to the Seacrest / Rosemary Beach area along the Florida coast. (from SkyTruth on Flickr: flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4722626008/ , click to enlarge)

In Nigeria Claytus Kanyie says:

The aquatic life of our people is dying off. There used be shrimp. There are no longer any shrimp.

And another Nigerian fisherman speaks:

If you want to go fishing, you have to paddle for about four hours through several rivers before you can get to where you can catch fish and the spill is lesser … some of the fishes we catch, when you open the stomach, it smells of crude oil.

Soon this will be true in the Gulf of Mexico, as will all the health effects and economic impact of wetlands saturated with oil, and of a sea depleted of oxygen and filled with oil and toxic chemicals.

“I’ve never seen this kind of attitude, where safety doesn’t seem to matter.”

“Very big fish and very prized fish are moving in to spawn — it’s a critical time of the year … Larvae from the fish may end up eating droplets of oil.”

This post continues Deep Water Drilling – What Can Go Wrong?

Oil continues gushing from the Deepwater Horizon well. The big questions are still: what exactly happened, what is being done about it, and where is the oil going? Keep in mind that regardless of what safeguards or prohibitions the United States puts on deep water drilling in its own coastal waters, it still wants the drilling to continue and expand around the world, and so do all the world’s oil consumers. What is happening in the Gulf of Mexico could happen all along the Gulf of Guinea, and in increasingly numerous locations all around the world. Would governments be able to hold the oil companies to account for timely fixes and for damages? So far the US government is doing a poor job of protecting or investigating. There are lessons and warnings in the US Government’s approach to analysing and cleaning up following the spill.

I saw the satellite view of the spreading oil spill from May 4. The oil sheen nearest the leaking well, at the bottom of the picture, looks like a horse leaping out of the ocean and towards the gulf coast. The shape is not necessarily significant, but I certainly found it apocalyptically evocative, you can see in the detail and the original below.

Detail of the oil slick spreading in the Gulf of Mexico from a satellite picture taken May 4, 2010, and posted by SkyTruth on Flickr. The shape of the slick nearest the well looks like a horse leaping from the ocean and charging towards the Gulf coast

Oil slick spreading from the Deep Water Horizon oil well on May 4, 2010, flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4579765702/

60 Minutes interviewed a survivor of the Deepwater Horizon blowout. Based on information in that program, it looks like BP was reckless and irresponsible.

Williams says there was an accident on the rig that has not been reported before. He says, four weeks before the explosion, the rig’s most vital piece of safety equipment was damaged.

What strikes Bea is Williams’ description of the blowout preventer. Williams says in a drilling accident four weeks before the explosion, the critical rubber gasket, called an “annular,” was damaged and pieces of it started coming out of the well.

Here’s why that’s so important: the annular is used to seal the well for pressure tests. And those tests determine whether dangerous gas is seeping in.

“So if the annular is damaged, if I understand you correctly, you can’t do the pressure tests in a reliable way?” Pelley asked.

“That’s correct. You may get pressure test recordings, but because you’re leaking pressure, they are not reliable,” Bea explained.

Williams also told us that a backup control system to the blowout preventer called a pod had lost some of its functions.

“What is the standard operating procedure if you lose one of the control pods?” Pelley asked.

“Reestablish it, fix it. It’s like losing one of your legs,” Bea said.

This is a detail of the blowout preventer from the PDF: media.nola.com/news_impact/other/oil-cause-050710.pdf

You can see the complete diagram with a link to the PDF at Diagram of what happened. There is also a graphic that shows how leaking oil well might be plugged by the ‘top kill’ method. This has only been done on land before, not under the pressures at 1 mile deep.

There is an even larger potential danger from BP looming in the Gulf discussed in the 60 Minutes report:

Now, there is new concern about another BP facility in the Gulf: a former BP insider tells us the platform “Atlantis” is a greater threat than the Deepwater Horizon.

Ken Abbott has worked for Shell and GE. And in 2008 he was hired by BP to manage thousands of engineering drawings for the Atlantis platform.

They serve as blueprints and also as a operator manual, if you will, on how to make this work, and more importantly how to shut it down in an emergency,” Abbott explained.

But he says he found that 89 percent of those critical drawings had not been inspected and approved by BP engineers. Even worse, he says 95 percent of the underwater welding plans had never been approved either.

“Are these welding procedures supposed to be approved in the paperwork before the welds are done?” Pelley asked.

“Absolutely. Yeah,” Abbott replied. “They’re critical.”

Abbott’s charges are backed up by BP internal e-mails. In 2008, BP manager Barry Duff wrote that the lack of approved drawings could result in “catastrophic operator errors,” and “currently there are hundreds if not thousands of Subsea documents that have never been finalized.”

I’ve never seen this kind of attitude, where safety doesn’t seem to matter
(NYT)

Additionally:

Costly, time-consuming test of cement linings in Deepwater Horizon rig was omitted, spokesman says

BP hired a top oilfield service company to test the strength of cement linings on the Deepwater Horizon’s well, but sent the firm’s workers home 11 hours before the rig exploded April 20 without performing a final check that a top cementing company executive called “the only test that can really determine the actual effectiveness” of the well’s seal.

And what is happening to the oil, where is it going?

Scientists are finding enormous oil plumes in the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico, including one as large as 10 miles long, 3 miles wide and 300 feet thick in spots. The discovery is fresh evidence that the leak from the broken undersea well could be substantially worse than estimates that the government and BP have given.

There’s a shocking amount of oil in the deep water, relative to what you see in the surface water,” said Samantha Joye, a researcher at the University of Georgia who is involved in one of the first scientific missions to gather details about what is happening in the gulf. “There’s a tremendous amount of oil in multiple layers, three or four or five layers deep in the water column.”

The plumes are depleting the oxygen dissolved in the gulf, worrying scientists, who fear that the oxygen level could eventually fall so low as to kill off much of the sea life near the plumes. (NYT)

For wildlife offshore, the damage from a spill can be invisible but still deadly (click to enlarge enough to read)

Spills Effects Underwater

In addition to measuring the amount of oil, researchers need to study the effect on fish larvae and bacteria, he said. “Very big fish and very prized fish are moving in to spawn — it’s a critical time of the year,” he told HuffPost. “Larvae from the fish may end up eating droplets of oil.

Steiner said NOAA is not only failing to fully measure the impact of the spill, but, he said, “if they rationally want to close and open fisheries, then they need to know where this stuff is going.” (Huffington Post)

The highly toxic chemicals BP is pumping in at the leak and using on the surface to disperse the oil could have an even more toxic effect on sea life, and up the food chain, than the oil. The government is now started thinking about this: Gulf oil spill: EPA orders BP to use less toxic dispersant and the White House has asked BP to be more transparent. I doubt asking, even from the White House, will make a big difference.

The US Government looks like it is using the Niger Delta as a model for its response. BP and the Coast Guard turned away CBS news and threatened them with arrest. BP Attempts to Block Media From Filming Extent of Oil Spill Disaster.

As concerns about the growing devastation the BP oil spill has inflicted on Gulf Cost communities increase, reports have surfaced that BP is blocking members of the press from filming the extent of the damage. A CBS news crew attempted to film a beach in South Pass, Louisiana, obscured by a thick coat of oil, and was barred from doing so by BP contractors and two coast guard officers aboard a boat who threatened to arrest the film crew. When asked why filming along the beach was not permitted they were told, “This is BP’s rules, it’s not ours.”

This is not the first report of such an incident. There have been other reports of camera and video equipment being confiscated or banned.

… After a boat tour of the affected areas along the coast, Jindal stated “the day that we have all been fearing is upon us today. This wasn’t tar balls. This wasn’t sheen. This is heavy oil in our wetlands. It’s already here but we know more is coming.”

The amount of oil sweeping the coast has caused many to believe that BP has misled the white house, government officials and the public by alleging that only 5,000 barrels of oil a day are leaking from the Deepwater Horizon. In fact, some scientists believe that approximately 25,000 barrels of oil could be leaking a day. Some reports have quoted a number as high as 80, 000 barrels of oil a day. These numbers have prompted Congressman Edward Markey to send a letter to BP asking the question that has been on everyone’s mind: “how much oil is leaking into the Gulf and how much oil can be expected to end up on our shores and our ocean environment?”

The fact that the Coast Guard is assisting BP in blocking the public’s right to know is particularly worrisome. Using Nigeria as a model, in the Niger Delta we have seen repeatedly the Nigerian government and the oil companies pointing at each other and saying we can’t do anything, our hands are tied, they are the only ones with the authority/ability/responsibility to act.  Anyone who tries to observe or investigate is subjected to arrest or worse. And nothing gets done for environmental protection or infrastructure development. In fact we can look at the Niger Delta to see the environmental effects when enormous amounts of oil are spilled on coastal wetlands.

Up to 13 million barrels of oil have spilled in the Niger Delta ecosystem over the past 50 years, representing about 50 times the estimated volume spilled in the Exxon Valdez disaster in Alaska in 1989. Niger Delta Natural Resource Damage Assessment and Restoration Project, PDF.

The EPA is saying BP is collecting the data, and they can’t compel BP to publish it, BP withholds oil spill facts — and government lets it.

WASHINGTON — BP, the company in charge of the rig that exploded last month in the Gulf of Mexico, hasn’t publicly divulged the results of tests on the extent of workers’ exposure to evaporating oil or from the burning of crude over the gulf, even though researchers say that data is crucial in determining whether the conditions are safe.

As Cynthia Kouril points out:

The EPA, the Coast Guard and OSHA don’t need anybody’s permission to take air or water samples. They don’t need anybody’s permission to ask those shrimp boat captains to wear a second air quality monitoring patch and turn those back to OSHA for analysis. They don’t need anybody’s permission to send their own remote cameras or submarines down to take pictures of the plume—at least NASA seems to “get” this, the space station folks have been taking photos of the oil spill without waiting for BP’s blessing.

BP may control the data from the patches on the shrimp boater’s sleeves and it may control its own data — which could still be pried loose with either an administrative or criminal subpoena, and probably should be — but nothing prevents the government from doing its own sampling. The notion that the federal agencies responsible for environmental, health and safety are somehow helpless bystanders is just nuts, or bullpucky. In fact, EPA, like NASA has already begun its own efforts.

The oil is now on its way out of the Gulf:

More oil than is already visible could be entering the Loop Current, which could carry it past the Florida Keys and up the Atlantic coast.

MODIS/Terra satellite image taken May 17, 2010, shows oil slick being entrained in the Loop Current, with a broad conveyor-belt-like extension of the slick sweeping in a gentle arc to the southeast and reaching 222 miles (357 km) from the location of the leaking well. Slick and sheen covers 10,170 square miles (26,341 km2), almost 100% larger than was visible in the 5/14 radar image.

The Loop Current that sometimes forms in the Gulf of Mexico connects to the Florida Current that is part of the Gulf Stream system. On the average, the inner edge of the Florida Current is within 10 miles of Miami and Ft. Lauderdale, FL. In this illustration of the Loop Current and the Florida Current, the colors on the color wheel correspond to the directions of the currents, blue, red, cyan, yellow for north, south, east, and west.

“The fact that NOAA has missed the ball catastrophically on the tracking and effects monitoring of this spill is inexcusable,” said Rick Steiner, a University of Alaska marine conservationist … “They need 20 research ships on this, yesterday.”

Steiner explained: “This is probably turning out to be the largest oil spill in U.S. history and the most unique oil spill in world history,” on account of it occurring not on or near the surface, but nearly a mile below.

“They should have had a preexisting rapid response plan,” he told HuffPost. “They should have had vessels of opportunity — shrimp vessels, any vessel that can deploy a water-column sampling device — pre-contracted, on a list, to be called up in an event that this happened. And they blew it. And it’s been going on for a month now, and all that information has been lost.”

“I think that should be one of our biggest concerns, getting the technology and the research to try to understand how big this amorphous mass of water is, and how it moves,” he said.

It’s like an iceberg. Most of it is below the surface. And we just have no instruments below the surface that can help us monitor the size, the concentration and the movement.” (Huffington Post)

Envisat ASAR radar satellite image (black and white) taken May 18, 2010, shows oil slick entrained in the Loop Current and spreading out to the southeast. Slick and sheen covers 15,976 square miles (41,377 km2), about 50% larger than seen in yesterday's MODIS image and about twice the size of New Jersey. Image courtesy CSTARS. flickr.com/photos/skytruth/4622687873/

Here is more detail on the Gulf Loop Current:

The Gulf Loop is a strong current in the eastern Gulf of Mexico. It can be a short loop or stretched very long. When it is long, it often pinches off a spinning body of water called an eddy . These eddies drift westward over many weeks. They slowly lose energy in the western Gulf. This cycle repeats itself several times a year.

graphic of a 3D model of the Loop Current in the Gulf of Mexico

1. Warm water from the Caribbean Sea enters the gulf.

2. A “Loop Current” gradually forms in the eastern gulf. Eventually, the loop breaks off and forms an eddy.

3. The eddy has a core of warm water, and rotates clockwise as it moves west across the gulf. Clockwise-rotating eddies in the northern hemisphere are called anticyclones.

4. Smaller eddies spin off the warm anticyclones. These rotate in the opposite direction, and are called cyclones.

A. In an anticyclone, warm water converges in the eddy center and is pushed toward the seaþoor [sic, sea floor]. Anticyclones contain few nutrients to support plant and animal life. They can be thought of as “ocean deserts.”

B. Cyclones draw cold, nutrient-rich water from the deep gulf up toward the surface. Near the surface the combination of sunlight and plenty of nutrients creates an “ocean oasis,” with abundant plankton for marine animals to eat.

When the oil gets into the ocean currents it can begin to travel the entire globe. If it is possible for some rubber ducks to travel the globe on the currents, it will certainly be possible for this vast volume of oil. Of course, just like the rubber duckies, oil does break apart and biodegrade. Below is some description of global ocean currents:

At the earth’s poles, when water freezes, the salt doesn’t necessarily freeze with it, so a large volume of dense cold, salt water is left behind. When this dense water sinks to the ocean floor, more water moves in to replace it, creating a current. The new water also gets cold and sinks, continuing the cycle and creating the Global Conveyor Belt.

The global conveyor belt begins with the cold water near the North Pole and heads south between South America and Africa toward Antarctica, partly directed by the landmasses it encounters. In Antarctica, it gets recharged with more cold water and then splits in two directions -- one section heads to the Indian Ocean and the other to the Pacific Ocean. As the two sections near the equator, they warm up and rise to the surface in what you may remember as upwelling. When they can't go any farther, the two sections loop back to the South Atlantic Ocean and finally back to the North Atlantic Ocean, where the cycle starts again.

The global conveyor belt moves much more slowly than surface currents — a few centimeters per second, compared to tens or hundreds of centimeters per second. Scientists estimate that it takes one section of the belt 1,000 years to complete one full circuit of the globe. However slow it is, though, it moves a vast amount of water — more than 100 times the flow of the Amazon River.

In addition to the Global Conveyor Belt there are a variety of great gyre currents in the world’s oceans. All the currents and their feeders, spinoffs and eddies have the potential to carry the oil.

Circular wind patterns create spiral ocean currents called gyres. Five major gyres flow both north and south of the equator: the North Atlantic, South Atlantic, North Pacific, South Pacific and Indian Ocean gyres. Smaller gyres also exist at the poles, and one circulates around Antarctica. Short-lasting, smaller currents often spin off both small and large gyres.

The currents may work to clean up the spill as well as spread it around. This article from Nieman Watchdog points out:

  • Crude oil is a natural substance, composed of a galaxy of hydrocarbon compounds, ranging from gasoline to tar. Compared to infinitely more toxic refined oil products like Diesel fuel, it is unstable and tends to disintegrate into volatile compounds.
  • Much of it will evaporate, given the right conditions.
  • What won’t evaporate will be attacked by oil-eating microbes in the sea water.
  • The degree of evaporation and the success of the microbe attack will depend upon several factors:
    1. The chemistry of the crude oil in question.
    2. The temperature of the air and of the water.
    3. The dynamic action of sun, wind and waves at the spill site.

  • The BP spill is unquestionably a calamity. There will be enormous costs, including costs to fish and wildlife interests. There will be some wetlands damage. But many of the same factors that ameliorated the Tobago spill are at work off the mouth of the Mississippi. Strong southeast winds have been spreading the spill and encouraging its evaporation. Air temperatures in the 80s water temperatures in the 70s and plenty of sun have encouraged the attack of oil-eating microbes.

    The month before the oil spill in Tobago [July 1979] the Mexican oil company Pemex had its Ixtoc I rig blow out in the Bay of Campeche, 600 miles south of the Texas coast. That resulted in one of the largest oil spills in history. The drilling platform burned and collapsed in an accident intriguingly similar to that of the BP rig off Louisiana. The well leaked from 10,000 to 30,000 barrels of oil a day for eight months before it was capped. Yet resulting coastal damage was minimal.

    How much oil there is, how widespread the damage, and how long it will take to recover are all still unknown. And the federal government does not seem to be in a hurry to learn. Wildlife and human beings will suffer, how many, how much, and how long are all still unknown.

    ________

    Update: May 24:

    How Much Oil’s Spilling? It’s Not Rocket Science


    Once one converts all the units and multiplies these numbers, the calculations show that a bit more than 70,000 barrels of oil have been leaking out of the pipe daily. He’s [Wereley] since upped his estimate by another 20,000 barrels a day because of other smaller leaks.

    Wereley said that the leak may be 20 percent more or less than his best estimate, but it’s still far, far above the 5,000 barrels per day that BP kept proclaiming until very recently — about 20 times as great.

    And from John Robb at Global Guerrillas

    LEAKING LEGITIMACY

    … prominent oceanographers [are] accusing the government of failing to conduct an adequate scientific analysis of the damage and of allowing BP to obscure the spill’s true scope… The scientists point out that in the month since the Deepwater Horizon oil rig exploded, the government has failed to make public a single test result on water from the deep ocean. …

    Over the last month, it’s become increasingly clear that there is a coordinated information operations campaign in place to downplay the impact of the Gulf of Mexico oil spill. The US government and British Petroleum have imposed a scientific and media blackout to prevent the gathering of the information on the oil leak needed to generate precise estimates …

    Why is this effort in place? To reduce the political damage to both the government and BP. …

    Of course, this type of behavior is extremely bad over the longer term. Why is it so bad? For an increasing number of people it is yet another example of an approach, reinforced by ongoing global financial disasters, that uses media manipulation and confidence boosting as a substitute for real solutions. It fails to punish bad behavior due to the need for collusion between the government and the offending corporations to construct the information campaign. It fails to construct real solutions since the facts are not known and the number of people able to address the problem is extremely limited. Also, since these people are the same people that caused the crisis, real solutions are avoided to prevent adverse publicity. Most importantly, it is yet another body blow to the nation-state and the global market system as legitimate organizational constructs.

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