Controversy Over Oil Exploration in the Caribbean

By Eric Robinson

As oil reaches $70 per barrel, Costa Rica’s Caribbean Sea is being considered for oil exploration and drilling. Costa Rican President Oscar Arias seems to be at least warming to the idea, and forgetting about the national oil exploration moratorium enacted by former President Abel Pacheco. Arias recently met with the heads of the Brasilian oil exploration company Petrolio Brasiliero to discuss the possibility.

But opposition forces are starting to amass in the Talamanca region over fears the pristine waters, coral reefs and coastline in the Cahuita area may be damaged. A local environmental organization known as Grupo Adela headed by Enrique Joseph, and indigenous Bribri chief Timoteo Jackson have seen damage done in their area in the past when sixty barrels of oil were extracted by the government in the 1960’s and the Watsi River was contaminated for twenty years. US backed Harken oil company has an ongoing lawsuit in an international arbitration court against the government of Costa Rica for non-performance since the government withdrew permission to explore for petroleum under the Pacheco administration, and fears are rising that concessions may have to be made. The government argues that Harken did not satisfy the environmental concerns, and thus cancelled the contract.

Perhaps initiatives to make North America oil self-sufficient by megaprojects such as coal to oil, and the Athabaska Tar Sands would be a better investment than chancing ruining our Caribbean coast. Apparently these megaprojects were to become viable when the price of a barrel of oil reached $35. It’s now double that. OPEC and all the oil extracting nations who are holding the free world basically at ransom these days would have no choice but to lower there asking price. Time will tell where this is all heading, but let’s hope it doesn’t involve dirtying our beautiful Caribbean.

One thought on “Controversy Over Oil Exploration in the Caribbean”

  1. I visited Costa Rica for a travel-study summer course at the Universidad de Interamericana in Heredia. We talked about oil exploitation and watched a film called Caribe. Aside from the romance, the prime story concerning the oil exploitation was interesting and it made it seem like the people of Costa Rica would eventually win out. I hope that same fight from the people hasn’t faded away since.

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