Guyana, the tiny English-speaking South American country on the Atlantic coast, has major oil reserves that Exxon-Mobil and the Hess Corp. stand ready to exploit. Once again, a momentous petroleum discovery will continue the world's dependence on fossil fuel.
Exxon-Mobil and Hess estimate that as much as 4 billion barrels of oil lie beneath Guyana's coastal waters, which could bring the country around $200 billion at today's low prices, according to a New York Times article played at the bottom of the newspaper's business page at the start of the MLK holiday weekend.
With a population of less than 1 million, Guyana would be able to export nearly all of its oil. Before the petroleum news, Guayana, once a British colony, was best known as the place where James Jones' People's Temple committed mass suicide with poisoned Kool-Aid.
To extract its oil for the global market, the poor country bordered by Venezuela to the west and Brazil to the south must quickly amp up its production facilities, with all of the social dislocations and environmental devastation associated with rapid development.
With Exxon Mobil's involvement, Guyana's emergence as a petroleum state looms as another conflict of interest for former Exxon-Mobil chief Rex Tillerson, President-elect Trump's secretary of state nominee.
If the Senate doesn't derail Tillerson's confirmation because of his ties to Russia, he'll make policy decisions that will affect the profits of his old company in South America. Venezuela, already hostile to the United States, has long claimed a huge slice of Guyana, and would like to gain a share of its tiny neighbor's oil bonanza. Actions by Tillerson favoring Exxon Mobil will heighten tensions with Venezuela and other Southern American powers.
The discovery is another alarming omen in the fight to limit carbon emissions and control climate change. Environmentalists warn that if the world has any chance to stop global warming's devastation, petroleum reserves should remain underground and beneath the oceans rather than turned into atmosphere-ravaging fuel.
Under the Trump administration, Exxon Mobil and Hess can go full speed to disrupt and transfigure tiny Guyana. More fuel exhaust will be released into the already carbon-loaded atmosphere, accelerating global warming.