NASSAU, BAHAMAS — Environment and Housing Minister Romauld Ferreira said yesterday that the government’s decision to follow through with its contractual obligations to allow Bahamas Petroleum Company (BPC) to explore for oil is “water under the bridge now”.
Speaking in Parliament yesterday, Ferreira noted that Bahamians must and will decide the direction to be taken on the controversial oil issue.
Hopes of finding commercial quantities of oil in The Bahamas were dashed earlier this week with BPC announcing that it had abandoned its exploratory drilling after its well came up largely dry. The company’s exploratory well Perseverance #1 has now been sealed.
Ferreira said: “These findings are consistent with what we know, which is we have oil, but we don’t have it in commercial quantities. So far, it has not been found in commercial quantities.
“The whole issue of oil is an emotive one. This government has already made a commitment and said on previous occasions that we are opposed to offshore or marine oil exploration. That’s on the record.
“We also stated very clearly that we had an existing contractual obligation which our lawyers advised us to follow because in not doing so, the potential liability would have been too great. All of that is water under the bridge now.”
He added: “As a people, we must decide and will decide the direction we must go in. The one critical thing we must face coming out of this is whether or not Bahamians want to know the answer to that question, which is: do we possess oil in commercial quantities and if so, how much and what is it worth?
“We deal with the environment for the benefit of all Bahamians, not any one special interest group. Among Bahamians, there is a wide range of opinions as to whether or not we should continue down this road. Each opinion is respected and we’re all in this thing together.”
Environmentalists have called for a full moratorium on oil drilling in this nation after BPC failed to find any commercial quantities of oil. The Bahamas National Trust (BNT) has stated that the development should be a “turning point” for this nation to focus on sustainability and renewable energy.
BPC CEO Simon Potter, while appearing as a guest on Guardian Radio Talk Show “The Revolution” with Juan McCartney yesterday, said the company will now take the information it has obtained from its exploratory drilling exercise and apply it across the entire four-million-acre area covered under its license to decide if there is still potential for oil.
Potter said: “I think a tremendous opportunity has been missed in the sense that we have done our best to explore for a national resource.
“We haven’t been successful this time, but that doesn’t discount success in the future. It makes me sad that in almost no circumstances the people would not want us to succeed.”
He added: “I’m not here to persuade people on the merits of fossil fuels. The reality is that here in The Bahamas, nearly every single electron of electricity that we consume is generated by fossil fuels.
“All of your tourists get here by ships and planes fueled by fossil fuels. There is a huge demand for fossil fuels and that will carry on into the future. I think it is a missed opportunity to harmonize the various objectives into a project that could have benefited The Bahamas.”
Potter also claimed that BPC’s agreement with the government has not been made public because it is a commercially sensitive document.