Save The Bays: Oil director Smith seems ‘shockingly uninformed’

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James Smith

ENVIRONMENTALISTS criticised Bahamas Petroleum Company director James Smith yesterday, saying he seems “shockingly uninformed” about oil issues.

Mr Smith, a former finance minister and governor of the Central Bank, said it was preposterous that activists are seeking to block the country from discovering if it has natural resources.

In response, Joseph Darville, chairman of Save The Bays, said his arguments are ridiculous.

“There are so many things wrong with the recent published statements by James Smith regarding oil exploration that it is difficult to know where to begin,” he said in a statement yesterday. “I will not say he is being disingenuous or intentionally misleading, but as a director of a company proposing to undertake the extremely dangerous action of drilling into our sea-floor in search of oil, he does seem to be shockingly uninformed.

Mr Smith argued that with tourism collapsing because of the COVID-19 crisis, the country would do well to proceed with exploratory well drilling. He also questioned why activists are targeting BPC’s endeavour and not other oil-related projects in the country.

Mr Darville said in response: “Smith uses the trick of choice for Bahamas Petroleum Company directors nowadays: Why complain about drilling, when there are other oil-related activities taking place in the country?

“While Save The Bays certainly opposes the transportation of petrochemicals through our waters, the argument that since we already face some level of danger, we might as well go ahead and increase it exponentially, is ridiculous on the face of it.

“Furthermore, Smith is drawing a false equivalence, comparing apples and oranges, as the level of danger in what BPC is proposing utterly dwarfs any tanker accident imaginable.”

“The 2010 Deepwater Horizon disaster spewed around 200 million gallons of oil into the Gulf of Mexico. The vast majority of tankers in operation today carry between 15 and 25 million gallons at full capacity. This means that, at minimum, eight to thirteen of these massive vessels would have to suffer a catastrophic accident and spew their entire contents into the sea – all at the same time – in order to replicate the impact of a major spill from an offshore drill site.

“Smith’s suggestion that these tankers present a greater spill risk is misleading in the extreme. It is just downright wrong. The Deepwater Horizon drilling disaster led to a massive stretch of ocean (15,300 sq. miles) – an area nearly three times the size of the entire The Bahamas (5,358 sq. miles) – being covered by toxic chemical sludge. The worst possible tanker disaster would not even come close. All spills are very bad, but not all spills are equal!

“Perhaps most frightening is Smith’s suggestion that we shouldn’t worry about the drill project, as it is nothing more than an exploratory well. Can this BPC director really not be aware that the Deepwater Horizon disaster was also ‘just’ an exploratory well? Can he not know that exploratory wells are among the most dangerous of all the petrochemical disasters waiting to happen?

“The truth is that there is no such thing as safe oil drilling and we have too much to lose in this country to bet everything on a roll of the dice. Our economy is totally dependent upon industries derived from the beauty and abundance of our fragile marine environment.

“Nothing about the BPC deal suggests that it will even come close to providing us with an alternative – certainly not with oil prices crashing and the world moving further away from fossil fuels by the day. Certainly not in a country that is among the most vulnerable on the planet to the ravages of climate change, which the oil industry is largely responsible for.

“I would ask James Smith to seek to educate himself more thoroughly on the industry which he has chosen to champion before offering further public remarks on an issue that could ruin countless Bahamian lives. And, I would ask him to speak next time as a Bahamian first, and a shareholder in a foreign for-profit oil company second.”

Last week newly-elected American President Joe Biden said that the “oil industry pollutes significantly. It has to be replaced by renewable energy over time.”