Pretence that surrounds EACOP fighters

Elison Karuhanga  

What you need to know:

Throughout history, people and societies have adjusted to and coped with changes in climate

Oil & Gas

Uganda has made yet another public commitment towards getting the first oil by allocating funds in the 2022/2023 Budget to oil related activities. Finance minister Matia Kasaija confirmed the allocation during the budget speech in which he addressed the criticism against Uganda’s oil and gas project and promised that government will develop Uganda’s oil and gas resources in a responsible and sustainable manner.

It is safe to say that there is a lot of misinformation around the operation of the oil project and an exaggeration of the negative environmental impact it may have. There are those who believe that to advocate for the Lake Albert Oil Project is a declaration of pride in polluting the environment. Ironically, as activists funded by Europeans and Americans tell us that fossil fuels have gone out of fashion, there is a video recording of president Joe Biden announcing that the United States issued 9,000 petroleum permits to oil companies who are “not drilling enough”.

Locally, there are two extreme sides to this debate; on the one hand, we have people who do not mind if the planet is destroyed and on the other hand, we have people who don’t care if our society is destroyed. The correct answer, to paraphrase one thinker, is not in the thesis of the climate extremists nor is it in the antithesis of the climate deniers, but it is in a synthesis of both. We must conserve the environment and the oil project must proceed. Responding to climate change involves a two-pronged approach, mitigation and adaptation.

TotalEnergies and CNOOC are developing oil fields in Buliisa, Nwoya, Hoima and Kikuube districts under projects code named ‘Tilenga’ and ‘Kingfisher’. The oil will be produced with associated gas. Uganda has 170 million standard cubic feet of associated gas. The gas will be converted into Liquified Petroleum Gas (LPG). These are the gas cylinders that are used for cooking by less than 10 per cent of the population, the rest of us use firewood and charcoal. Meanwhile cutting trees for firewood releases twice the amount of carbon emissions that will come from the oil project. Currently, we import 35,000 tonnes of LPG per year. At peak, Tilenga and Kingfisher shall produce 100,000 tonnes of LPG per year.

When the oil leaves the fields and facilities in Tilenga and Kingfisher, it will be transported by feeder pipelines to Kabaale in Hoima District where 29sqkm of land for an industrial park is owned by government. This is where the refinery will be constructed. It will utilize 60,000 barrels of oil per day. From this, the refinery will be able to produce 240,000 tonnes of LPG per year. In other words, we will produce gas from extracting oil and more gas from refining oil.

The refinery will, on top of LPG, produce aviation fuel, petrol, diesel and heavy fuel oils. It will have raw materials for a petrochemical industry that can produce fertilisers, plastics, and asphalt - material that is used for road construction. The industrial park is where EACOP will start its 1,443km journey to Tanga. So, the pipeline does not pass through the Murchison Falls National Park as many have been made to believe. The industrial park in Kabaale is also home to the Hoima International Airport, which is almost complete.

Throughout history, people and societies have adjusted to and coped with changes in climate albeit with varying degrees of success. It was the use of oil that supported the rise of industry in Germany, Great Britain and the US. If they knew 100 years ago about climate change and its effects like hurricanes and heat waves, would they have shunned industrialisation?

This debate became all the more interesting after president Biden stated that the oil companies should drill for more oil. According to him, the oil companies have “more money than God”. Speaking of money, I think the biggest sponsors of ‘Stop EACOP’ own private jets and have heated swimming pools. This explains how they have spared no expense in fighting this project. I know for sure that the sponsors of ‘Stop EACOP’ do not have “more money than God” but it is possible that they may be as rich as the devil.

The writer is an advocate and partner at Kampala Associated Advocates