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Why the search for oil will never stop

Even though oil has been behind much of the violence and environmental degradation of the past century, the search for black gold continues. And even if oil is responsible--with its fellow fossil fuels, primarily coal--for the climate change crisis, every last drop of the stuff looks set to be burned. "Even though awareness of the climate change issue is growing, the next few decades will see expansion of the oil and gas industry," predicted Jill Shankleman, a longtime oil industry consultant. But that means that the world has a chance to stop the resource curse--a glut of money from oil production driving corruption and the collapse of other sectors of the economy, among other ills--before it gets started in places with newfound reserves, such as Equitoreal Guinea or Ghana. According to Shankleman that will require transparency on how concessions are sold, what kind of payments are made to governments and how those payments are used. Certainly not common practice at present. Instead, in places like Nigeria, an entire generation has been "criminalized," according to UNEP program manager Andrew Morton. "It's going to take another generation to unwind it."

The views expressed are those of the author and are not necessarily those of Scientific American.

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