Ecuador's Eco-Econ Gimmick: Pay Us NOT to Drill

♠ Posted by Emmanuel in , at 6/30/2013 06:25:00 PM
Ah, Ecuador, home of central bankers with fake degrees and would-be destination of Edward "And the Truth Shall Set You Free" Snowden. Regardless of its harrumphing and chest-thumping, there's no getting away from the fact that Ecuador is a really, really hard-up nation. Just a few days ago, some faction of the Ecuadorian government claimed that it would unilaterally walk away from trade preferences given to it by the United States. More recently, though, Rafael Correa has implied that no such thing will happen and that Edward Snowden is not being granted asylum in Ecuador. Can't afford to upset the flower growers who provide one of Ecuador's few sources of foreign exchange, right?

So what is it, really? Let's just say these guys lurch from flights of fancy to the cold light of reality in the blink of an eye. Speaking of which, our friends over at the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have an interesting feature wherein Ecuador's government--supposedly mindful of the environmental consequences of oil drilling but dependent on oil revenues at the same time--has a unique gambit to solve the environment / state revenue quandary. Get this: it is asking others to pay it NOT to drill, baby, drill in its ecotourism sanctuary known as Yasuni National Park:
This poses a quandary for Ecuador, a poor country that relies heavily on oil exports for income but is also an eco-tourism destination. As oil development continues to push deeper into the Ecuadorian rainforest, the government has put forth a unique proposal to protect a still-pristine tract covering about 700 square miles: It has invited other nations—most pointedly, those that grew rich on fossil fuels and are now worried about global climate change—to pay to leave the oil underground. At a time when the United States and other relatively wealthy nations are doing far too little to combat climate change, Ecuador’s proposal represents an innovative way to reduce emissions, and to protect habitat for monkeys, other wildlife, and indigenous humans in the process...

One-fifth of Ecuador’s known oil reserves are located beneath the three easternmost blocks of Yasuní National Park—the Ishpingo, Tambococha, and Tiputini sections, collectively known as ITT. They lie beyond the Tiputini Biodiversity Station in a remote area populated by only a few small groups of native people, some of whom live in voluntary isolation from the rest of the world. In a proposal called the Yasuní ITT Initiative, Ecuadorian president Rafael Correa has offered to forego oil drilling in these blocks in exchange for $3.6 billion from the international community. In so doing, the country would leave some 850 million barrels of oil untouched, and about 400 million tons of carbon dioxide un-emitted.
And how many takers have there been for this blackm...indecent prop...flimf...rack...I mean, financial arrangment? Few and far between. You see, it estimates the value of its 846 million barrels of recoverable oil in Yasuni National Park at $7.2 billion. If it collects half this amount in contributions for it not to drill by 2024, it won't do so. Otherwise, you know the, ah, drill::
The initiative was announced in 2010 and is hugely popular within Ecuador, but only a few European and South American nations have agreed to support it, promising about $50 million to the fund so far. Major outreach efforts just began this year, though, and Ecuador has a 13-year timeline for reaching its $3.6 billion goal.
The financial details on this fund to keep Ecuador from drilling are hosted by UNDP. You can even make a donation there if you wish. Me? I am generally sceptical of all things that have the words "official" and "Ecuador" in some combination.

Maybe that Snowden guy will "expose" the contrivances behind this plot if and when it becomes evident to him that he's been well and truly spurned by Ecuador.