Can a green economy co-exist with a petroleum industry? The short answer, according to Professor Gary Dirks, is yes.
“There is absolutely no reason why you cannot have a green growth agenda, pursued aggressively, and be an oil producing nation at the same time,” he said.
Dirks, a Professor at Arizona State University in the US and the former President of BP Asia-Pacific and BP China visited Guyana under the auspices of the Guyana Press Association and Conservation International Guyana to participate in engagements with the media and the University of Guyana. He was on Friday, September 14, delivering the latest of ‘Lunchtime Lectures’ that the GPA periodically hosts on various issues. Friday’s presentation, ‘Guyana’s Moment in Time-Can the country be both an oil producer and a model for green development?’ took place at the Moray House Trust on Camp Street in Georgetown.
In reinforcing his point about the importance of the petroleum sector, Dirks said that today the world would grind to a halt without fossil fuel as it is vital for almost every facet of life. “The world would die without oil today. The reason it would die is because so much of the energy that is absolutely vital to the function of society comes from oil today,” said Dirks. “And therefore we have to continue to provide these resources so that people all over the world could continue to run their companies and live in their homes and do all the things that they usually do,” he said.
Further, Dirks said climate change is a really serious problem and made the point that for this to be halted; all fossil carbon has to come out of the system. “The question is when…how fast can we do it?” he stated.
He suggested that Guyana however must get it right for there to be a balance between managing the petroleum sector and a green agenda. “We can be green but the world needs this oil, and frankly if done right, the country of Guyana can benefit from it,” he said.
The Professor said the Guyanese authorities have to make sure that ExxonMobil does a good job of protecting the environment as they continue to explore and develop and are compliant with all regulations. Guyana must ensure that ExxonMobil’s development has the smallest environmental footprint possible, said Dirks.
Earlier this year, BP had said that oil demand is expected to peak in 2030 with the growth in energy demand coming from fast growing developing economies, with China and India alone accounting for half of the total growth in global energy demand through 2040.
Guyana intends to spend the billions of dollars that is expected from oil production in the coming years, in the context of its Green State Development Strategy (GSDS). The GSDS will guide the South American country’s economic and sociocultural development over the next 15 years. The objective of the strategy is to reorient and diversify Guyana’s economy, reducing reliance on traditional sectors and opening up new sustainable income and investment opportunities in higher value adding and higher growth sectors.