The plummeting in oil prices in the recent past has had the world in general looking at renewable sources of energy not only as an alternative source of energy but as the future main source of energy for nations.

World Oil Reserves Infographic.Photograph: Seismic Micro Technology (SMT)

World Oil Reserves Infographic. Photograph: Seismic Micro Technology (SMT)

Africa and Kenya in particular should intentionally choose to focus on renewable energy to honor their COP21 Paris agreement of 2015. Fossil fuels which include oil and natural gas have been the main contributors to the greenhouse gas emission that can lead to catastrophic changes in the earth’s climate. The effects of climate change are already being felt all over the world in form of heat waves with 2015 being named the hottest year in history and the same effect being felt in 2016.


Kenya recently discovered oil deposits in Turkana at the Ngamia 3 oil exploration site and ever since you cannot miss the excitement in the air. The government and economist believe that this will be a major boost to the economic growth of the country and will have tremendous positive impact on the GDP.

I feel however that someone should stop Kenya on her tracks .The fossil fuels should be left in the ground because in the long run the cons of their extraction will outweigh the pros. Let’s begin with oil well exploration which is an expensive affair for government and thus Kenya has to look for external partners. Secondly the country has to spend billions of dollars in building new infrastructure which include an export pipeline to enable commercialization of the oil discoveries. Investors have to be convinced they will get returns on investment if they put their money in the pipeline but if the current oil prices continue to deep, this may not be possible.

The revenues from the oil resources will be earned by the country based on the government’s production sharing contract with the exploration company. Where Kenya’s main earning will arise from the  oil profit and the windfall tax charged on neighboring countries that will benefit from the establishment of the pipeline thus if oil prices are unfavorably low government will not earn as much to cover its costs.

This uncertainty can be avoided by abandoning the whole process of oil extraction citing the irreparable harm that crude oil production has on the environment. Crude oil emits a variety of pollutants such as carbon (IV) oxide,carbon monoxide, sulfur dioxide, nitrogen-oxide, volatile organic compounds and particulate matter. These emissions are pollutants that are directly linked to climate change where these gases insulate the planet. By going on with oil extraction Kenya will be increasing her levels of greenhouse gas emissions instead of reducing it as per the COP21 agreement.

The construction of a petroleum refinery has also been discussed with places like for Lamu having been earmarked for this project. The old refinery owned by the Kenya government has been down for the past nine years or so thus the need to build a better one with a higher capacity. Refineries around the world are known as the largest consumers of energy. This means that the refinery will make use of petroleum fuels to run and this in itself will act as a pollutant to the environment. By going ahead to invest in the oil extraction won’t Kenya be going ahead to defy her promise to honor the Paris agreement of 2015?

Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd in Changamwe, Mombasa. The refinery has received a lifeline after the government placed it under the management of Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) by buying out Essar Ltd. PHOTO | FILE

Kenya Petroleum Refineries Ltd in Changamwe, Mombasa. The refinery has received a lifeline after the government placed it under the management of Kenya Pipeline Company (KPC) by buying out Essar Ltd. PHOTO | FILE

The impact on the health sector brought about by carbon emissions is one to take into account. The sudden increase in carbon emissions in the Turkana area will lead to an increase in the respiratory diseases suffered by the community living around the area where factories and refineries are situated and more so by the workers who will be working in the oil mines. The question is whether Kenya’s health sector can handle the surge in these infections or will this people be left to suffer these consequences of the oil mining on their own being that our health sector is miles away from being efficient.

The government can therefore not turn a blind eye to all these signs that are pointers that drilling our current fossil fuels is a mistake but instead Kenya could turn her available resources into investing in renewable energy, which is more sustainable. This will help avoid the ripple effects of fossil fuels such as them being long term threats on water and soils of surrounding areas. Also due to air pollution areas around oil drilling wells and refineries will experience a change in climate patterns which in itself can lead to persistent droughts when it’s dry and flooding when it rains. Countries like Saudi Arabia which lead in production of world oil have been caught up in one of the largest corruption scandals the Panama papers. This shows you that oil brings with it greed which can harm a country’s democracy where the rich continuously to steal from the poor due to issues such as lack of proper tendering systems for oil contracts. Kenya has been rated among the world’s most corrupt countries thus this sector will most likely be penetrated by the corrupt mafia and the oil may end up enriching only  a few.

My plea to the Kenyan Government is that it should begin investing in renewable energy this is where the world is headed. Investors are giving more than 300 billion US dollars for investment in renewable energy such as wind energy and solar power, which are more feasible and cleaner sources of energy. Its therefore upon us to seek funds and contribute to decarbonizing the global economy .This can be done by working towards producing electricity sourced from solar and wind biofuels, biobased products and other technologies such as the hydro, geothermal and fuel cells. The world plan is to phase out the use of fossil fuels by the end of the century. Kenya should therefore just leave her oil deposits where they belong, underground!


– By Edith Macharia

Featured image by Prop 23 Fail – Meme Team Attacks