Serious countries are looking for alternatives while Nigeria continues to argue about the bench mark prize for its petrol for next year.
Last Thursday, China received 152 bids from 83 companies in its second auction of shale-gas blocks. This is a milestone for a resource that looked at best a remote source of energy only a year ago. The realities are changing. President Vladimir Putin of Russia has ordered the Russian authorities to look the options available for the country in shale gas exploration despite its unprecedented natural gas reserves and exploits. The United States has even moved farther ahead with its internal energy supplies. The United States Energy Department says the country will produce 11.4 million barrels a day (b/d) of oil and liquid hydrocarbons in 2013. America intends to reach the holy grail of almost meeting all its local energy needs by the close of the decade. This much touted “energy independence” has been vigorously pursued by the Obama administration and the current numbers show that it is beyond rhetoric. How does this affect Nigeria?
This is how it affects Nigeria. Imagine you have a girl in your neighbourhood that is not just the toast of everyone but also gets to cause a lot if street fights amongst the boys. The last time boys invaded another boy’s house it was because the girl in question appeared to prefer him to others. The girl seemed to be “the prize” and every other girl was more or less non-existent. Then something happens. Another girl comes around. What will happen to the previous girl? Will she be as important as she was? She’d certainly retain her importance but there is certain to be a loss in value because then there is at least another option. Shale gas is petroleum’s other girl! The United States of America produced 81 per cent of its total energy needs in the first six months of this year, the highest since 1991. This means a lot to petrostates like Nigeria who have always had America as the ready buyer for their oil. I showed last week how America’s import of our petrol had decreased by some 125 per cent year on year July 2011 and 2012. This is not a one off, it is a reality that will increasingly hit home. Nigeria must be thinking differently. We have oil and sadly we have not used it to better the lives of our people. We can do things differently; we can make the oil work for us while it is still the toast of the world. It will not be in 10 years. Everything points to a world looking to escape the politics and troubles of petroleum.
What can we do?
We need to take the Petroleum Industry Bill more seriously than we did – referring to regular citizens now. We need to tap into the value of our natural gas reserves and the demand new laws, new ways and global best practices in its exploration. We cannot afford to repeat the same mistakes we’ve made and continue to make in the oil industry for the gas industry.
Climate change is another reality that essentially means countries will continually see the dangers of carbon emission which fossil fuels like petroleum help to release into the atmosphere. Hurricanes like Sandy will only get worse as the world moves on. Serious countries are looking for alternatives while Nigeria continues to argue about the bench mark prize for its petrol for next year. That argument is essentially because some 95 per cent of our foreign exchange earnings come from petroleum. We cannot do this to ourselves. We cannot wait for the very day our petroleum becomes far less useful for the world to notice before we know that the times for serious national planning on where Nigeria’s future budget revenues will come from are indeed here.
We have to think and think very hard and we have to start now. As I write these words, there is no government plan as to the options available to Nigeria if the prize of petroleum slumps to say even $60. This is a scary possibility.
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.