Ecuador to enviros: pay us to keep oil in the ground

Ecuador has offered to drop plans to develop the country’s biggest oilfield at Ishpingo-Tambococha-Tiputini (ITT) in the Amazon basin if developed nations pay it to protect the land. President Rafael Correa hopes wealthy governments and environmental groups will pay $350 million annually to leave the oil in the ground and help slow global warming.

“We are willing to do this sacrifice, but for not free,” Correa said. “This is an insignificant figure compared to what is spent on the Iraq war.” He said Ecuador would create a trust fund for donations. The government would also accept pardons of bilateral and multilateral lenders debt as payment.

Correa says Ecuador, South America’s fifth-largest oil producer, will give donors until next year to make offers before it starts to develop the field, which the government says holds reserves of more than 1 billion barrels. Part of the ITT area is inside the 2,427-acre (982-hectare) Yasuni National Park, where isolated indigenous groups live alongside rare jaguars and river dolphins.

“We are asking the world to save life,” Energy Minister Alberto Acosta said in an interview with Reuters. Acosta said exploiting the fields’ entire reserve would only meet 12 days of global oil consumption. “This is a sacrifice and we are asking the world to stop consuming fuel for only 12 days, which is what will be extracted from the ITT,” he said.

Ecuador is fighting international suits for breaching contracts with foreign companies, including several Occidental Petroleum whose assets were seized after the government terminated its contract in 2006. (Reuters, June 6)

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