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What you need to know.

A flame flares at the oil production facility on the border of the Yasuní national park in Ecuador.
Source: (Retrieved on 15.08.2021)

"The Paradox of Abundance"

Alberto Acosta describes Ecuador situation as the “Paradox of Abundance” or “Paradox of Plenty”[1] countries who are rich in natural resources haven’t yet reach development, although their economies rely heavily from their export.[2] The central logic behind this paradox is the abundance of the natural resources itself because its works more like a course. Countries who have not a resource-based economy often have a higher GDP per capital in comparison to countries with oil deposits and mineral rich soils. [3] Moreen points out that usually after a large flow of wealth, the economy declines due to “macroeconomic, microeconomic and political economic hazards”. Therefore, the process how the resources are extracted and exploited followed by the redistribution of the economic resources and profits have led to a concentration of wealth in just a very small group of citizens. As a result, the country has faced recurrent economic crisis, and a catastrophic environmental disaster.[4] In 1964 the U.S. Oil Company Texaco started to explore for Oil in the Amazon, it was not until 1972 that the commercial production started and within the nightmare for the indigenous population in Ecuador. Texaco polluted the Ecuadorian Amazon with accidental oil spills from the main pipeline (Trans-Ecuadorian Pipeline) approximately 16.8 million gallons of Oil. In addition, everyday oil wells generated, more than 4.3 million gallons of toxic waste, which presumably were dumped in estuaries and rivers.[5] These rivers and estuaries are used by more than 30,000 people as sources of drinking, cooking, personal hygiene, irrigation, and fishing water.


[1] Karl, The paradox of plenty. The Term was first coined by Terry Lynn Karl, where she explains why, during two oil booms in the 1970s, diverse governments like Venezuela, Iran or Indonesia who choose to rely their economy in oil-exporting, suffered much alike setbacks.

[2] Acosta, „Efectos de la maldición de la abundancia de recursos naturales“, 87.

[3] Moreen, „Overcoming the ‚„Resource Curse“‘: Prioritizing Policy Interventions in Countries with Large Extractive Industries“, 6.

[4] Acosta, Efectos de la maldición de la abundancia de recursos naturales” 88

[5] Kimerling, Amazon Crude, 31.

How did we get here?

Stephanie LeMenager author of the book “Living Oil: Petroleum Culture in the American Century”
Source: (Retrieved on 18.07.2021)

"The continuation of American moder- nity might depend on unconventional petroleum resources .., depending on what those resources are, who owns them, who benefits from them, and how they play out" Stephanie Lemenager 2014

Stephanie LeMenager uses the term Petroleum culture or “petroculture”, to explain the role of oil in the contemporary American imagination. She argues that every element in culture has in a material basis and in some way and it owes itself to some form of energy and extraction. We live petroleum from the moment we wake up, and put on our clothing, later when we are driving our cars, using petroleum-based plastics, walking on asphalt, the filling in our teeth with complex polymers, eating agricultural products or when applying cosmetics, etc.[1]

The need to search for new resources in foreign lands was triggered by a report in 1908 on petroleum reserves by the United States Geological Survey (USGS) which estimated that the United States had between 10 and 24.5 billion barrels of oil left. The calculations at the time were that America could drain out its national reserves by 1935. [2] Continued by prominent Oil men who urged the government to safeguard the inland oil reserves and start developing new oil sources in foreign lands. Consequently, the government decided to work closely with big oil companies to attain control of foreign oil reserves, particularly securing the interests of the oil companies. Latin America has played an important role as an oil supplier, for instance by the end of 1930 Venezuela became the second largest leading oil producer and exporter in the world, just behind United States and the USSR. Ecuador on the other hand possesses only 0.4% of the world’s crude reserves. [3]  Nevertheless, this Andean country had to also carry with the external costs of the United States dependency of Oil and their optimism that oil reserves could boost their economy.

[1]  LeMenager, Living Oil, 69.

[2] Olien und Olien, „Running Out of Oil“, 42–51. The forecast from the report was completely mistaken. Crucial factors were ignored, like: thickness of pay, yield and recovery rate, new field discoveries varied widely within single oil fields.

[3] Odell, „Oil and State in Latin America“, 659.