This year, ExxonMobil announced its 11th and 12th oil finds in the small South American country of Guyana. The estimates of recoverable crude in the country now stand at roughly 5 billion barrels. On a per capita basis, this would put Guyana among the top 10 oil producers in the world. Whether the people of Guyana see much benefit from the windfall could have much to say about the fate of the oil industry, which is facing an uncertain future during an ongoing energy transition.
The response to the discoveries in Guyana has varied. Amy Myers Jaffe, the director of the energy security and climate change program at the Council on Foreign Relations, captured the view of those concerned about the much-studied resource curse. “There is no way the explosion of money will be managed properly,” she said. Responsible stewardship is indeed hard to imagine. Guyana is a country of about 780,000, and it could produce the same number of barrels of oil per day. At a price of $50 per barrel, that means a total revenue of close to $15 billion per year within the next decade—a staggering sum that other nascent oil nations have struggled to absorb effectively.