Oil: The Great Satan

I mentioned last week that friends and I had gone to see Dan Hoyle’s astounding one-man show at the Marsh Theatre in San Francico: Tings Dey Happen. (It’s been extended. Catch yourself an eye opener.)

Hoyle was in Nigeria for 10 months on a Fullbright and brought back what he saw and heard. Others have been there, too.

Oil fouls everything in southern Nigeria. It spills from the pipelines, poisoning soil and water. It stains the hands of politicians and generals, who siphon off its profits. It taints the ambitions of the young, who will try anything to scoop up a share of the liquid riches—fire a gun, sabotage a pipeline, kidnap a foreigner.

Nigeria had all the makings of an uplifting tale: poor African nation blessed with enormous sudden wealth. Visions of prosperity rose with the same force as the oil that first gushed from the Niger Delta’s marshy ground in 1956. The world market craved delta crude, a “sweet,” low-sulfur liquid called Bonny Light, easily refined into gasoline and diesel. By the mid-1970s, Nigeria had joined OPEC (Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries), and the government’s budget bulged with petrodollars.

Everything looked possible—but everything went wrong.

National Geographic: Nigeria

[thx Harry H.]

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