Creature comforts might attract ambitious newcomers, creating a more sustainable and diverse economy. A bigger hospital could mean less travel to Chile or London for advanced care. More restaurants and a movie theater in Stanley would be welcome, and people naturally would like more money in their pockets.
But any windfalls will go straight into a sovereign wealth fund, islanders say. They don't plan to pay themselves dividends, and joke that no one should expect their ubiquitous Land Rovers to become gold-plated.
"It's not 'way-hay, party-time!' We're certainly thinking about the future," said Gavin Short, one of eight legislators. "We're not going to turn into a society where we all sit at home with our seven maids and gardener and watch the telly. We're all brought up to work."
Veterinarian Zoe Luxton, a distant cousin of Stephen's, has more fundamental concerns.
"Can this place survive it?" she asked. "Everything we're saying we're here for — not locking your doors, the freedom, the tranquility — can it survive so much money?"
The islanders are hiring experts to negotiate with major oil companies and plan for change, and examining how other small islands handled sudden wealth. Looking north of Scotland, they believe the Shetlands used oil royalties wisely to fund a vibrant economy, but that the Faroe Islands allowed oil to take over.
No one wants another Nauru, the Pacific "phosphate island" whose sudden mining wealth tripled the population, briefly making them the world's richest per-capita, but destroyed their way of life. Nauru's money disappeared through swindles and bad investments as the ground beneath them was shipped away. In less than a generation, the phosphate was gone, they had forgotten how to fish, and had to take in Australian inmates for income.
"They're broke, they've had it," Short said. "We've got only one shot at this and we've got to get it right. So we'll go out and hire the best expertise money can buy."
To attract investors, the Falklands promise some of the world's lowest royalties — 9 percent of the oil's value sold as crude, combining with taxes for a one-third take. Taxes and royalties top 40 percent in the U.S. Gulf of Mexico, 50 percent in Brazil, 70 percent in Norway and 80 percent in Malaysia, according to the Edison report.
Any royalties would still add up to far more than the current revenues of $40 million, mostly from fishing and oil industry fees.
Engineering and environmental challenges still abound in the frigid and stormy southern seas. The petroleum found so far is waxy when cold, so must be heated while shipped. Any major spill where penguins, whales, seals and other birds and marine mammals are drawn to unspoiled coasts could make Falklands oil a bad bet.
"The political fallout from any environmental damage would be toxic," Edison's otherwise bullish report noted.
Falkland Islands Company chairman David Huff, another British investor, said "you can't eliminate risk, it's a part of life."
But islanders have mixed feelings.
"You've got to be worried about it, haven't you? A couple of missing safety checks and human errors and you've got a major blowout for days," said Fowler, who hopes to make a career of studying wildlife in the islands. "On the other hand, where there is oil, there is more money to invest in environmental conservation."
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