To discuss a moratorium towards new oil and gas exploration is based on the recognition of production impacts and fossil fuel consumption that is provoked on a local and global level.

Countries having hydrocarbon resources have insisted on practicing their right to exploit them with the purpose of sustaining their economies. Nevertheless, excepting specific exceptions, it has not been possible to establish a direct relationship between life quality and oil exportation.

The moratorium does not imply giving up their own resources, but, a sovereign state and decision from the people welcoming it, of applying the international norm, common interest and the planet’s protection.

The hydrocarbon industry has a complicated operating and influential net, that has made it impossible to practice real control in enterprises, and has encouraged corruption allowing these enterprises to work in total impunity.

The moratorium proposal towards fossil fuel exploration is a step that must be taken, promoted and recognized. The countries impelling this are contributing effectively towards sustainable development.


The moratorium is a decision to stop the expansion oil border in order to stop fossil fuel exploration, thus avoiding local and global, environmental, social and economic impacts.

It implies a sovereign acknowledgment of the State over the natural resources. At the same time it proposes a decision that inscribes itself in the desire of general humanity welfare; it strengthens its foreign policy, contributes to the consistency of International Cohabitation by reaffirming the International Rights as a base for this cohabitation. It widens human rights and environmental rights on a national level and it is consequent with the writing of these agreements in this field.

It’s a proposal that converts the spirit of international treaties into daily national experience and gives priority to other human and economic activities that enter in a clear contradiction with contamination and destruction of natural resources which result from the hydrocarbon activities.

In this setting Costa Rica, has declared that it is a country free from oil activities.

“We will compete without destroying nature, because above today’s opportunities, our rich bio diversity will be our richness forever and we will preserve it. Before becoming an oil site, before becoming an open mine land, I propose to drive a sustainable effort to transform Costa Rica into an ecology power. The real oil and the real gold of the future will be water and oxygen; our waterbeds and our forests. Before we declare peace among us and declare peace to all countries; today we must first declare peace to nature. Costa Rica has a future”.

 Extract from Inaugural Presidential Speech of Dr. Abel Pacheco de la Espriella,
constitutional period May 2002-May 2006.

The moratorium can be applied progressively, starting with its application in ecologically fragile areas. Thus for example, Ecuador has declared two intangible areas, free forever from intense natural resources extraction. The criteria was to avoid the oil operations in a National Park and protect the an indigenous people territory who were not contacted.

The same goes with indigenous territories with an autonomous status, such as the Miskito people in Nicaragua who have declared their land free from oil exploitation.


There are precedents on international moratorium applications due to environmental, health or public interest reasons. Among those:

Besides, there are regional moratoria towards commercial use rBGH that includes the sale of genetically modified milk, the same as other GMO’s.

There also exist bilateral moratoria , such as the plutonium production between United States and Russia.

Finally, in various countries agreements such as the fishing protection and other aquatic species have been subscribed, which can be temporary or permanent, the same as forest devastation with commercial purposes.

To apply the moratorium to new oil exploration, from a legal and political point of view, implies apart from the claiming and adhesion, to impel complementary measures to achieve its compliance.


The oil industry is one of the most contaminating. During the fossil combustion’s exploration, extraction and, strong contamination is produced to the soil, water and air, as well as loss of biodiversity.

Contamination produces , among other impacts, the destruction of people’s basic support and the economies linked to nature. To face these contamination problems, countries invest millions of dollars.

It is impossible to put a price on destruction, nevertheless we can refer to the cost of cleaning in some cases. The Exxon Valdez spill in 1989 on the Alaskan coast was worth more than 7,000 million dollars, which is equivalent to one dollar per spilled barrel, although the cleaning was not enough.

The sums demanded in different trials for indemnity and compensation,  vary from case to case, but reach several millions of dollars. Even though the people affected are never satisfied, because the damage is immeasurable.

On oil operations different chemicals are used, in addition to the pollutants produced during the extraction , generating high levels of contamination.


Emulsifying chemicals are used in oil operation such as Metilbencene, Xylene, Anti-Foamer, Etilene, Scattering and Flocculents, Inhibitors such as Bactericides and Fungicides.

 The following chemical are used for perforation;  Bentonine (Aluminum Silicate ) Potassium Hydroxide(Caustic potassium), Polypac/Polipacul (cellulose) Soda ASH (Sodium Bicarbonate), Barita (barium Sulfate) Benex/Gelex( Sodium Polyacrylate ), Carbon-Plate (Uintahita-Gilsonite), Live Lime (Calcium Oxide), XCD Polymer ((Sodium polychloride), Barofibre, Mica, Milpar MD (detergent), Caustic Soda (Hydroxide Sodium).

The crude contains Aromatic Hydrocarbons (Volatile Organic Components-COV’s) such as Benzene, Toluene, Xylene (Policyclical Aromatic Hydrocarbons-PAH’s) such as Antracene, Pirene, Fenantrene, Benzopirene, Sulfur Gases (SO2), heavy metals such as Cadmium, Chrome, Lead, Mercury, Cobalt, Copper etc…Radioactive Elements such as Iridium 190 and 191, Uranium, Thorium, Strontium 90, Radio 226. Some of them in higher concentrations than the maximum discharge level allowed in a nuclear plant.

Gas which burns on stations after the crude separation contains: SO2, SH2, NO2, NO, CO2, Methane, Ethane, Propane, Butane, Pentane, Heptane, CO.

In addition with the gas and the crude, the formation water is another by-product. exists. It contains high concentration of salts, such as Calcium Salts, Cyanide, Magnesium, Sodium Manganese, Sulfur Chloride,(CO2), Sulphur Acid (SH2).

Heavy metals such as Barium,  Mercury,   Arsenic, Selenium, Antimony, Chromo, Cadmium, Cobalt, Lead, Manganese, Vanadium, Zinc. Radioactive  substances  such  as  Strontium 90,  Radio  226.  Aromatic  Hydrocarbons  such as Benzene, Xylene, Toluene; Polycyclic Hydrocarbons,  Antracene, Pirene Fenatrene, Benzopirene, etc.

Hydrocarburants combustion produces:

Rust, soot, Carbon Monoxide (CO), Carbon Dioxide (CO2), Sulfur Brimstone (SO2), Nitrogen Oxides (NO2), incomplete combustion aromatic hydrocarbons, heavy metals.


In the tropics marine oil activities occurs in all the continents. Its impacts affect many ecosystems with a heavy social load, because they provoke important losses for local fisheries from which their survival depends.

The environmental impacts are originated in routine operations as well as accidents. The immediate impacts occur without doubt in the sessile biota. Plant mortality and sessile invertebrate  is greater in places where oil accumulates. The fleshy macro-algae and scabby coral algae regenerate in a year, but other organisms such as stony corals and sea urchins do not regenerate completely until after 4 years. Other organisms are more tolerant to contamination, such as gastropods.

Other eco-systems strongly affected are coral reefs, tropical marine ecosystems, resistant to erosion and storms; important stabilizers of the coastal line, especially on lower tropical areas. They are important areas to sustain fisheries with an important cultural and economic value.

Oil produces alterations on the composition of species and habitat. Ramificated corals can suffer stronger impacts than other species. These incorporate oil in their tissues, thus producing a correlation between body mass and mortality. On these vegetal reef components, there is a temporary reduction on the photosynthesis rate. This can become chronic on reefs exposed to high levels of contamination. Decades are needed in order for a reef to recuperate the conditions it had before the spill.

Another ecosystem that has been affected is the mangrove forest. They have very important social, economic and ecology value, because they are home for many fish and crustacean and source of raw material for many productive activities of surrounding communities. The mangrove’s recovery can take many decades if no more spills occur. A way to clean this contamination, without destroying the forest is still unknown.

Other ecosystems affected by the oil activity are the marine grass beds. They develop on sleepy waters, especially on tropical coasts. These beds stabilize the marine bottom, they are used as sediment traps and improve water quality. They are a direct food source for more than 340 marine animals and are substance for various epiphytic algae. The damage or loss of marine grass can cause ecologic effects that extend further away from its immediate areas. Long term impacts can occur in fauna associated with marine grass. Populations decline, except those that possess a high level of reproduction, planktonic stages or both. For those animals, with low reproductive potential and dispersion, is very hard to recover.

Finally, on oil tropical coastal ecosystems impacts seriously on species that nest on sand. The eggs absorb environment’s humidity that surrounds them, thus absorbing the present hydrocarbons.

If oil contamination occurs on turtle nesting grounds, the impact can be catastrophic for their reproduction. Turtle’s embryos exposed to oil in later stages are very sensitive to toxic oil effects. Oil contamination slows down the  birth rate and produces abnormalities on their carapace, especially when the exposure occurs on early stages.

Wild duck eggs suffer high mortality when they are exposed to aromatic hydrocarbons. Due to oxygen demand with embrionic growth, the closing of the pores of the eggs due to the oil, produces high mortality or decrease of the growth rate at the same time as the embrionic stage advances.

An oil spill during the dry season generates immediate damages on greater species on coastal communities, produces environmental risks on the long term and chronic contamination due to the presence of oil on sediments. A spill during rainy season will cause immediate greater harm on lower interstice habitats.


During exploration, hundreds of hectares of forest are deforested. For each well, 2 hectares of wood must be deforested. During oil and gas exploratory perforation hundreds of thousands of cubic feet of toxic waste are thrown into the environment without any treatment.

Once the well start operating, both routine contamination as well as accidental occurs. Contamination occurs when the formation water is separated and the associated gas is flared. Contamination affects mainly water sources, thus aquatic life.

Moreover it generate social impacts such as forced relocation of traditional communities,  health impacts due to contamination and the scarcity of resources, etc…


One of the typical situations of countries depending on oil extraction, is that the economies become bondholders and have great difficulty in surpassing crisis.

They depend entirely on international situations, because oil prices are not controlled by producing countries, but by other factors such as armed conflicts, unstable political situations in oil exporting countries, etc.

Generally a rapid economic growth occurs, with a concentration of investments in the oil sector, in such a way that that the other economic sectors become weak. This process comes accompanied by a high external debt.

In these oil dependant countries, it is not interesting to produce anything locally because it is cheaper to import everything. When the oil boom finishes, the economy does not have competitive sectors and collapses, producing what is called the Dutch Disease. This places a risk in the food sovereignty of these countries.

The comparison of economic indicators of countries before and after their dependency on fossil fuels exports, reveal that instead of development and economic welfare, this dependency generates high poverty indicators.


The Index of Human Development (HDI) is a PNUD measurement that combines income, health and education. The scale compares the States that go from the highest level 1, to the lowest 174.

The Human Development’s Index is worst in countries that have an oil dependency. This means that a country that owns oil is not necessarily the wealthiest.

Oil generates external debt which frequently is used for oil infrastructure, thus becoming a vicious circle (OXFAM 2001).

The present indicators of these countries are in many cases worse than countries that have no these resources.


           Human Development Low Index

           Low economic growth

           High child mortality

           High child malnutrition

           Low cost for health

           Low schooling


           Vulnerability and economic impacts

           High corruption


           Low governmental efficiency

           High probability of armed violence

           Elevated military costs

On the other hand the control over oil and gas reserves, including transport routes has justified or provoked various of the most important armed conflicts. Countries like the United States have defined as a priority the access of fossil fuel. For this reason, it has resolved to have a direct intervention in order to control the access to these resources.

The wars and military controls of oil infrastructure implies an elevated cost to States that often causes distortion to national economies.


According to a Oxfam’s report, in 1997 governments in these countries spent an average of 12.5% of their budget in military expenses. For each 5% increase of dependency to oil an additional there is a 1.6% increase in military expenses.


The majority of oil companies are transnational. They work on the margin of the law. For national states it is very difficult to impose any kind of control over them. On the contrary, governments are strongly pressured to obtain advantages for their operations, under the foreign investment blackmailing and international tendency to eliminate obstacles, Among , these obstacles companies include environmental control.

In   more  than  one occasion companies have been  accused  of  corruption   or  promoting   corruption    through   gifts   and  offers  to   governments  and communities.

Companies in many cases are stronger that many governments. This implies for small countries, that national authorities have great difficulty obtaining agreements through relations of equality.

According to the Institute for Policy Studies (2000), based on information from Fortune magazine and the World Bank, from the largest 100 economies, 51 are corporation and 49 countries. On the following table a comparison between sales from some of the greatest enterprises and the GDP in various countries is shown. According to the report, in 1999, the sale of 5 of the greatest corporations surpassed the PIB in 182 countries.

It is necessary to create national and international alliances to take away power from these transnational corporations , its collapse instead of their reform or rendition , because it is them that control economic and political processes for globalization.


Although the responsibilities for Climate Changes are differentiated, all countries have the obligation of starting action facing this phenomena. The way to do it, is to stop the increase of main source of the greenhouse effect: the burning of fossil fuels.

In spite of the United States’ commitment to face the Climate Change in Rio 92, in the last 10 years, the oil and gas exploration activities have increased and have expanded to new areas.

In 1999, 86,9 quadrillion gas BTU and 152.2 of oil were consumed The Institute of Petroleum (The Petroleum Institute, 2001) and 6,000 million tons of Carbon were emitted.

Since this year, the CO2 emissions have increased instead of reducing and they have exceeded greatly, the planet’s capacity for absorption.

According to Kyoto’s Protocol the Annexed  I countries, have assured the reduction of their emissions up until the year 2012 in 5% under their 1990 emissions, even though in 1999 the Intergovernmental Panel for Climate Changes (IPCC) requested an immediate reduction of about 60% and 80%, under the 1990 emissions. In 1995 more than 95% of CO2 of 22.9 GT of global emission were generated by the fossil fuel burning. The combustion of crude and its compounds is the main cause of these emissions and its consequent climate change (Bartsch, Muller, 2000).

The rest of countries have no established obligations, but they still have commitments in relation to other international conventions.

In relation to the IPCC, the average global temperature has increased between 0.6 and 0.2 Centigrade since the 19th century. In fact it is possible that the 90’s decade –particularly in 1998- has been the warmest since 1861.



In spite of knowing that the burning of fossil fuel is the main cause of Climate Change and that its extraction supposes the massive destruction of  ecosystems and local contamination, in these last years, the investment in fossil energy has been 100 times greater that any other form of energy (OilWatch, 1997).

It is also calculated that Multilateral Credit Agencies have fossil combustion investments for almost 50.000 million dollars.

In the last decade the oil border has expanded. One hundred new countries have been incorporated in oil exploration  as wells new areas like deep waters. 1999 was the year were the greatest discoveries have taken place in this century. Perforations have not increased, but the exploration techniques have improved.

On the second half of the 90´s, 4.5 million barrels of proved reserves, were incorporated for each new wildcat, 50% higher than first half. discoveries have been superior than oil in an 85%.

Was founded in 95 countries. 50% of oil was found in 10 of them.

Although some of the new findings have occurred in beds exploited before hand (Saudi Arabia and Iran), important discoveries have taken new frontiers, especially due to the development of new techniques of exploration. This is the case of findings that took place in deep waters of Brazil and Angola. The next chart summarizes the 10 most important findings for 1999.

The existing reserves, tested in the different countries reach such high levels, that they will never be able to be exploited because the countries that have ratified The Climate Change Convention have assumed a series of commitments. Even though they have been postponed, they will have to be assumed at some point. This will suppose without any doubt a forced transition to renovated energetic sources. It is calculated that there are  around 4,000 million tons of carbon contained in fossil fuel which still lie under the earth’s surface (each oil barrel implies in average, means according to OilWatch calculations)

Nevertheless, according to the Energy Administration International (EIA) of the United States, it is expected that the oil world demand will increases in 56% (that is to say, 43 million barrels per day)  in the decade to come.

On the other hand, the Department of Energetic Statistics Agency explained in its annual report that the world demand would increase in 77 million barrels per day, which is today’s consumption, to 119.6 million barrels per day towards the year 2020. The EIA opinion is that Oil will continue being the main energy source as it has been per decades. It also considers that oil’s production in OPEC countries as well as non OPEC countries will increase due to the newest production technologies, that allows the oil companies to enter into new hydrocarbon beds, in inaccessible and distant places and into deep waters.


It is  important indicate that clean fossil energies do not exist. The UNEP and other agencies point out gas and LGP as clean fossil fuel. Although natural gas generates less CO2 than other fossil fuel, its extraction process and transport carry out the same impacts as oil does, especially on local population.

As for advanced fossil fuel, they include technologies of gas cycles based on carbon and synthetic liquid fuel.

The promotion of these technologies, more than an alternative to the climate change, seem to be an alternative to the dependency that industrialized countries have to Middle East oil reserves (MIT 2002)


The search for alternative is an imperative necessity and sooner or later all countries must make an effort to guarantee its conservancy and distribution. The option to develop an energy strategy cannot fail to recognize the impacts that the generation, transport and consumption of energy they have. In the same way it must guarantee the distribution that will satisfy national necessities and respect people’s rights.

Clean energies, present themselves as the only option for a real national and international energy strategy.

Another fundamental aspect of energy sources is that they should be decentralized, clean, diverse, renewable and should guarantee energetic sovereignty. This raises the fact that it is not enough to      “ have” it is necessary to “ decide”. For this reason it’s better to develop small scale projects that do not result in social or environmental impacts.

The energetic sovereignty implies having the capacity to generate energy that is consumed, without having to import it and even less, export it.

There are a whole range of energetic sources that comply with this characteristic. For example, hydraulic energy on a small scale, solar , wind and geothermic energy.

It will be necessary to eliminate the restraints towards generating sources, including the access and the transmission lines. To diversify the source, prioritize the local demands and once resolved, move on to regional and national demands.

Energetic technologies must be efficient in production as well as the transmission and final use. It is necessary to preserve energy.

The handling of energy must be conducted by the sole interest of service and not by the economic one.

To design proposals of energetic sovereignty implies a combined action of local authorities and of State. In this context the role of transnational corporations  can be harmful, because its tendency is the monopolist use of resources.

According to Greenpeace data (1998) Companies like Shell reached 10% of the renewable energies market. This company invests almost 100 million dollars a year for research and development with new technologies. In 1997, Shell International Renewals was created, in order to develop this new field in the company enterprise.

On the other hand, BP will invest almost 100 million dollars in photovoltaic cells in the next decade: the sales of this company in this sector has had a supported increase of almost 30% annually since 1997.  They will invest 15 to 20 million per year until 2010 in the development of technologies for renewable energies.

Amoco owned 50% of Solarex, the second greatest PVs producers in the world.

EA , Eurosolare, (ANI/AGIP) is the company that constructs photovoltaic cells. It occupies the 10th place in the world.

However investment in this sector only represents 0,04 % of investments in gas and oil.


*   Bartsch, U. Muller, M. 2000. Fossil Fuels in a Changing Climate. Oxford Institute for Energy Studies.

*   Bravo E. 1998.  Oil in troubled waters. Planet UNEP.

*   Doggett,T. 2001. World oil demand seen up 56 percent by 2002

*   FoEI.2002. Phasing Out International Financial Institutions for Fossil Fuel and Mining Projects. Demanding Local Community Self-Determination. Netherlands

*   Greenpeace, 1998. The Oil Industry and Climate Change, Amsterdam

*   Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (1990): First Assessment Report, IPPC. Geneva, Switzerland

*   Institute for Policy Studies. TOP 200. The Rise of Corporate Global Power. 2000

*   Energy Information Administration International Energy Outlook 2001.USA.

*   Kimmerling,J . 1993. Crudo Amazónico.  Abya Yala. Quito

*   The Institute of Petroleum Review Bol 54 #644

*   the Institute of Petroleum, 2000. Discovery still lags production despite good 1999 results. Petroleum Review Bol.54 # 644

*   The Institute of Petroleum, 2001. Energy trends-the next 20 years. Petroleum Review Bol. 55 # 655

*   Ross, M. 2001, Sectores extractivos y pobreza, Oxfam América, 2001

*   Maldonado Adolfo, Manual 3 de Monitoreo Ambiental, Acción Ecológica, 2002

*   MIT “Technology Review, MIT Magazine of Innovation”.  Special Issue Energy. Can new technology reduce our need for oil from the middle East? Feb. 2002.



Taking in account that: The most famous weather scientists have concluded that” the greatest part of evidence suggests that global climate is being influenced in a perceptible manner by human activity (IPCC 1996);

The Climate Change will cause suffering particularly to the poorest people and will affect pristine planet eco-systems;

The Climate Change constitutes only a part of the ecological debt accumulated by industrialized countries through the southern resources ;

The burning of oil, carbon and gas is the main cause for climate change produced by human species.

The burning of only a portion of existing oil resources will assure a climate catastrophe;

To avoid a climate catastrophe a rapid transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy sources is needed;

The transnational corporations are the main responsible for fossil fuel exploitation, which combustion provokes climate changes, destruction of fragile eco-systems and cultural and bio biological diversity which they own;

The growing exploitation of fossil fuel in natural forests, fundamental for the world climate stability, provokes severe impacts over world climate, due to deforestation and contamination produced in the different phases of this activity;

Carbon, oil and gas exploitations have serious consequences on a local level, as air, forests rivers and land degradation. These impacts extend progressively to a regional level due to the increase of number and size of these projects;

Every person has a fundamental right to freedom, equality and conditions adequate for life in a quality environment that allows life and welfare;  and every person has the responsibility of improving and protecting the environment for present and future generations;

Corruption, cultural destruction, forced migration and violence are commonly results of hydrocarbons exploitation;

The hydrocarbon exploitation expands its frontiers, affecting ecological areas and territories more vulnerable of some indigenous population, which result in a accelerated bio-diversity and traditional wisdom loss and  finally in genocide and ethnocide;

Governments are responsible for not establishing adequate rules for enterprises operations inside and outside of borders, for not investing in sustainable energy resources, and for encouraging fossil fuel sales on a larger scale;

Bretton Woods institutions (including World Bank, and International Monetary Fund and other regional developmental banks), besides bilateral agencies for development and The World Commerce Organization, are especially responsible for the promotion and application of structural adjustment programs and liberation programs that force countries to exploit their fossil fuel reserves, which bring with them devastating effects not only for world climate but also for regional eco-systems and local populations;

The funds originating from the northern countries to “ alleviate”  poverty and sustainable development are used multilateral and bilateral development agencies, to benefit corporations through hydrocarbon exploitation project investments;

The funds originating from the northern countries to “ alleviate”  poverty and sustainable development are used multilateral and bilateral development agencies, to benefit corporations through hydrocarbon exploitation project investments;

The energetic sector is traditionally one of the greatest loan portfolios for multilateral and bilateral development agencies and fossil fuel include the greater part of these loans

At least 2 billion people that live in rural poor areas cannot satisfy minimum energy requirements (cooking, heating, lighting), and it is clean and renewable energies that could attend to these necessities.

Nuclear energy plants and the great hydroelectric dams present serious social ,environmental and economic problems and cannot be a solution for the climate crisis;

Thus, we, the people signing underneath demand:

*   An immediate moratorium for the new fossil fuel combustion exploration

*   A total recognition towards the ecological debt and the need to include it in future negotiations on climate changes.

*   A complete restoration of all affected areas by oil, gas and carbon exploration and exploitation from all corporations responsible for these operations.

*   Oil, carbon and gas should reflect their real costs of their extraction and consumption, taking specially into account its relation with the climate change.

*   The suspension of all loans, credits and other subsidies resulting from foreign agencies of multilateral and bilateral development whose goal is to finance energy projects that use fossil fuel (including electric plants and distribution projects)

*   Evaluate all today’s and future energetic projects with total involvement of the communities affected by the projects, honouring their right to refuse projects that would have a negative impact.

*   The introduction of environmental impact studies of all energy projects should be compelled to examine ways of reducing and choosing clean, renewable decentralized clean energies such as solar, wind and small hydroelectric plants.

*   Access to reports and evaluation must be public. The affected communities will have total access to this information in their native tongue.

*   The public funds presently used by governments, foreign multilateral a and bilateral developmental agencies to subsidize hydrocarbon extraction should be reoriented towards, renewable and decentralized clean energies

For the planet and its people


Back to issue papers page