The move by black leaders in Congress reinforces the importance of new projects like those being undertaken by ERHC Energy in the Nigeria-Sao Tome and Principe Joint Development Zone, where the company has won concessions in five different blocks and shares operatorship in two of the most promisuing with partners Pioneer Natural Resources and Noble Energy.
The Congressuional Black Caucus Foundation produced a report on the responsible development of hydrocarbons in West Africa that addresses new discoveries in and near the Joint Development Zone.
A Congressional resolution authored by the influential caucus proposes a new Commission on Sustainable Development in West Africa which would "formulate a strategy for engaging West African states in a mutually beneficial partnership" covering the entire range of relationships between the U.S. and Africa. It also ask that "oil companies pledge to hire native workers and engage local businesses in their endeavors." That request addresses perhaps the most significant issue in existing oil company relationships in Nigeria, where ERHC Energy chairman Sir Emeka Offor is domiciled.
The resolution also encompasses the thorny issue of America's relationship with Muslims abroad, and urges a new and careful approach to the African continent's large Islamic population.
Here is Mallory's's http://www.afro.com/content/templates/?a=3674&z=1)story:
Caucus promotes nurturing West African oil trade
By Kenneth Mallory
AFRO Staff Writer
The United States and many West African countries should form a synergistic relationship through oil trading, says a new report, Breaking the Oil Syndrome: Responsible Hydrocarbon Development in West Africa.
Released July 19 by the Congressional Black Caucus Foundation, the report said the United States could alleviate its increased pressure for energy by tapping into the oil reserves of West Africa. Countries like Nigeria, Algeria, Angola and Libya could potentially increase their chances for economic growth and independence through a "mutually beneficial alliance" with the United States.
"Oil consumption in the United States is expected to rise more than 41 percent over the next 20 years. Although efforts to increase conservation and find alternative fuels will be crucial, the technology to replace oil will take years before it is implemented," said CBC member Rep. Alcee L. Hastings (D-Fla.) at a Capitol Hill press conference attended by a panel of political and energy experts.
Hastings added that improving the United States' trading relationship with African countries would "help meet our growing demand" for oil, while giving Africa, a continent he said comprised less than 1 percent of the global marketplace, a chance to stem its considerable poverty rate.
"Recent fluctuations in oil prices, and sociopolitical unrest in the Middle East, have generated intense debate about U.S. energy and economic security, given its continued dependence on foreign oil, the war on terrorism, homeland security and the global spread of democracy," said the report. "The convergence of concern over price volatility, political instability and supply uncertainty is a constant reminder that America can ill afford to remain predominately dependent upon oil-imports from certain regions."
Although Middle East countries provide the United States with the bulk of its oil supply, African countries, the report reveals, have a "proven" oil supply.
"Given the production of existing fields and the discovery of new West African oil reserves (e.g. Sao Tome and Principe), the impact of African oil on U.S. security could be tremendous," it said, while pointing out caveats. "Unfortunately, this region does not possess the capacity needed for expanded crude oil exploration and refinement. Given this, advocates for increasing America's energy security must also address the role of African technological capacity and infrastructure as part of the plans to deal with rising oil prices."
The study also mentioned government corruption, the considerable debts of many African countries and China's "aggressive strategy" of oil trading with Africa as some of the issues affecting a possible U.S. trading relationship with West African countries.
But the report contends that if the oil syndrome is not broken, it could be an impediment to the West African-U.S. oil trade. The term "oil syndrome" is used to describe research demonstrating how oil trading has led to "political unrest -- includes civil war among different ethnic groups fighting for control of natural resources" and "elite-controlled economies" in oil-rich countries like Iran, Nigeria and Venezuela.
According to the report, the oil syndrome can lead to "exacerbated poverty and disease levels," corruption and mismanagement of oil revenues.
The report provides a "dynamic engagement model" for a West African-U.S. oil trade policy, pointing to some of the successes in reducing poverty and instituting disease interventions. It also discusses existing trade relationships that the World Bank and Chevron Corp. have initiated with countries like Chad and Nigeria.
Among its many ideals, the model stresses the accountability, or "transparency," of the financial operations of the countries and companies involved in trade, and "mutually beneficial collaborations" in which oil companies pledge to hire native workers and engage local businesses in their endeavors. It aims to involve all the "stakeholders" in U.S.-West Africa trading, including African and United States dignitaries, oil companies and non-governmental organizations.
The report also provides recommendations for these stakeholders, advising that the U.S. Congress "prepare legislation to establish a Commission for Sustainable Development in West Africa," which would "formulate a strategy for engaging West African states in a mutually beneficial partnership that seeks to promote specific economic, social, political, infrastructure, environmental and counterterrorism goals."
At the conference, CBC officials gave brief remarks, along with a panel that included officials from the Nigerian embassy, the World Bank and the Shell Oil Co.
Some spoke of the need to secure stable oil sources for the U.S. and improve the plight of African countries.
"We [the United States] can no longer look at our relationship [with Africa] as a donor/donee relationship," said Rep. William J. Jefferson (D-La.), chairman of the Congressional Black Caucus. "There are least 350 million Muslims in Africa, [and] we're trying to redefine our relationship with the Muslim world. What better place to try and start ... than in Africa," he said.
Nick Welch, manager of international relations for Shell Oil Co., said about one-fifth of worldwide oil production comes from Africa.
"We have a stake in this region and its success," he said, adding that oil companies should "invest and operate responsibly" in their dealings with African countries.