Minister of the Environment and Housing Romauld Ferreira said yesterday that Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) has received full environmental approval to proceed with its plans to carry out exploratory drilling for oil next month, and he suggested that the government has a “moral obligation” to allow the same.
“We have the Bahamas Petroleum Corporation, they recently got their environmental approvals to dig an exploratory well,” he said while giving the keynote address on the topic of “Ethics, Environment and the Economy” during the University of The Bahamas’ (UB) Science Week.
“To some people, oil is a very emotional subject, you know. It’s like dolphins in captivity, it’s very emotional.”
He added, “BPC is convinced that we have two [billion] barrels of oil in the ground. They’re convinced of that.
“They’ve done all of their geological studies that give them a certainty of about 38 percent – let’s call that 40 percent. So they’re 40 percent certain that they’re in the right location.”
According to Ferreira, the site will be “along the Old Bahama Channel” in the vicinity of Cay Sal Bank and the Anguilla Cays, between Cuba and The Bahamas.
He claimed that the search for oil in the country has been around since the 1950s, but that modern technology is only now allowing it to proceed further than before.
Some students raised the question of whether the drilling is environmentally sound, however, Ferreira said that the financial potential should be considered.
“So you see that when we talk about oil, we’re really talking about money,” he said.
“Economies are controlled by oil. Economies are controlled by energy. When we’re talking about oil, when we’re talking about oil exploration, we’re actually talking about money.”
Pointing to what he called “inequality between nations” in reference to richer countries being able to influence The Bahamas’ “vulnerable” economy, he added: “You touched on something that is a very real consideration, and it is the consideration that goes to the other end, that says that because of that – because we’re vulnerable to external shocks…we have a moral obligation to see if we have oil so that our economy wouldn’t be vulnerable to external shocks.”
Ferreira acknowledged the varying opinions on the matter, but claimed that “most people I meet are actually excited by the prospect that there may be oil”.
He also claimed that the estimated two million barrels “is actually quite a lot of oil”, and said, “It would be a very significant find if they were actually correct.
“They estimate that a production well would last decades. So what do we do?”
He added, “Do we say that we won’t look for oil because we’re against it categorically?
“Do we take an absolutist opinion, that we’re categorically against it, that, ‘There’s no way we can drill safely, let’s not even bother, the risk is too high’?
“Or do we say, ‘Okay, maybe we can do this safely. We can create another industry. Let’s explore it.’”
Some local environmentalists have opposed the drilling plans, with Save the Bays Chairman Joe Darville recently calling it “lunacy” that the government is allowing the drilling to proceed.
Darville said it makes no sense that the government would allow oil drilling while its most recent oil spill, which occurred on Grand Bahama during Hurricane Dorian in September, hasn’t been fully remediated.