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Striking Oil Ain’t What It Used to Be

Poor Countries Find Fossil Fuels Just as the Rich World Swears Them Off

An oil rig in Guanabara Bay, Brazil, June 2015 Felix Clay / eyevine / Redux

On January 7, the oil and gas companies Apache Corporation and Total SA announced a major oil find off the coast of Suriname, not far from enormous offshore deposits in neighboring Guyana discovered by ExxonMobil last year. The size of the Suriname discovery is yet to be determined, but it could be large enough to transform the small South American country, where per capita income is less than $6,000. Just three months prior on the other side of the Atlantic, the British oil major BP announced the largest natural gas discovery of 2019: the energy equivalent of 1.3 billion barrels of oil lies waiting to be extracted off the coast of Mauritania, more than enough to support a liquefied natural gas (LNG) hub. And the same year in Mozambique, Total acquired a $3.9 billion stake in an LNG project whose total cost will likely dwarf that country’s national economy.

At a time when many

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