By Vijay Jayaraj
Climate activists’ ill-founded opposition to fossil fuels threatens to stop a major pipeline project in East Africa and stymie economic growth in Uganda and Tanzania — home to some of the world’s poorest people.
Uganda is betting big on its fossil fuel reserves. In February, China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) and France’s TotalEnergies agreed to invest $10 billion to develop two Ugandan oil reserves. But the landlocked country needs the East African Crude Oil Pipeline project (EACOP) to transport its product to a port in Tanzania.
The 895-mile-long pipeline from Uganda’s Lake Alberta region to the seaport of Tanga will be the longest electrically heated crude oil pipeline in the world and will carry 216,000 barrels per day. The project received a green light for construction after the completion of an Environment and Social Impact Assessment.
The Africa Report says that the investment will be huge: “(A)bout $10 billion will be invested in the sector (oil and gas) before first oil is produced in 2025, mainly on the pipeline, refinery, and infrastructure. The government has been commissioning road construction in the region where oil will be produced, in Buliisa and Hoima districts, and an airport is also being constructed in the region.” The project is expected to generate around 10,000 jobs even after the construction phase.
The Government of Uganda expects massive employment of its citizens during construction: “This will be through direct employment of about 14,000 people by the companies, indirect employment of about 45,000 people by the contractors, and induced employment of about 105,000 people as a result of utilization of other services by the oil and gas sector. Of the direct employment, 57 percent are expected to be Ugandans, which is expected to result in an estimated $48.5 million annual payment to Ugandan employees.”
However, the global war against fossil fuel has now reached Ugandan soil and extremists are determined to stop this lifesaving, economically critical project.
Vanessa Nakate of StopEACOP rants against the pipeline in a recent column in the New York Times, saying the project would bring poverty and destruction to the people of Africa. She also references extreme weather in implying the pipeline will worsen the climate.
During a visit to the ultra-rich Vatican, Vanessa says: “It is evident that there is no future in the fossil fuel industry…. we know the impacts on our food. We know the impacts on our water. We know the impacts on our livelihood…… the climate crisis is already affecting so many people not only in Uganda, but the African continent.”
But her reasons for opposing the pipeline are scientifically inaccurate and logically senseless.
She points to a forecast by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) that predicts African droughts. But IPCC, by its own admission, has indicated that extreme weather events have no significant correlation with rising global average temperatures. Neither has there been any significant increase in the frequency of extreme cyclones, droughts, rainfall, and fires. Even if droughts and cyclones were to increase, a better socio-economic condition would enable people to adapt more effectively.
Contrary to Vanessa’s hyperbole, the world is experiencing near optimum temperatures for global food production and the advancement of human society, much as it did 1,000 years ago during the Medieval Warm Period and 2,000 years ago during the Roman Warm Period. Globally, we now have better access to clean water, better access to nutritious food, people with higher income, and a very rapid increase in life expectancy rates. How are we in a crisis if climate is aiding the improvement of every metric used to measure the quality of people’s lives?
It is shocking how Vanessa ignores the plight of millions of her own people dwelling in persistent poverty and in need of affordable, dependable energy sources like coal, oil, and gas. It is less shocking if we understand the DNA of climate extremists, which has them deny the reality of energy needs and promote unreliable, primitive, and expensive wind turbines that even economic giants like Germany and the U.S. hesitate to adopt completely.
Climate extremists like Vanessa are fostering the continuation of abject poverty in Africa — a continent with the lowest level of electrification and highest rates of poverty in the world. Vanessa claims that the pipeline is another colonial project subjecting Africans to slavery. But, it is Vanessa and her ilk who are the colonialists and would-be slave masters.
Vijay Jayaraj is a Research Associate at the CO2 Coalition, Arlington, Va., and holds a Master’s degree in environmental sciences from the University of East Anglia, England. He resides in Bengaluru, India.
This article was first published on April 28, 2022 at RealClear Energy.