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article imageThe oil and gas riches of Haiti, speculation and evidence

By R. C. Camphausen     Feb 21, 2010 in Business
In the wake of the recent earthquake and the presence of US troops in Haiti, interested researchers have unearthed many hints that there's a lot of gas and oil below and around the island. It seems the time for drilling has come.
Two days ago, The Real News Network (TRNN) made a video available online which features economist and author F. William Engdahl, who convincingly speculates that Haiti and the surrounding sea will most likely have huge and untapped reserves of both oil and gas, arguing that this is usually so in places where tectonic plates meet - and the island containing both Haiti and the Dominican Republic actually are at a meeting point of three such plates. Mr Engdahl is no unknown author and has written on issues of energy, politics and economics for more than 30 years, beginning in the early 1970s when the world first awoke to the possibility of oil running out at some point. He is also the author of the best selling book A Century of War: Anglo-American Oil Politics and the New World Order.
Follows a short quote from the interview: TRNN: Which must be somewhat in flux when you have the country in such chaos and all the normal infrastructures of the state in disarray, other than—I guess the US military is kind of taking up the role of the state, other than the private armies that work for these five, six families. So the real issue connected to oil is going to be: is this kind of tradition of popular politics in Haiti going to be able to assert itself? Or do they get back to politics as usual?
ENGDAHL: Yeah, that I have no means of calling. I think the fact that the latest figures are 13,000 US troops on that tiny little island, that's quite a lot of military power. I think probably the need is for less military projection and more humanitarian—food, water, and shelter aid from—. And this is what the Haitian websites have been pleading for ever since the January earthquake. But I'm a little bit uneasy about the agenda of the Pentagon in Haiti, with their overwhelming military presence. The Doctors Without Borders in Geneva protested immediately after the quake that their planes, their transport planes, were turned back from Haitian airports by US soldiers who refused them landing rights—and they had emergency humanitarian aid. This wasn't some kind of a, you know, Soviet, Cold War-era spy game; this was a humanitarian effort, and they protested quite loudly that the US was hindering that. So it's unclear at this point what the US agenda is for Haiti, but the signs and the fact that George W. Bush was appointed special envoy, along with Bill Clinton as UN envoy, gives one grounds for pause here, I think.
TRNN: Well, where George W. Bush seems to be, there usually is oil. Thanks very much for joining us, William.
Engdahl, in the video, seems to be merely speculating, although it is speculation based on scientific evidence concerning geological formations that have resulted in oil finds in places other than Haiti. At no point does he claim that there's evidence yet for mineral deposits that would make Haiti into a rather rich nation.
Other sources, however, do show clearly that this is the case, and it seems that the denial - up to now - that Haiti has gas, oil and other interesting resources, like uranium, is a strategic one.
Let's start with an English translation of an article by Dr. Georges Michel that was first published on the French on March 27, 2004:
In the course of the 1950s, the Knappen-Tippen-Abbet company conducted drillings in La Gonave, in the Cul-de-Sac plains, in the Plateau-Central and in the region of Gonaives. All of these drillings had proved extremely promising and the results were beyond expectations. However, the big multinational oil companies operating in Haiti pushed for the discovered deposits not to be exploited. Haiti was neither Saudi Arabia nor Kuwait. At a time when a barrel of crude oil sold for just over a dollar, and the Persian Gulf provided oil galore, there was no reason for these companies to put in production these oil fields deemed much less profitable. Especially while ARAMCO [then known as the Arabian American Oil Company] was, rain or shine in Arabia, at a low price, even to the point of looting the precious oil resources of this kingdom.
The attitude of these big multinational oil companies was "We shall keep the Haitian deposits and other such layers of deposits in reserve for the 21st century when the Middle Eastern jackpot are depleted." This is what happened! The wells of Knappen-Tippen-Abbet were numbered, carefully locked or sealed with cement and forgotten.
Next, we have the two scientists Ginette and Daniel Mathurin, who are quoted extensively in an article by Peter Schlosser, Are We in Haiti because of Oil? The quotes from Ginette and Daniel Mathurin are from January 2008: Haitian soil it is rich in oil and fuel. We have identified 20 oil sites. 5 of them are considered of great importance by specialists and politicians.
The Central Plateau, including the region of Thomonde, the plain of the Cul-de-Sac and the bay of Port-au-Prince are full of hydrocarbons.
The oil reserves of Haiti are more important than those of Venezuela. An Olympic pool compared to a glass of water; that is the comparison to illustrate the importance of Haitian oil compared with those of Venezuela.
On yet another website, Open Salon, it is said that Daniel and Ginette Mathurin have also shown that uranium 238 and 235 and the deposit zyconium exist in several regions including in Jacmel. Uranium, of course, is used in nuclear reactors to help produce electrical energy.
Heaving read all of this, the puzzle of Haiti's reserves is certainly not solved, but it just may shed some more light on why the US is establishing such a large military presence in the country right now, or why tiny Haiti has the fifth largest US embassy in the world. Once the earthquake situation has been solved one way or another, it seems that Haiti will remain in the news for some years to come.
Here's another take on this theme, from the Toronto based Smart Economy.
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