The Chocolate Life

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Dear Tena Diary followers,

My name is Emily Howland and I will be blogging from Tena on Ivanhoe’s activity here in the Napo Province of Ecuador. I am a volunteer for Amazon Watch, a U.S.-based non-profit that works
to protect the rainforest and further the rights of indigenous communities of
the Amazon. You can learn more about our work at

Since arriving in Tena I have attended a community government meeting and a workshop to teach indigenous political leaders about the constitution’s environmental laws in Ecuador. Ecuador
is the only country in the world whose constitution give rights to nature. I’ve
talked to locals and tried to sort through the rumors flying around town about

Tena is a beautiful Amazonian town known for its ecotourism, organic cacao growing and the Kichwa language and culture. Illegal oil and gold mining projects have sprouted up like weeds along
the riverbanks. The government is supposedly handing out mining permits without
respecting the laws of the UNESCO Sumaco Biosphere Reserve, which protects the
rainforest in the provinces of Napo, Orellana and Sucumbíos province.
Communities have been divided between those who support the companies and those
who want to conserve the land. Those who are on the conservation side are
deeply concerned about Ivanhoe’s potential to completely alter the way of life
here. “Not yet” is always the response when I ask someone if there is visible
contamination in the river. “Not yet.” 

            My “Tena Diaries” will document developments in the Ivanhoe case as we try to uncover the facts about the Pungarayacu project in Ecuador regarding these
issues and others: 

·      Is Ivanhoe complying with its Environmental Impact Study?

·      Are they socializing the project to work with the surrounding communities and compensating these communities for occupying
their land?

·      Does the company have the capital to complete the project?

            Finding the answers involves talking to many people on different parts of the food chain—NGOs in the region, civil authorities in communities, government
officials, business owners, and townspeople. Many times I get conflicting
responses to questions like “When is Ivanhoe building its second well?” or “How
many wells is Ivanhoe planning to build in the three-year testing phase?”
Perhaps confusion and lack of transparency is part of Ivanhoe’s tactic to avoid
resistance to their project.

The purpose of this blog is to give names to the “Faces of Ivanhoe”— the people, places and things that live and breathe the Pungarayacu project. Some may be adamantly against the Ivanhoe
project and others might work for Ivanhoe. And in some cases you never know
what side they’re on. I’ll share my interactions, interviews, research and
impressions to report the very latest activity from Tena.

My hope is that “Tena Diaries” followers will be a force of informed people who can help get the word out. We are all at risk here. Climate change is showing us that we simply won’t survive
if we continue to destroy our natural resources. Yet somehow corporate Goliaths
like Ivanhoe still see the rainforest as a disposable resource.

Ecuador holds a special place in my heart—my semester abroad in Quito during my junior year of college changed my life. That semester taught me the immense value of speaking a second language
to connect to people and places far removed from my home in San Francisco, CA.
Last May I received a B.A. in English Literature and Hispanic Studies from
Macalester College in St. Paul, MN. I returned to Quito in October and joined
Amazon Watch in Tena in January.

I look forward to getting your feedback on my blogs and using the “Tena Diaries” forum as a resource for my work. Please visit the Amazon Watch website to see how you can contribute to
conserving the Amazon rainforest!

Thanks for your interest and concern,

Emily Howland      




Views: 104

Replies to This Discussion

As the “eyes on the ground” I would like to respond to this discussion in the form of a blog in which I have given some first-hand experience and investigated in more depth some of the points that Trey brought up in his initial discussion. Please read "Looking deeper at SAGD and the community" for my perspective.
Thank you,


By conventional measurements, the planned HTL units are 'small'. I scanned through some of my documents but I have not located any land use projections for the Pungarayacu project. I did however come across some land use impact statements for a similar Tamarack project located in the Athabasca oil sands in Canada. Tamarack's initial development will affect an area of approximately 120 hectacres (less than 1/2 square mile) in the phase one project - this includes the integrated facility area, three will pads, infrastructure, construction camp and a third party power substation. I would assume that Pungarayacu's land use will approximately be the same. I would also assume as the additional two or three phases are added, the actual land use for each phase will be even less as the field-located HTL modules are relatively small and will be 'chained together'. By using horizontal drilling technology, muti-well pad locations mean less than 15% of the lease area will be disturbed during the life (30 years) of the development. Those well pads can be reclaimed on an ongoing basis. Flexibility of locating the surface facilities allows for the avoidance of sensitive environmental features.

You and I are both in a position to mold the outcome. If you wish to become a shareholder of record I'm sure you can join the club for approximately $3.50 US. I would think that after the Chevron/Texaco fiasco with Petro Ecuador in the 70's and 80's, both the Ecuadorian government and Ivanhoe Energy are very sensitive to the environmental aspects of the investment. If Ivanhoe Energy does not adhere to the highest industry standards as spelled out in the contract then they will have bigger issues than you and I trying to 'mold' the outcome.

Glad to see you found the test facility in California. This is a 1000 bbl a day facility but in reality, a planned 20000 bbl a day facility is not nearly 20X as large ( these units are scalable). The technology has even reduced the actual sizes again since that test facility was constructed.

I am neither an investor nor an advocate of this type of business in Ecuador, so I would like to set the stage right off the bat.

As a resident of Ecuador for many years, I can see this country through the eyes of someone who lives there and knows her people, culture, and the truth of the "ugly foreigner (not just American)" and the impact experienced in this country in particular.

I was there in 1972 when Shell began pumping oil, and listened to all the great benefits this was going to have for the country. I have been witness to hydro-electric projects, multi-million dollar road projects, and the list is lengthy. In each and every case the word "progress" and the phrase, "beneficial to _______" (just fill in the blank) has been bandied about like a tennis ball in play.

Investors invest with one primary objective. To make money, and this is a necessary part of commerce. The unfortunate part is it usually comes at the "cost' to others that is NOT in the best interest and does not produce money for them, but rather it ends up creating a "loss."

That loss comes in the form of natural resources, displacement of lives, and rarely does the so called "progress" really mean anything other than financial gain for everyone but those most affected.

I for one would be most interested to hear of your visit to Ecuador to the area involved, and not just there but to other areas where oil exploration was taken place such as Shusufindi, Lago Agrio, and Shell-Mera. It is easy to speak of improved technologies which only apply to the mechanical endeavor and not the human affect.

If your reply to Clay Gordon's post has been largely, if not completely, influenced by boardroom reports from engineers and such who are employed to give favorable input, and not by actual observation onsite, then it might be questionable if your comments are purely those of an investor, and not one who is in complete knowledge of all the facts.

The people of Ecuador have NEVER truly benefited from the oil revenue, but as is always the case only those who control the financial resources are the ones who have benefited. This is not some jaundiced, socialistic, liberalist, power to the people comment or thinking. It is an observation of fact. But as we have seen in the last decades, facts are conditional, depending on who is creating the facts.

Your comments are appreciated and I believe sincere. History does have a way of showing that this doesn't always lead to the benefit of mankind. There are more than a few examples in Ecuador's neighboring countries of Peru and Colombia.

The dialogue with Trey Grafa is a perfect example of what you are up against. Here is an investor committed in his belief that this is a good thing, but he makes the point even better that, and I quote, "I doubt that the Ecuadorian government is going to turn down the much needed $3 - $4 billion dollars a year in order to maintain the staus quo. Changes are inevitable and the best outcome will be assured by trying to mold and effect those changes for the benefit of the area and its people."

Here is someone who has never been to Ecuador trying to pretend he is concerned that Ivanhoe is being misunderstood, and that this project has the best interests at heart for the Ecuadorian people, while clearly stating the greater truth that it's all about money. In that he is "spot on!"

The comment has been made at least twice that those who question what Ivanhoe is proposing, need to educate themselves at Ivanhoe's website. The sad part here is that Trey has never been to Ecuador to educate himself about the other side of this issue, so only one side of the picture is visible to him. I find it interesting that he seems to have some unspoken resistance to really investigate first hand what he so loudly professes to be such a great program for someplace he's never even seen. I could be wrong, but I think that is generally referred to as irresponsible. There is another word beginning with the letter "i" which would likely be more inflammatory.

This clearly reminds me of a famous line from a great movie years ago titled, "Cool Hand Luke." "What we have here is a failure to communicate." Not you or Clay, nor myself. I believe we are all on the same page. The situation here is the power of money trying to find a way to justify it's actions. This is purely my opinion, which by no means remotely means I'm right about anything.
Emily: From the following article it looks like Chevron has created a win-win situation for itself and the people of Ecuador. Having prevailed in the courts to go to an unbiased international arbitration, it appears that Chevron will likely prevail against the Republic of Ecuador, Amazon Defense Coalition and Amazon Watch. At the end of the day, this autor's opinion is that the Republic of Ecuador will end up bearing the tab for the environmental damages; thus ending this decades old controversy.

What is important is that this case is moving closer to being resolved with the environment and the people of Ecuador will being the winners. With you being a member of Amazon Watch, would you explain why that organization was fighting arbitration? Arbitration moves this process along much quicker than the ongoing court battle which ultimately means the cleanup will take place sooner, regardless of who is deemed the responsible party and has to foot the bill.

CHEVRON VICTORY IN ECUADOR ARBITRATION CASE - May Force PetroEcuador To Pay For Clean Up In Amazon Region
Trey, your observation carefully cherry picks, out of context, to make the point you're trying to make.

The article clearly states that there is a no-win situation in the making. Chevron, now that the case is not being adjudicated in Ecuadorian courts, is in a position to make the government of Ecuador and PetroEcuador pick up an estimated US$37 BILLION tab for remediation. The feeling is that Chevron would not get a fair hearing in Ecuadorian courts that the article deems "corrupt."

I can't speak to the history of facts in the case - did the Ecuadorian government, PetroEcuador, and Texaco "collude" in some way to exploit Ecuadorian oil resources to the detriment of the Ecuadorian people and the environment (would not surprise me), and, is Chevron, as the purchaser of Texaco, now responsible for the damage?

Should Chevron prevail in this case it will be in a position to force the government of Ecuador (i.e., the people of Ecuador) to come up with $37 billion dollars to do the cleanup while Chevron shareholder do not. Who loses? The people and the environment of Ecuador. Who wins? Shareholders of Chevron who, by and large, live in places like Midland, Texas, not Tena, Ecuador.

Disclosure question: Are you also a shareholder of Chevron? I know (from research on Google) that you have a long history of involvement with the oil industry.
Clay: My observation was that this arbitration will move the process forward, resulting in a quicker resolution and clean-up. That resolution could favor Chevron or it could favor PetroEcuador - either way the environmental issues are addressed sooner and ultimately the people win. It appears that in your opinion the only way someone wins is if the Chevron stockholders are stuck with the tab. If Chevron prevails in an international court of arbitration then the stockholders rightfully should not be held responsible to clean up someone elses mess.

Texaco was given a clean bill of health when they exited Ecuador. It is widely believed that the existing environmental damage occurred after they departed. The legal question is not whether Chevron inherited Texaco's liabilities but rather is Texaco the cause of the environmental damage. If they didn't create the problem then I would assume even you would agree that they should not be held liable.

If Amazon Watch's cause is the environment, then why would they try to slow down the process of legally assigning blame and getting the cleanup process started? Might their concern be that PetroEcuador doesn't have the funds if Chevron was to prevail? If so, then Amazon Watch might need to promote the Pungarayacu field development to generate the billions of dollars necessary to begin the restoration project :^) I say that in jest but it does appear that Amazon Watch's main concern in this arbitration request was deep pockets - not justice nor the quick resolution of the environmental issues.

I encourage you and others to visit the Ivanhoe Energy website and listen in on the last conference call. A large percentage of the call deals with the Pungarayacu - you might find it of interest since it deals with your backyard.

Disclosure: I am not, nor have I ever been, a stockholder in Chevron. I also have no active affiliation with the oil industry outside of being a stockholder in Ivanhoe Energy and living in Midland, Texas.

Your point of view boggles my mind that you can say "either way the people win," in regards to a $37 billion oil clean up!!!

From my perspective, the people have already lost. People who will use snippets of truth to prove their point are even more dangerous than those who are unapologetic about raping the earth.

What is really scary is that I believe that you are sincere and not aware that you are an agent of great evil. Sad and scary at the same time. Thankfully there are people like Clay who will take the time to stand up to you and expose your cleverly twisted truths that would go unchallenged by the masses. I just pray there are similar vanguards of truth in larger venues than TheChocolateLife.

Thanks Clay!!!


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