Oil drilling analysis of Ecuador: to drill or not to drill?

Posted on March 24, 2014 • Filed under: Ecuador, Oil

Michigan Journal of Environmental & Administrative Law reported: Ecuador faces a dilemma that troubles many environmentally conscious countries: to drill or not to drill. It all starts at Yasuní National Park, one of the most biologically diverse places on earth. Yasuní is rich in amphibians, reptiles, invertebrates, trees – you name it, Yasuní has it. The biodiversity hangs in a tenuous balance, and any man-made interference is likely to have serious consequences on the local habitat.[i]

Yasuní National Park sits atop nearly 900 million barrels of oil which is worth an estimated $10 billion,[ii] about one-eighth of Ecuador’s current GDP.[iii] But President Rafael Correa cannot just tap the oil reserve, since Ecuador’s Constitution grants nature the Constitutional Right to exist undisturbed.[iv] The Rights of Nature, as they are called, give nature the “right to integral respect for its existence and for the maintenance and regeneration of its life cycles, structure, functions and evolutionary processes.”[v] President Correa found himself stuck in between two visions of Ecuador. Ecuador’s indigenous heritage respects nature above all else, but the future of Ecuador needs to be funded somehow.


Initially, President Correa tried to strike a creative balance. In 2007, he set up the Yasuní-ITT Trust Fund in the United Nations, which effectively declared to the world that Ecuador would leave Yasuní National Park undisturbed in exchange for $3.6 billion.[vi] The solution was clever, but ill founded for a couple of reasons. The fund rested on the erroneous belief that the world outside of Ecuador valued an intact Yasuní Forest as much as it did. Furthermore, many diplomats were hesitant to participate in a fund that manipulated their environmental compassion into what was essentially blackmail.[vii] The fund was a failure. When President Correa closed the fund at the end of 2012, there was only $13 million in its reserves, less than half a percent of its goal.[viii] Read Article

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