Analyst urges broader look at Amazon oil resources’ local impacts

Increasingly disruptive protests are likely if oil, gas, and mining companies and national governments don’t pay closer attention to indigenous populations’ needs as Western Amazon basin resources are developed, an expert warned.

“They usually are ignited by past grievances that have not been resolved,” said Patricia I. Vasquez, an independent analyst who previously was a Jennings Randolph Senior Fellow at the US Institute for Peace, at a Mar. 21 launch of her new book, “Oil Sparks in the Amazon: Local Conflicts, Indigenous Populations, and Natural Resources.”

“The Amazon is obviously a very challenging place with a unique environment and lack of infrastructure,” Vasquez said during the event at the Woodrow Wilson International Center for Scholars. “There also are large numbers of indigenous people who are poor and marginalized, especially compared to the nonindigenous population. A strong political commitment is required to resolve these conflicts.”

In her book, Vasquez said she examined 55 such conflicts in Peru, Ecuador, and Colombia from 2004 through 2011 when a period of high crude oil prices and strong demand brought investors to an area previously considered to be economically marginal.

She also weighed conflicts on a 1-5 scale, with 5 representing the most violent confrontations. “As oil contracts grew quickly, social and environmental conflicts did too,” Vasquez observed. “Whenever there is a problem or issues, the communities demand a local government presence in addition to national government representatives. If it’s not there, they’ll tie things up until it is.”

Causes of protests

Confrontations can result from either structural flaws in the national resource management system, which are more difficult to address, or temporary problems resulting from a company’s behavior, she indicated. In the first case, revenue can be poorly distributed, resulting in construction of a massive soccer stadium instead of new drinking water systems, according to Vasquez.

“A lot of natural gas that’s produced in the Amazon is shipped to the coast for export,” she said. “Meanwhile, a huge number of indigenous people in the area continue to use wood for their cooking. Gas pipelines haven’t been built to their homes because it wasn’t considered commercial.”

International companies and nongovernmental organizations also can aggravate the situation, Vasquez said. “For most companies, they’re interested only in the 30-40 years they’ll be there, creating a paternalistic relationship that generates resentment,” she said.

“When international NGOs become active in the area, grassroots organizations compete for their support and resulting additional exposure,” Vasquez continued. “Sometimes, environmental organizations and other international NGOs have global agendas which don’t always coincide with what communities want, such as jobs.”

There can be a difference when stakeholders’ views become cohesive instead of polarized, she said, adding that the presence of good institutional mediation also can be positive.

“During my research, I discovered the work of the Peruvian Ombudsman was relatively beneficial,” Vasquez noted. “It appears to be the only institution which has forged a dialogue among stakeholders when the conflict reaches a very high intensity. It doesn’t solve the conflict, but has a high degree of legitimacy.

Accessible, versatile

“The people can take their claims to it easily and for free, which is very important,” she said. “It also is immune from prosecution, and can present cases in the inter-American judicial system which has helped protect indigenous populations’ rights and interests.”

The problems deserve more attention, three other experts agreed. “I think this is one of the most defining issues in social and economic development right now,” said Christopher Sabatini, senior policy director at the Americas Society and founding editor of Americas Quarterly.

“There’s rising demand for resources,” he maintained. “Governments are tying their ability to address poverty and social needs to their ability to attract resource investments. The potential of this to reshape our socioeconomics is tremendous.”

Roger-Mark De Souza, director of the Wilson Center’s Global Sustainability and Resilience Program, said, “Conflicts can cause direct impacts, such as environmental destruction, and indirect impacts, such as mechanisms communities adopt to cope that may not necessarily be beneficial. But natural resources also can contribute to economic growth and sustainable livelihoods with the right policies.”

Robert E. McGuire, who directs Latin American and Hemispheric Studies at George Washington University’s Elliott School of International Affairs, said simply getting a resource from the point extraction to a distant delivery point can be as big a problem. “I once heard an official say more oil has been spilled out of pipelines in Colombia than from the Exxon Valdez,” he said.

“The most important point is to start listening to the voices of the voiceless—people who live in areas feeling the greatest immediate impacts with the least influence on what’s happening,” McGuire said.

Contact Nick Snow at nicks@pennwell.com.

Related Articles

Obama’s proposed fiscal 2016 budget recycles oil tax increases

02/02/2015 US President Barack Obama has proposed his federal budget for fiscal 2016 that he said was designed to help a beleaguered middle class take advanta...

MOL absorbs Eni’s Romanian retail assets

02/02/2015

MOL Group, Budapest, has completed the acquisition of Eni Romania, including 42 service stations to be rebranded under the MOL name.

CNOOC subsidiary inks deal for grassroots refinery

02/02/2015 Hebei Zhongjie Petrochemical Group Co. Ltd., a subsidiary of China National Offshore Oil Corp. (CNOOC), has entered into a $700 million agreement w...

Pessimism mounts over UK offshore industry

02/02/2015

Pessimism about the UK offshore oil and gas industry is gaining momentum.

EnLink agrees to purchase Coronado Midstream for $600 million

02/02/2015 EnLink Midstream has agreed to acquire Coronado Midstream Holdings LLC, which owns natural gas gathering and processing facilities in the Permian b...

Antero trimming, delaying Marcellus drilling

02/02/2015 Antero Resources Corp., Denver, has announced a $1.8 billion budget for 2015, which is down 41% from 2014. The independent said it plans to defer c...

Woodside gets NEB approval for British Columbia LNG exports

02/02/2015 Woodside Energy Holdings Pty. Ltd. has received approval from Canada’s National Energy Board on its application for a 25-year natural gas export li...

Syncrude sees additional $260-400 million in possible budget cuts

02/02/2015 The estimate for capital expenditures has also been reduced to $451 million net to COS, which includes $104 million of remaining expenditures on ma...

Kerry expects to receive other agencies’ Keystone XL reports soon

02/02/2015 US Sec. of State John F. Kerry said he expects to receive other federal agencies and departments’ reports soon on the proposed Keystone XL crude oi...
White Papers

Pipeline Integrity: Best Practices to Prevent, Detect, and Mitigate Commodity Releases

Commodity releases can have catastrophic consequences, so ensuring pipeline integrity is crucial for p...
Sponsored by

AVEVA’s Digital Asset Approach - Defining a new era of collaboration in capital projects and asset operations

There is constant, intensive change in the capital projects and asset life cycle management. New chall...
Sponsored by

Transforming the Oil and Gas Industry with EPPM

With budgets in the billions, timelines spanning years, and life cycles extending over decades, oil an...
Sponsored by

Asset Decommissioning in Oil & Gas: Transforming Business

Asset intensive organizations like Oil and Gas have their own industry specific challenges when it com...
Sponsored by

Squeezing the Green: How to Cut Petroleum Downstream Costs and Optimize Processing Efficiencies with Enterprise Project Portfolio Management Solutions

As the downstream petroleum industry grapples with change in every sector and at every level, includin...
Sponsored by

7 Steps to Improve Oil & Gas Asset Decommissioning

Global competition and volatile markets are creating a challenging business climate for project based ...
Sponsored by

The impact of aging infrastructure in process manufacturing industries

Process manufacturing companies in the oil and gas, utilities, chemicals and natural resource industri...
Sponsored by

What is System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis?

This paper will explain some of the fundamentals of System Level Thermo-Fluid Analysis and demonstrate...
Available Webcasts


The Alternative Fuel Movement: Four Need-to-Know Excise Tax Complexities

When Thu, Jun 4, 2015

Discussion on how to approach, and ultimately embrace, the alternative fuel market by pulling back the veil on excise tax complexities. Taxes may be an aggravating part of daily operations, but their accuracy is crucial in your path towards business success.

register:WEBCAST



On Demand

Prevention, Detection and Mitigation of pipeline leaks in the modern world

Thu, Apr 30, 2015

Preventing, detecting and mitigating leaks or commodity releases from pipelines are a top priority for all pipeline companies. This presentation will look at various aspects related to preventing, detecting and mitigating pipeline commodity releases from a generic and conceptual point of view, while at the same time look at the variety of offerings available from Schneider Electric to meet some of the requirements associated with pipeline integrity management. 

register:WEBCAST


Global LNG: Adjusting to New Realities

Fri, Mar 20, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s March 20, 2015, webcast will look at how global LNG trade will be affected over the next 12-24 months by falling crude oil prices and changing patterns and pressures of demand. Will US LNG production play a role in balancing markets? Or will it add to a growing global oversupply of LNG for markets remote from easier natural gas supply? Will new buyers with marginal credit, smaller requirements, or great need for flexibility begin to look attractive to suppliers? How will high-cost, mega-projects in Australia respond to new construction cost trends?

register:WEBCAST


US Midstream at a Crossroads

Fri, Mar 6, 2015

Oil & Gas Journal’s Mar. 6, 2015, webcast will focus on US midstream companies at an inflection point in their development in response to more than 6 years shale oil and gas production growth. Major infrastructure—gas plants, gathering systems, and takeaway pipelines—have been built. Major fractionation hubs have expanded. Given the radically changed pricing environment since mid-2014, where do processors go from here? What is the fate of large projects caught in mid-development? How to producers and processors cooperate to ensure a sustainable and profitable future? This event will serve to set the discussion table for the annual GPA Convention in San Antonio, Apr. 13-16, 2015.

This event is sponsored by Leidos Engineering.

register:WEBCAST


Careers at TOTAL

Careers at TOTAL - Videos

More than 600 job openings are now online, watch videos and learn more!

 

Click Here to Watch

Other Oil & Gas Industry Jobs

Search More Job Listings >>
Stay Connected