A renewed call today by the Our Islands Our Future coalition to the Bahamian government for transparency and a permanent ban on oil drilling highlights the risks of the growing practice of profit-seeking companies targeting traditionally non-oil producing, climate-vulnerable nations for crude oil extraction and development.
The letter, delivered to Prime Minister Davis on January 12, focuses on the widely-criticized 2021 Perseverance-1 exploratory oil well, a project of the Bahamas Petroleum Company (now Challenger Energy Group – CEG), which put the entire country at risk and failed to generate any commensurate source of income for the local economy. The coalition reiterated its asks for a full accounting of oil drilling licenses and fees, which includes any unpaid amounts, as well as drilling reports and compliance data, all of which remain undisclosed eleven months after the well was capped in early 2021.
Most importantly, the coalition points to the potential disastrous climate impacts had the well verified commercial quantities of oil in the levels claimed by the company. “If fully exploited in quantities claimed by CEG, it would have exceeded the entire carbon footprint of The Bahamas and 18 other small Caribbean Island nations, over a period of twenty years,” said Chris Wilke, Waterkeeper Alliance. Island nations face a higher risk of sea level rise, hurricanes, and damage to coral health. If projected sea level rise is reached by 2050, between 10-12% of territory in The Bahamas alone will be lost, especially in coastal zones where the main tourism assets are located.
While the rest of the world grapples with how to fight climate change and get off of fossil fuels, oil and gas companies continue to feed the crisis by expanding their operations in developing countries, many of which are already suffering from climate-related impacts and are unprepared to regulate the industry. The Bahamas is often cited as a vulnerable nation, in part due to the impact of super storms such as 2019’s Hurricane Dorian, which cost the country at least 74 lives and $3.4 billion (USD) in losses. As another example, Senegal prepares to begin production of offshore oil in 2023, but parts of the country already suffer from severe climate-related coastal erosion, displacing citizens and costing the country millions of dollars annually.
The coalition is imploring the Bahamian government to be an example for the world by instituting a lasting ban on oil drilling instead of simultaneously filling the dual roles of climate victims and a fossil fuel colony for investors. “We are a country of leaders and we can continue to develop a sustainable Blue Economy to support Bahamian entrepreneurs’ tourism options based on a healthy environment that doesn’t include oil rigs,” said Casuarina McKinney Lambert, BREEF.
“With our history of political change we need the certainty of a ban or it will always be potentially on the table, dividing us,” added Rashema Ingraham, Waterkeepers Bahamas. The groups vow to help the government move forward with a ban, and to support growing a sustainable tourism economy for the benefit of all Bahamians.