IS oil the future or is oil the past?
It’s a question that is at the heart of our own future as a nation, with Bahamas Petroleum Company preparing to start exploratory drilling before the end of the year.
The rewards are tempting. On one hand is the prospect of a significant find, bringing with it substantial revenue to The Bahamas, with a figure of $5 billion suggested. Of course, until oil is found, there isn’t so much as $5 to be had.
On the other hand stand the concerns over our environment. We’ve already seen in the past year significant damage when Hurricane Dorian popped the tops off the containers at the Equinor oil facility in Grand Bahama, spilling 55,000 barrels of oil into the environment.
More, we have seen further afield full-scale disasters, such as the Deepwater Horizon oil spill that scarred the Gulf of Mexico.
We face the gambler’s dilemma. Stick with what we have or go all in and risk it all.
There have been reassurances from BPC, with the company this week stating that it had adequate insurance to cover clean-up costs should the worst happen.
There have also been questions and concerns from the environmental guardians of The Bahamas – such as the Bahamas National Trust, pointing to the short-term economic gains for the nation.
They also point out the hypocrisy of a nation that is threatened by climate change going ahead with the search for more fossil fuels, pointing out that our nation faces an “existential threat” from the prospect of rising seas amid climbing temperatures worldwide.
Just this week, there were reports that Antarctica could melt “irreversibly” due to climate change, and some reports say that melting ice from that continent could raise the sea level by 2.5 metres.
That would mean vast swathes of The Bahamas gone.
Against that, there has been the clarion call to diversify our economy away from tourism, a call that has gained more strength as we have seen COVID-19 stop flights, shut hotels and bring our economy to a grinding halt.
So do we risk it all? Or stick with what we’ve got. Whatever the next step is, we would hope that we listen to those guardians who have watched over our lands and seas these many years. If we are to do this, we must take every precaution – for if we are slack, and find black oil washing up on our shores, our tourism industry will suffer all over again.
Get well soon, Commissioner
Last month, prison Commissioner Charles Murphy was forthright – to say the least – in saying there were no reports of COVID-19 at the prison. More than that, he warned officers if they took their concerns public they could lose their jobs – and told The Tribune to stop asking questions.
It gives us no pleasure to report that Mr Murphy himself has now tested positive for COVID-19, a disease we would wish on no one.
We wish him a speedy recovery, and a safe return to work.
His case, we are told, is traced back to a contact outside the prison. He is not the first prison officer to have caught the virus, though we would fervently hope he is the last.
It serves as a reminder to us all of the danger of this virus, and the urgency to keep it out of an enclosed, crowded population such as the prison. It would be very easy for an officer or someone who has been outside the prison to unsuspectingly carry it into the population there – and it requires the utmost vigilance, including listening to the concerns of staff there, to keep it out.
Get well soon, Mr Murphy. And to his staff we say, stay vigilant.