22 min read

Subscriber Early Release: S8 Ep2 | The Contract

Subscriber Early Release: S8 Ep2 | The Contract

After a year’s worth of pressure from local press and civil society groups, the Guyanese government released its contract with ExxonMobil to the public in December 2017. It’s worse than anyone thought possible, and even the IMF calls it an unfair deal for Guyana. Some local leaders start calling on government officials to try to renegotiate the contract, but others say that’s a fool’s errand and the only place to fight the contract is in court.

Here's your sneak preview of Ep 2, thank you for being a paid subscriber!

Damages S3 E2 V25


Glenn Lall: [00:00:01] Guyana, It's Glenn again. TikTok-ing. I am on TikTok again. TikTok. I'm here to Tik-le you guys again. [00:00:09][8.7]

Amy Westervelt: [00:00:12] This is Glenn Lall. He's the publisher of the newspaper. Kiana Wilberg works for Kaiteuer News. He is not your average publisher. And I'm not just talking about his penchant for statement hats and snazzy shirts. [00:00:26][14.0]

Glenn Lall: [00:00:27] I changed my shirt. I got a wardrobe at the office, man. [00:00:27][0.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:00:31] If you watch those videos, you will be seeing him in different clothes, different shoes, and with glittering jewelry. But Lall isn't just a larger than life character. He's also an influencer. He has more than 20,000 followers on TikTok, and he's a content machine. He puts out a video almost every day. [00:00:50][19.0]

Glenn Lall: [00:00:51] Glenn again. Tick Tock Friday. I'm Tik-ing you. But this time I'm Tik-ing you guys differently. [00:00:57][5.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:00:57] Lots of his videos have over 100,000 views. That's a pretty big number in a country with fewer than 800,000 residents. And Glenn Lall hosts a show on YouTube that he broadcasts on Kaieteur's radio station. A newspaper, a radio show, YouTube channel, Tik Tok. It's kind of a lot, but it's all part of a strategy. Lall doesn't just want to put information out into the world. He wants to reach the masses. And he knows how to speak their language, literally. [00:01:27][30.2]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:01:29] It's a version of patois. It's called Creole is. So it's English. And we have our own lingo that's mixed into that. [00:01:34][5.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:01:35] That's Kiana Wilburg, the journalist from Lall's newspaper Kaiteuer News that we heard from last time. She says most people in Guyana, and especially working class people, speak Creolese. We heard it a lot, too, like when our taxi driver took us to get some typical Guyanese snacks on the way to the Kaieteur News office. [00:01:54][18.9]

Wesley: [00:01:55] It's hot. Okay. It's bird pepper. It's hot. Very hot. [00:01:59][3.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:02:01] Scares me. [00:02:01][0.4]

Wesley: [00:02:03] Scares you. [00:02:03][0.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:02:05] Too Hot. [00:02:05][0.2]

Wesley: [00:02:06] Oh, it won't, watch. [00:02:08][1.6]

Sarah Ventre: [00:02:08] You said you didn't eat it. [00:02:09][1.1]

Wesley: [00:02:10] I don't! I ate it once by mistake. That's the kind of thing me want kind experience. Me not gonna explore an experience like that. Bird pepper? No. Me want a kind pepper, they're too hot. [00:02:19][9.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:02:26] I'm not sure if you caught that, but we were talking about eating some of Guyana's famously spicy peppers. And our driver was speaking in rapid fire Creolese. [00:02:34][8.3]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:02:36] So we report the news, and that's for a middle class here. And then that is translated into a written column that we have called "Dem Boys Say." And then, Mr. Glenn, he would also use his platform to do an extended version of that. [00:02:56][20.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:02:58] And this strategy of speaking to people in a way they understand and relate to, it makes a big difference, especially when you're talking about complicated, messy things like oil contracts. Remember, the team at Kaieteur News was waiting for months for the government to release its contract with ExxonMobil. Finally, at the end of 2017, they did. December 28th, 2017, to be exact. [00:03:26][27.2]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:03:27] Christmas is a very special moment for Guyanese, and it's a period that, you know, the government knows if it wants to rush anything that needs careful attention, they put it at Christmas, which is what they did. [00:03:44][17.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:03:46] Ah, yes, the classic news dump. Every government and corporation in the world knows this tactic. If you're releasing news you're not super proud of or that you suspect might have some backlash, you put it out on a Friday evening before a long weekend or during a big sporting event or in the week between Christmas and New Year's. But this wasn't just any news dump. [00:04:11][24.4]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:04:12] Finally, the government said, okay, at 6:00 today, we're going to release a contract. So Exxon decided to hold a press conference just about two or 3 hours before that. [00:04:22][10.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:04:24] That was the first press conference Exxon had in Guyana, and they've hosted very few since then. But this contract was really complicated and full of legalese. So Exxon decided they would break it down for reporters and point them toward the most important bits. Helpful! [00:04:41][16.7]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:04:42] It was in a boardroom at the Marriott Hotel, and my colleagues and I, we left. Everyone is downstairs. And for the first time, because we normally don't like to share our angles, but this was the first time everybody was huddled together. Did you understand what was going on? What is this? What did he mean by this? Did he really say this? And I'm talking about seasoned journalists, journalists who've been in this game for like 20, 30 years covering so much here and abroad. And they were confused. And my editor in chief, who was there at the times he was saying, you know, this is this is exactly what this press conference is intended to do. [00:05:28][45.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:05:29] Remember, the contract still wasn't going to be released for another few hours. So everything Exxon told these reporters at the press conference, it was just like a heads up before anyone could actually read it. You know, just fyi-. Then a few hours later, the government did release the contracts and it was chaos. [00:05:50][20.6]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:05:53] This is something that was hidden from the media since 1999. [00:06:00][7.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:06:02] 1999 was the year Guyana first signed a contract with ExxonMobil. Then it was revised in 2016 after oil was discovered. [00:06:11][9.3]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:06:12] No one saw this document. No one even knew what certain terms meant. No, nobody didn't understand. What is this 2% royalty? What is 5050 profit oil? What is profit oil? What is cost oil? And they're talking to us with all of these different terms. And the conversation just went over everybody's head. [00:06:34][22.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:06:36] So the contract was unintelligible to anyone who hadn't spent years reading oil contracts. And to make things even more confusing. Exxon had primed everyone with information they wanted people to know, parts of the contract they wanted to point people's attention toward. No one could make heads or tails of it or tell what was really going on. In fact, it would take years for local lawyers and international experts to wrap their heads around what exactly this contract laid out. As everyone did start to make their way through it, one by one, they came to the same conclusion. [00:07:12][35.7]

Frederick Collins: [00:07:13] The majority of people, including the IMF. Have gone on record as saying it was a very unfair deal for Guyana. [00:07:23][9.5]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:07:23] A historically bad, profoundly bad contract that the government got with Exxon. [00:07:29][5.4]

Steve Coll: [00:07:29] It's a balance of power problem. Once the contract is signed, then one of Exxon's sort of playbooks is to refuse to renegotiate. [00:07:40][10.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:07:42] That was head of the Transparency Institute of Guyana, Frederick Collins, investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz, and journalist Steve Coll, who wrote about ExxonMobil in his book Private Empire. One by one, environmental non-profits, government corruption groups and the International Monetary Fund came out saying this was a bad deal for Guyana. When I asked Exxon about it, they sent me the following statement: "Our Guyana operation is in what's considered a frontier offshore exploration basin. The terms of our petroleum agreement with the government of Guyana are common in the industry and competitive with other countries at a similar stage of resource discovery.". [00:08:26][43.5]

[00:08:26] But even some conservative pro oil voices have been pointing out major flaws in the contract, Which begs the question is this oil boom actually going to make Guyana rich? We'll get into it after this quick break. This is Light, Sweet Crude, and I'm Amy Westervelt. [00:08:43][17.3]

Stewardess: [00:09:04] Ladies and gentlemen, thank you it's our pleasure to welcome you to Georgetown, Guyana. Please remain seated with your seatbelt securely fastened until we are parked at the gate and the captain turns off the fasten seatbelt sign. [00:09:13][8.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:09:14] When we landed in Guyana, one thing was very apparent. Government officials were hesitant to talk to us. A few ministers and even the vice president's scheduler had gotten back to us about scheduling interviews, but then gone very, very quiet. Then people kept asking us one question over and over. Had we seen the Vice news story on Guyana? [00:09:37][22.9]

Vice Guyana documentary: [00:09:38] Guyana is one of the fastest growing economies in the world. Is the Chinese in the building now saying, yes, but these deals have come with claims of corruption. Do you accept bribes? [00:09:48][9.5]

VP Bharat Jagdeo: [00:09:49] No, I don't. Whenever news reporters come from abroad, you always want to make a developing country leader look corrupt. [00:09:56][7.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:09:58] In June 2022, Vice News aired a damning piece on corruption in Guyana. Journalists went undercover, posing as a Chinese businessman who was interested in investing in the country, and his secretary. They met with various Chinese businessmen who claimed to be middlemen for bribing government officials, particularly the vice president, Bharat Jagdeo. One man in particular, Mr. Su, claimed to have handled a deal between the oil company and Jagdeo. He took the undercover journalist to see the vice president at his home as a way to show them that he did have this close relationship with him. Jagdeo never spoke of bribes, but he did say that he was good friends with Mr. Su and could help their project from the government side. [00:10:47][49.2]

Vice reporter: [00:10:48] Do you understand our deal in detail? [00:10:50][1.9]

VP Bharat Jagdeo: [00:10:51] I'm not getting involved in business. You will get the support. Su is my friend and you get the support. I don't, I don't deal with all the agreements. I don't. I don't. [00:11:01][10.0]

Vice reporter: [00:11:02] I understand. I understand. [00:11:03][1.0]

VP Bharat Jagdeo: [00:11:06] The thing is, my thing is I'm in  government so I assist from the government side. [00:11:11][5.3]

Amy Westervelt: [00:11:12] And then after that story came out, Jagdeo sued Mr. Su, for defamation in Guyana. He claimed $50 million in damages, and he seems to have stopped talking to foreign journalists altogether, at least for a while. [00:11:27][15.1]

[00:11:28] A lot of people look at the contract situation in Guyana and think it must be corruption. In fact, Jagdeo himself accused the previous government, the one that actually signed this contract, of corruption. Now, those accusations are flying at him, too. After being a vocal critic of the contract for years and promising to renegotiate it when his government resumed power, now, Jagdeo says renegotiation is not an option. He often repeats a phrase that Exxon has used over and over. [00:12:00][32.2]

[00:12:01] Sanctity of contract. Sanctity of contract. Sanctity of contract. [00:12:05][3.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:12:07] Contract renegotiation has become a big issue in Guyana. Government officials are still answering questions about it years later. And Glenn Lall is churning out hundreds of hours of video on the topic To understand why, we're going to have to get into some of the details. And spoiler alert, they are confusing as hell. To recap, Guyana signed a contract with ExxonMobil in 1999, allowing them to explore for oil. But Exxon didn't really start exploring there until about a decade later. And then in 2015, they struck oil. And a year later, in 2016, they inked a new contract with the government of Ghana. According to Exxon, even though they had found oil, no one knew the full potential of Guyana's reserves at the time. But none of that was made public until December 2017, when Exxon held a press conference to explain the contract to journalists like Kiana Wellbrock. [00:13:13][65.9]

Kiana Wilburg: [00:13:14] It's clear that they weren't exactly telling us lies, but they weren't telling us the truth either. [00:13:19][4.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:13:21] This practice using statements that are technically true, but also leave out critical information in order to mislead people. It has a name faltering and the fossil fuel industry uses it over and over again. John Cook is a climate communications researcher at Monash University in Australia and an adviser to Facebook on climate misinformation. He says altering is a key tactic for the industry. He often points to the way fossil fuel companies talk about renewable energy as a textbook example. [00:13:53][31.8]

John Cook: [00:13:54] The sun doesn't shine at night or the wind doesn't always blow, and therefore renewables aren't a reliable source of energy. [00:14:02][8.2]

Amy Westervelt: [00:14:03] Of course, it's true that the wind doesn't always blow and that the sun doesn't shine at night. But this argument intentionally leaves out information about things like battery storage that address those issues. ExxonMobil does the same thing in Guyana. In fact, the company uses a handful of classic disinformation tactics all the time, not just posturing, but also implying that any information not released by the company itself is inaccurate and something called building social license. Things like sponsoring sporting events or educational programs to convince the public that the company is a positive member of the community. These three tactics have been deployed over and over again in Guyana, not just at that initial press conference, but in a steady stream of marketing materials the company has released since then. Like this promotional video they put out on Facebook to explain the contract to the Guyanese public. [00:15:02][59.1]

Exxon Promo Video: [00:15:04] I'm Janelle Persaud, and I'm Mikayla Carman. So while development activities continue to progress at a rapid pace, there are still many of you out there who have questions. Questions specifically about the production sharing agreement or the contract which was signed in 2016. And if you guys hadn't heard, ExxonMobil will once again be sponsoring the Guyana Amazon Warriors Cricket. Cricket. Lovely. T20 cricket returns to Guyana. We could not be more excited. And that's why we're recording this episode from the Guyana National Stadium in Providence. [00:15:35][31.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:15:35] That's not us editing the tape. That's the video as is going straight from oil to cricket without missing a beat. This is one of the ways Exxon is building social license by associating Cricket Guyana's beloved National Sport with Exxon. These two young women, one of African descent, the other of Indian descent to appeal to as much of the Guyanese public as possible, are filming from the national cricket field and highlighting Exxon's contributions to Guyanese society. I asked Glen Lau, the publisher of Cater News. We heard from up top what he thinks of the cricket sponsorship. [00:16:15][39.6]

Glenn Lall: [00:16:17] I am so afraid, deep within my soul, that what they're doing there that it's not only misleading, but it's very dangerous. I have said that umpteen times and I will repeat it tomorrow night on the radio. You see, when they sponsored this cricket act before, I think two years ago, they sponsor cricket. Now, when you walk in the streets, you would hear every Guyanese say, Thank God for Exxon. If it wasn't for Exxon, we would have never been able to see cricket live on television. You see how dangerous that is? [00:16:58][41.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:17:00] Oil companies, like all big industrial companies, work really hard to convince the public that they're doing more good than harm. They spend a lot of time and money on it. Social license, the public's willingness to give them the benefit of the doubt or support policies that the oil companies want is important to their business model. So when they do things like sponsoring sports teams and music festivals and schools, they're not just playing the good guy. They're not just doing it for PR. They're also making entire communities dependent on their apparent generosity. Over time, it makes people less likely to criticize them because they feel totally beholden to them. Remember how the Exxon promotional video promised to answer all of our questions about the contract? Well, before getting into any of the actual details that they've promised, first, they remind us that Exxon is supporting cricket in a big way. And then they raise an eyebrow at what anyone else might be saying about this contract. [00:18:01][60.4]

Exxon promo video: [00:18:02] Well, recognizing that there is a lot of incorrect information out there, we hope to provide clarity through our conversations with president of Exxon Mobil, Guyana, Alister Routledge and or Treasurer Katrina Masters. In this episode of Exxon Mobil. [00:18:16][13.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:18:17] And finally, we get to the paltering. Here's Alistair Routledge, who heads up Exxon's operations in Guyana. [00:18:22][5.6]

Alistair Routledge: [00:18:23] So fundamentally, this is a sharing production sharing agreement. [00:18:27][4.1]

Amy Westervelt: [00:18:29] This is the guy in charge of Exxon in Guyana. Alistair Routledge. [00:18:32][3.5]

Alistair Routledge: [00:18:33] But in that sharing agreement, the contractors, which is ExxonMobil, has since take all of the risk upfront. So if we never made an economic development, we would swallow all of the costs that went into that investment. We would never get paid back. So there's never any risk for the state. [00:18:52][19.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:18:54] What Routledge is saying is that Exxon and its partners are investing money into the discovery and production of oil, and that's expensive. These are things like surveying the ocean floor to figure out where oil is and then drilling exploratory wells to see what kind of oil they can get there. And in Guyana, they can get what's called light sweet crude, the best kind of oil. It's easier to turn into gasoline and it commands a higher price on the world market. So in Guyana, they not only found oil, they found a lot of the most profitable kind. But then there are more expenses before that oil can be sold. Wells need to be built, staff hired. The oil needs to be refined and shipped. All of that cost billions and billions of dollars. Here's Exxon Guyana's vice president and business service manager Philip Rietema, explaining it all at a press conference. [00:19:48][54.3]

Philip Rietema: [00:19:49] This is the first year since our inception in 1999 that we've generated a profit in Guyana. Underscoring the complexity of our business and the years of investment required before pay off. Overall expenses were were up from 2020 in line with increased production. [00:20:09][19.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:20:11] In other words, deepwater offshore drilling projects take a lot of time and a lot of money before they start to pay off and before anyone can start divvying up profits, the oil companies need to pay themselves back for all those years of investment. It's only fair. But there are a couple of things to keep in mind here. First, well, yes, Exxon has technically been in Guyana since 1999. It only started actively looking for oil in 2008. And Exxon spokespeople leave out some other key details that make things a whole lot more blurry. Here's what you need to know. First, before there's any profit to split, Exxon and its partners takes 75% of all revenue off the top to pay themselves back for exploration and development costs. All those things that Routledge was talking about. So if you think about $100 barrel of oil, that's $75 to the oil companies straight away. It's what the oil companies refer to as cost oil. The remaining $25 or profit oil gets split between Guyana and the oil companies, with an extra 2% royalty coming to Guyana for a grand total of $14.50 a barrel. [00:21:29][77.9]

Tom Sanzillo: [00:21:30] It may be ultimately over a long period of time, a 5050 split. Right now, it is not a 5050 split. Right now it's 6 to 1. [00:21:37][7.2]

Amy Westervelt: [00:21:38] This is Tom Santillo from the nonprofit Institute for Energy Economics and Financial Analysis. He's looked at Guyana's oil contract closer than almost anybody. [00:21:47][9.2]

Tom Sanzillo: [00:21:49] Right now, you're looking at a revenue take of somewhere between $6 to the oil and gas companies, to every $1 to the government of Guyana. [00:21:58][9.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:22:00] And just to put that royalty in perspective, that 2% that gets talked about as this like big extra tip for Guyana. The average range for royalties in situations like this is 8 to 25%. So 2% is quite a bit below the low end of that spectrum. It's not great. Plus, Diana is on the hook for a lot of other costs. It pays Exxon's Guyanese income tax, for example, and it's had to get foreign loans to cover the cost of various infrastructure projects that need to be built to support the fossil fuel industry like the export turbine. Mall in Georgetown that Exxon needs to ship things in and out of. Second, you could look at the current split and say, okay, well, sure, but expenses are expenses. And once they're paid off, it will be 5050. And again, that's technically true. But as you heard from Ria Timo a moment ago, those expenses just keep growing. Here's where it starts to get really tricky. It's pretty normal for an oil company to recoup at least some of its development costs once a wells starts generating revenue. What's not common is for them to bill against what's called future oil, the oil that future well sites are projected to produce. [00:23:22][82.2]

Tom Sanzillo: [00:23:24] All of Exxon's development costs are folded in as part of the balance that's owed. They've developed a couple of existing wells where they're actually drawing oil, and that oil is producing revenue. And so they're getting money for that. But they now have also some 20 plus other fields that they have discovered that are not producing oil without the development costs get folded into the balance anyway. In other words, they're paying for future oil now. [00:23:56][32.5]

Amy Westervelt: [00:23:57] So Exxon has two wells that are producing actual barrels of oil for sale. That's where all the profit is coming from right now. But on top of covering the expenses associated with those wells, they're recouping the expenses associated with all of their ongoing exploration and development in Guyana. See? Excellent. In this top exploring once they found that initial bit of oil, they've continued to survey and drilled to look for more oil, and they're continuing to build new wells and production rigs too. All of that costs money, and normally those costs would be recouped once those new discoveries start producing sellable barrels of oil. But instead of waiting for that, Exxon and its partners are paying themselves back now with the profits from those first two wells. In other words, Guyana is paying today for, well, sites that may never turn a profit. And that's not generally how these projects work. Here's how investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz put it. [00:25:00][62.3]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:25:01] It is unprecedented. Exxon is recouping all of its costs, all of its development costs, that the Guyanese people are subsidizing. All of the development costs for Exxon. [00:25:15][14.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:25:17] Like Sanzillo, Antonia Juhasz has read a lot of oil contracts. She's been digging into Guyana situation since 2019 and has written about it for The Guardian and Wired and she's written books on the way the oil industry operates in the Gulf of Mexico and also in Iraq in Guyana. You've got these two big issues, 75% of revenue comes off the top of every barrel to cover expenses. And Exxon is frontloading those expenses, which means Guyana is paying today for wells that may or may not pay off tomorrow. So far, those expenses are estimated at up to $29 billion, which could take up to ten years to pay off. But to really understand the problem with this set up, you kind of have to understand the global oil market a bit, too. It is, in a word, volatile. The past year has been very, very good to the industry, thanks in large part to Russia's invasion of Ukraine. Oil has fluctuated between 80 and $139 a barrel, and oil companies have been pocketing record profits. But four years before that, oil prices were pretty regularly hitting record lows. $50 a barrel seemed kind of like the new normal. And then remember, at the height of the COVID 19 pandemic, in 2020, oil prices actually went negative. In other words, to sell a barrel of oil, you would have to pay the person you are selling that barrel to money. That's because demand plummeted. But companies kept right on producing the same amount, and there was nowhere to put it. There was no storage left. At one point, anyone selling a barrel of oil was having to pay the buyer $30. [00:27:08][111.6]

CNN report: [00:27:10] Oil prices have turned negative. The most extraordinary development that took place today when the US Maine blend West Texas Intermediate fell more than 306%. [00:27:21][11.2]

Amy Westervelt: [00:27:23] Shutting down wells can be expensive and complicated. And then there's the risk that you won't be able to get them back up and running again when prices rise. So some oil companies just keep pumping, even if they're losing money. Not exactly a rock solid investment. In fact, most forecasters predict prices will go down as the decade progresses, in part due to slowing demand as people and countries transition away from fossil fuels. So by the time those wells Guyana is paying for today actually start to turn a profit, and by the time those profits are truly being split, 50-50, things are likely to look very different than they do today. That's why Glen Lall is taking to TikTok every chance he gets to beat the drum for renegotiating the contract. [00:28:12][48.7]

Glenn Lall: [00:28:14] No. Tell me again how on Earth that is a 5050 profit sharing business that when one side is puffing out three quarter barrel up front and calling it cost oil. Guyana cannot say definitively to this country what percentage of revenue the Guyanese people are receiving from our oil deal. The contract was not made freely, knowingly and fairly by competent people. And our hands are not handcuffed. We are not chained to concrete balls. So what is stopping us from changing it? [00:29:00][46.6]

Amy Westervelt: [00:29:02] Calls to renegotiate the contract have gotten enough support, but Exxon is starting to spend some of its marketing budget to counteract the idea that Guyana has a bad deal. It made that promotional video I mentioned earlier, for example, and it's been putting up massive billboards all over Guyana about the 5050 split. But not everyone agrees with law about the need to renegotiate. Some people say he's just mad that he's not getting rich off the oil. Others by Exxon's argument that it's only fair for the company to recoup its costs in this way. But another small but growing group of people thinks haggling over the details of the contract is a fool's errand, that Guyana needs to look past the contract, past the promises of oil riches, and really grapple with the harm that this project could do in Guyana. And beyond. The fact that there are all these expenses to pay upfront and that it could be a long time before a true 5050 split kicks in creates a huge incentive for Guyana to fast track oil production. The more barrels they can produce and the faster they can produce them, the faster they can pay off those expenses and get to that oil wealth that the public has been promised. And fast tracking appears to be exactly what they're doing. Routledge himself regularly comments on how everything in Guyana is happening ahead of schedule at an unprecedented pace. [00:30:33][91.3]

Alistair Routledge: [00:30:35] Really just six years, less than six years that we've been exploring offshore Guyana to to achieve that amount is quite outstanding. [00:30:42][7.3]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:30:43] Well, Exxon just repeats every chance it gets that everything about this production has been ahead of schedule and way faster than its other operations. It says this as a point of pride. [00:30:55][11.8]

Amy Westervelt: [00:30:56] That's investigative journalist Antonia Juhasz again. [00:30:59][2.8]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:31:00] This is a point of concern that why is it so much faster than everywhere else? Exxon has been producing oil for 150 years. Why is it suddenly, you know, receive this this ability to move so much faster in Guyana than it does everywhere else in the world? And the answer is really simple. There's no oversight. There's no one telling them to slow down. Be careful. Follow the rules. It's one of the reasons why it's so cheap for Exxon to produce there, and it's why Exxon is pushing so much of its production there. [00:31:30][30.0]

Amy Westervelt: [00:31:32] At the end of 2022, Exxon announced that its first two wells in Guyana were producing above designed capacity. So pumping out more barrels than they were designed to produce. If it stays on its current production schedule, Guyana will be neck and neck with Exxon's longtime stronghold, the Permian Basin in Texas, within five years. [00:31:54][22.5]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:31:55] That is a shocking development for a country that didn't have any oil production three years ago. [00:32:02][6.9]

Amy Westervelt: [00:32:04] It's actually another example of paltering, too. Exxon boasts to its shareholders and the public about the remarkable speed with which it is developing an oil industry in Guyana. But in reality, that speed is a major red flag. Because while it's true that rapidly increasing production can increase profits in the short term, there's another thing that's even more common when oil companies fast track things. [00:32:30][26.3]

Deepwater Archival: [00:32:31] The gusher unleashed in the Gulf of Mexico continues to spew crude oil. There are no reliable estimates of how much oil is pouring into the Gulf, but it comes to many millions of gallons since the catastrophic blowout. [00:32:43][12.4]

Antonia Juhasz: [00:32:44] In the U.S. Gulf. You did have 150 years of experience. You do have some of the best regulations in the world. And though limited, you do still have some of the best oversight capacity in the world. Again, though limited and still the worst offshore drilling oil disaster in history took place in the US Gulf of Mexico under these circumstances. And there is tremendous concern both by experts and by everybody I talked to in Guyana about what would happen if there was a disaster in the deep waters offshore Guyana. [00:33:24][39.7]

Amy Westervelt: [00:33:26] That's our story next time