Payara, Payara, Payara!

(Kaieteur News, 13.Aug.2020) — Payara will be proof and pave the way. Payara could be the first plank toward petroleum prosperity. That delay pending review is a constructive move.

For its part, ExxonMobil is not wasting any time. It has gone on the offensive by delivering the first sorties from its arsenal. The company has spoken of possible “weather” predicaments that could jeopardize the way things stand if it is thwarted, through approval withheld. That was the first signal sent from the ExxonMobil command center. The second was more fearsome: Guyana could end up losing over a billion in oil revenues, if there is delay in early approval, as Exxon desires. Those two are part of the heavy artillery that Guyana’s slick oil partner has aimed at us.

There are some preliminary objectives at work in this. ExxonMobil is working assiduously to intimidate the new Guyanese leaders and weaken resolve. If that fails, it will trot out experts, studies, market realities, some obscure provision in the contract, and more. The Western, and especially American media, which was so helpful to the PPP during the elections’ controversies, will be used to plant messages that are either subtle or hostile or biased. The Ali Administration could find itself inundated with the negative and the suddenly non-supportive.

On a separate note, something else must be faced: Guyana is widely known for its corrupt political players. Exxon will work hard to get to them, to compromise them for its own advantage. Ways can be found around the United States Foreign Corrupt Practices Act. It depends on who is willing to take; with the president himself committing to transparency and accountability in the first hours of his administration, all Guyanese will be watching closely for any deviation from that promise, and what is so desperately needed here. Payara must stand as testimony to what we can deliver in the crunch, and it is crunch time.

That is clean governance. Stronger leaders across the globe have stumbled and fallen; principled men have dishonored themselves before the temptations that came. Like we said, the proof will be in the performance. We urge that it be an open book, no more secrets.

It is not a secret of how Exxon operates or the strength of its long record. Perhaps it is opportune to sketch that record, if only to give an idea of how the company conducts its business operations. This should tell Guyana what it is up against as it fights to get a fair share of the revenues from the Payara project. We need to go back over a hundred years, but it is worth the time and effort.

From Pennsylvania to the Persian Gulf, from California to Ohio to Indiana, and from the American Midwest to the Mediterranean, Exxon has conquered all comers and competition, be they corporate rivals or nationalistic visionaries. Over the decades, Exxon has dealt successfully (and prosperously) with dictators and despots, military strongmen and muscular patriots. It has outlasted them all. From its beginnings as Standard Oil of New Jersey to blending with Humble Oil to the behemoth of today that goes by the name of ExxonMobil.

We urge the greatest care in dealing with this sophisticated and ruthless corporate power. Part of its history that of its titanic founder John D. Rockefeller, has been of price gouging and price fixing, of running the competition out of town. Or buying all of them out. When is in its interests, it works with the State Department; and when it is not, then it walks alone with authority and confidence, as it did when dealing with Vladimir Putin on its own. Exxon takes no prisoners, pulls no punches. And this will be the case with Payara, which could be an undesirable precedent.

So, that the new Guyanese leaders know what they are up against with Payara, we share this. In 1911, the U.S. Supreme Court broke up the Standard Oil Trust due to monopoly practices. Today, ExxonMobil, a descendant of that breakup is bigger than what existed a century ago. Guyana now must show what it is made of in dealing with Payara.