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General News of Thursday, 16 July 2009

Source: GNA

Ministry bears teeth at oil industry

Accra, July 15, GNA - Dr. Edward Kofi Omane Boamah, Deputy Minister of Environment, Science and Technology, on Wednesday said the ministry would not stand by and watch players in the oil and gas exploration industry destroy the country's ecology and sacrifice the health and safety of citizens.

When the GNA asked him "it looks like you are bearing your teeth at players in the oil and gas industry" he replied "yes". "The ministry, through the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), will closely monitor oil and gas exploration in the country to ensure that the players do not make their money on the altar of the environmental degradation and the health and safety of our people," he said.

The Minister said this at the opening of the first Oil and Gas Conference for the transport sector.

The conference, jointly organized by the ministries of Transport and Roads, is under the theme, "Positioning the Transport Sector for the Successful Exploitation of Ghana's Oil and Gas". It is intended to find ways of integrating the transport, roads, logistic, legal and finance sectors of the economy in manner that would ensure that the domestic content of the forthcoming boom in the oil and gas industry is well positioned to reap maximum benefits from the industry.

Dr Boamah noted that the discovery of oil in Ghana was a blessing, but could turn into a curse and derail sustainable national development if its potential environmental impact is not taken care of sufficiently. He said currently, the ministry together with the EPA, was putting together comprehensive adaptation and mitigation measures that would ensure that oil and gas exploration were done within the framework of environmental and public safety.

"Experiences from other jurisdictions show that carbon emissions and oil spillage are major environmental problems from oil and gas exploration and most of the carbon comes of fossil fuel, which is what we are about to explore in Ghana," he said.

Dr Boamah said before the industrial era, for every one million molecules of air, 280 was carbon, but after the industrial era the carbon content had increased to 380, causing climate change and its devastating effects in recent days across the world. "Ghana is a net-sink zone currently comfortably absorbing all the carbon generated in the country, but oil and gas exploration is likely to increase the carbon levels and can pose danger to our people." He called for heavy tree planting across the country to ensure that in the wake of the oil and gas exploration, the country would still be able to comfortably absorb the carbon emissions without danger to life and property.

Dr Boamah said the ministry would watch the industry players closely to ensure that they played their role to leap-frog the country out of the dirty side of development, particularly in the oil gas industry.

Prof Kofi Awoonor, Chairman of the Council of State, who presided, agreed with Dr Boamah and said the issue called for concern because foreigners were involved.

"The first ships that landed on our shores took slaves away and this time they are coming again to take oil and nobody seems to talk about the safety of our people in the midst of all that," he said. Prof. Awoonor said the "greed factor" in oil exploration, where explorers only cared about how they extract and ship oil without adequate measures to forestall spillage and other environmental impacts, had been the bane of many African countries where oil is produced. He therefore called for concrete measures to be put in place to ensure that the people of Ghana continued to breathe safe air and also benefit from the revenue of the oil and gas.

In a speech read on his behalf, Vice President John Dramani Mahama said various recommendations on how to protect the environment against carbon emissions and oil spillage should be taken seriously. He commended the organizers of the conference, saying that the transportation sector was a major area through which Ghanaians could benefit greatly from the oil and gas exploration. Vice President Mahama gave the assurance that government would continue to create the enabling environment for the sector to effectively integrate with other sectors in order to well position itself for effective domestic haulage of oil and gas. Mr Mike Hammah, Minister of Transport, said efforts were underway to effectively integrate the road, rail and aviation sectors to take full advantage of the opportunities in the domestic haulage of oil. He called for an overhauling of the Takoradi Port and the Air Force Base at Takoradi to position them well for export of oil and for provision of logistics to Cape Three Points during the exploration. Mr Joe Gidisu, Minister of Roads and Highways, said government was completing road networks to the area where the oil will be carted, adding that the Road Traffic Regulations were also near completion to give meaning to the Act.

"The integrated road network plan that would set out the 2010-2015 blue print for the road sector is also near completion .," he said. Dr Amoako Tuffour, Advisor to the Minister of Finance and Economic Planning, noted four areas that needed to be tackled to ensure that oil revenue was maximized - how much to save and how much to spend; how to investment; how to fairly distribute what is to be spent; and how to carry along non-oil sectors in the national development agenda. "If oil is going to be a curse or a blessing, it will depend on how well we address those four areas," he said. 15 July 09