In this lesson, students will practice writing, listening, discussion and research skills as they compare and contrast global economic models of oil exchange and examine the impacts of these models on local communities.
Video clips provided with this lesson are from the film Big Men. Over five years, director Rachel Boynton and her cinematographer film the quest for oil in Ghana by the Dallas-based company Kosmos Energy. The company develops the country's first commercial oil field, yet its success is quickly compromised by political intrigue and accusations of corruption.
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One 50-minute class period and additional time to review extension activities
- examine some of the major players in the global oil market
- explore discovery of the Jubilee oil field in Ghana
- experience the law as open to interpretation rather than fixed
- analyze the capitalist oil industry model of the United States
- compare and contrast government owned and privately owned oil production models
- Internet access and equipment to show the class an online video
- Copies of the Wall Street Journal article "The Long Shadow of the Invisible Hand"(May 22, 2010) by Ian Bremmer
- Copies of "Oil Industry" from History.com
1. Oil Discovery: Ghana
Show Clip 1. Invite students to discuss their thoughts about the Jubilee field discovery. Ask students to:
- Analyze the relationship between Kosmos Energy and the Ghanaian government.
- Predict what will happen next.
2. The History of Oil Production in the United States
Show Clip 2. Provide students with copies of "Oil Industry" from History.comhttp://www.history.com/topics/oil-industry/print.
- Ask for volunteers to take turns reading excerpts from the article aloud or the full article, if time allows. (As an alternative, the article can also be assigned as homework prior to the lesson.)
- Ask students to discuss how the history of oil production in the United States might affect the relationship between Kosmos Energy and the Ghanaian government.
- Invite students to think about the U.S. oil industry's development over time. In what ways might other countries develop their oil industries in the next 100 years? In the future will private companies dominate oil production or will government-owned companies control oil production?
3. The Oil Industry: Privately Owned vs. Publicly Owned Companies
- Before class begins, create a pros and cons chart on the board similar to the onehere »
Provide students with copies of the article "The Long Shadow of the Invisible Hand." Invite students to take turns reading excerpts from the article aloud (Paragraphs 1, 3, 5, 6).
- Show Clip 3. Ask students to copy the chart into their notebooks. Ask students to work in groups of three or four to determine the pros and cons of privately owned and publicly owned oil companies. Write the following questions on the board to help students discuss their ideas:
- What are the benefits and drawbacks of each model?
- Using examples from the film clips and the article, determine how each model might be vulnerable to corruption.
- Who should control oil and who should benefit from the revenues?
- What kind of regulations are needed in each model?
Nigeria: A Case Study
Ask students to copy the diagram linked here into their notebooks and use the Venn diagram to identify what they know about oil production in Ghana and Nigeria. (10 minutes)
b) Distribute copies of the Guardian article "Oil in Nigeria: A History of Spills, Fines and Fights for Rights" (August 4, 2011) by Adam Vaughan http://www.theguardian.com/environment/2011/aug/04/oil-nigeria-spills-fines-fights.Divide students into groups of three or four and invite each group to read the article. Ask students to determine the main idea of the article and to identify three supporting details. Invite each group to share its results. (15 minutes)
For more details about the film, including reviews and interviews with the director, visit the film's website.
The POV site for the film includes a more comprehensive discussion guide with additional discussion prompts and activity suggestions.
BBC News: "In Pictures: Polluting Nigeria"
This short photo exposé depicts the effects of oil processing on Nigeria's environment.
Bloomberg Businessweek: "Oil Thieves of the Niger Delta"
In this 2014 article, author Alexis Okeowo interviews Nigerians who process crude oil, without the government's permission in order to earn a living.
Covering Oil: A Reporter's Guide to Energy and Development
This guidebook (available for download) developed by the Open Society Foundation's Revenue Watch program and the Initiative for Policy Dialogue is designed for journalists covering oil issues and provides a comprehensive overview of the global oil industry.
EJOLT Report: "A Jubilee for the Offshore Jubilee Field, Ghana."
This article in a report on energy production specifically addresses the Jubilee field.
The official web portal of the Ghanaian government provides information about the country of Ghana.
Ghana National Petroleum Corporation
This website includes history and current information on Ghana's agreements with oil companies to develop its petroleum resources.
The corporation featured in the film has a website that shares its earnings reports and information about its operations in Ghana.
KPMG: "Oil and Gas in Africa: Africa's Reserves, Potential and Prospects"
This 2014 report from one of the world's largest auditing firms looks at the effect of oil on the economies of various African countries.
Public Interest and Accountability Committee, Republic of Ghana
This is the website of a committee that conducts independent assessments and publishes annual and semi-annual reports on the management of oil revenues in Ghana.
National Public Radio: "With Oil Set To Flow, Ghana Ponders The Future"
This October 2010 article by Ofeibea Quist-Arcton analyzes the possible "blights or blessings" of the Jubilee field in Ghana.