The EIA estimates that Iraq's Western Desert region could yield an additional 100 billion barrels of oil. In addition to increased exploration, greater development of discovered fields and use of state-of-the-art petroleum technology could also contribute to increased and sustainable oil production.
The Defense Department estimates that the potential oil income to the Iraqi people is $20 billion to $30 billion a year, and that these resources will play an important role in shaping Iraq's economic outlook.
In light of the past eco-terrorism of the Iraqi regime and the importance of oil resources in assuring a viable economic future for Iraq, Defense Secretary Rumsfeld cautioned Iraqi troops on March 20 not to sabotage oil wells.
"Do not follow orders to destroy your country's oil, which is the Iraqi people's. They will need it to rebuild their country when that (Saddam Hussein's) regime is gone," he said. Rumsfeld added, "following such orders would be to commit crimes against the Iraqi people. ... Those who follow orders to commit such crimes will be
found and they will be punished."
A senior Defense Department official summed up efforts to protect Iraqi oil resources at a March 24 Pentagon briefing.
"This is not about the U.S. trying to gain advantage by taking these oil fields or to preserve its own oil industry", he said. "It is solely and most importantly to preserve the capability of the Iraqi people to stand up very quickly after a Saddam regime and become a functioning, capable member of the economic community."
(The Washington File is a product of the Office of International Information Programs, U.S. Department of State. Web site: http://usinfo.state.gov
Toronto Globe and Mail
Iraqis lay mines at torched oil wells
By GEOFFREY YORK
From Wednesday's Globe and Mail (Toronto)
POSTED AT 4:18 AM EST
Wednesday, Mar. 26, 2003 \
At the Rumaila oil field, IraqLike giant oil slicks in the sky, the plumes of thick smoke stretch for vast distances above the Rumaila oil field, blotting the horizon in every direction. Below each plume is the orange flame of a blazing oil well, sabotaged by retreating Iraqi soldiers.The U.S.-led military coalition has claimed that only seven oil wells are burning. But this ignores the fires at smaller pipelines and gas-oil separation plants in recent days.When I drove through the Rumaila oil field on Sunday, I counted at least 15 blazes in one section. The hissing and popping of the fires can be heard clearly from the highway.
"It's an environmental disaster," said Ali Asad, one of a 25-member Kuwaiti firefighting team that has been struggling to extinguish the fires for the past two days. "Our target is to end this disaster. The smoke has even reached as far as Kuwait City. It will cause a lot of children to become asthmatic."
United Nations Environment Program official Pekka Haavisto said the problem will also add to the many health problems faced by ordinary Iraqis.
"This burning of the oil wells in the south or ... around Baghdad is concerning for the health of people inhaling very unclean air on a daily basis," he told Reuters in Sarajevo.
A British soldier, camped with his unit in the middle of the oil field, told me that the retreating Iraqi soldiers had triggered the blazes by blowing off the ends of pipes in gas-oil separation plants. They used remote-controlled or timer-controlled mines in an effort to kill coalition soldiers when they reached the oil wells, he said.
Some of the smaller fires seem to be only a few metres high, but some are reportedly up to 100 metres high. They are burning a mixture of oil and gas, the British soldier said.