Environmental determinism, green economy, gas exports

05 December 2015, Lagos – Ellsworth Huntington an American geographer, explorer  and associate researcher at Yale University in the early 20th century propounded the theory of environmental determinism. According to himenvironmental determinism is the effect of climate on human heredity and civilization which breeds superiority of peoples of the temperate zone to those of the tropics and intermediate zones.

Shell gas flare at Kolo Creek - surrounded by agricultural fields.

Shell gas flare at Kolo Creek – surrounded by agricultural fields.

Although his assertions were viewed as ethnocentric and of doubtful scientific validity, the calls on least developed nations to submit Individual Nationally Determined Contributions(INDC) in the ongoing Conference of Parties 21 (COP 21) on climate change in Paris, is a pointer that Huntington was not far from reality. President Muhammadu Buhari submitted Nigeria’s INDC promising a 20 percent cut in carbon emissions, with a commitment that his country would meet the goal, by focusing on natural gas usage, investment in renewable energy, energy efficiency and climate smart agriculture.

His commitment even when we arenot a heavy emitter of carbon dioxide for now was apt and touched on issues of mission rights and survival rights; the case of the chicken and the egg which comes first. Do we wait until we industrialise or mitigate it now?Nigeria’s commitment for the future was needed at the COP 21 even at infancy of industrial development.

Nigeria’s commitment is assumedly a semblance of anticipated approval demanded frompresumptuous heavy carbon dioxide emitters who have put us in ozone layer depletion quagmire. For the first time America through her leader Barack Obama admitted that:‘’the United States of America not only recognizes our role in creating this problem, we embrace our responsibility to do something about it.”The United States has a solution shale gas revolution that would last them over 100 years.

Top three heavy global emitters of carbon dioxide are China (27.6 percent), United States (14.5 percent), and India (6.7 percent). South Africa, Egypt and Algeria are the only African countries in the top 40 global carbon dioxide emitters.

The COP 21 on climate change in Paris, France, and the Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Tehran,Iran, which President Buhari ledNigeria’s delegations, hadfar reachingimplications on the petroleum industry.There are significant changes due to risks and uncertainties, price changes, demand and supply imbalances, geopolitics, and global economics resulting in a new order business vis-à-vis reductions in greenhouse emissions.

It is not an illusion that in electric power generation, natural gas emits 30 percent less carbon dioxide than burning oil and 45 percent less carbon dioxide than burning coal. Natural gas is fast becoming a preferred energy source in the fossil fuels family of coal, oil and natural gas for global green economy.

Nigeria’s takeaway is that pragmatic measures should be to invest heavily for local use of natural gas for industrial development takeoff.  As the 9th largest gas producing country in the world with 182 trillion cubic feet proven reserve, Nigeria’s inability to impose adequate and appropriate sanctions on long standing and routine gas flaring International Oil Companies has not acted as a deterrent.

The Petroleum Act of 1969 empowered the Department of Petroleum Resources (DPR)to enforce Gas Flaring Penalty and collect revenues for the Federal Government. The new DPR helmsman Modecai Lawan, we have been assured is wielding the big stickto enforce compliance against gas flaring.  We say it again that there are more products when we produce hydrocarbon gas liquids (HGL) in refineries.HGL refers to natural gas liquids (parafins or alkanes), and olefins(alkenes), produced by natural gas processing plants, fractionators, crude oil refineries, and condensate splitters but excludes LNG and aromatics.

Natural Gas Liquids are naturally occurring elements found in natural gas. They are used as petrochemical feedstocks (ethane), in residential, commercial and auto gas applications (propane) and for gasoline blending (butane). Natural gas is used to generate electricity, heat buildings, fuel vehicles, and heatwater, bake foods, power industrial furnaces, and run air conditioners. Natural gas is an ingredient for fertilizer, plastics, antifreeze, pharmaceuticals and fabrics.

It is also used to manufacture a wide range of chemicals such as ammonia, methanol, butane, ethane, propane and acetic acid. Natural gas is used as a heat source in making glass, steel, cement, bricks, ceramics, tile, paper, food products and many other commodities. Natural gas is also used at many industrial facilities for incineration.

Would the gas cartel GECF fashioned out of OPEC mode favour Nigeria? We may again be jet-lagged in natural gas sales rather than adding value by processing.Oil price collapse has affected declining demand for natural gas in key import markets of China and Japan. The United States is ready to pump in more LNG in 2016. Saudi Arabia, a Middle East petroleum leader is not a GECF member but rivals Russia and Iran (world number one and two gas producers are members).

Russiaas number one has 1,688 trillion cubic feet of gas proven reserves. Iran has 1,187 trillion cubic feet, Qatar(890trillion), United States(308 trillion), Saudi Arabia(287trillion), Turkmenistan(265trillion), United Arab Emirates(215.025trillion) and Venezuela(195.1trillion). Algeria (159.05trillion) is the 10th and 2nd in Africa after Nigeria. (US Energy Information Administration 2013)

Saudi Aramco has opened up a R&D in Detroit, USA as part of its drive to expand its global fuel technology programme.It is to reduce the overall environmental impact, cost and complexity of both current and future fuel engine systems. and to develop, demonstrate and showcase low carbon-footprint transportation technologies, in support of reducing CO‚  emissions from transport sources.

Our country should emulate the Saudis and use value added linkages of petroleum to diversify our economy and also reduce greenhouse emissions.We should invest in scientific and engineering researches to prevent severe economic hemorrhages as we are now teetering on the verges of recession. Our petroleum is still very relevant even when we are told it is not.


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