With a ruling from the Italian Ministry of Environment on the environmental impact assessment of the TAP pipeline project expected soon, we explain here why we believe that the pipeline project is useless and harmful, for a variety of reasons.
It is certainly not a project that Italian and European financial institutions should be financing.
1. IT IS NOT NEEDED, neither in Italy nor in the rest of Europe
In Europe there is an abundance of gas pipelines. However, gas consumption is steadily decreasing. The new pipeline projects are serving economic and financial interests and not the needs of real people who live in Italy or other countries. Building the TAP pipeline will not revive the economy and help Italy to get out of the economic crisis that persists. TAP is not needed by those who have lost their jobs, or who have been forced to close their business. It will not be needed by those that want to emancipate themselves from Russian gas, because in fact the Russians are part of the project with their oil company Lukoil engaged in the extraction of gas to be transported by TAP. It is not needed by those who hope “that at least it will bring some money,” because the construction company Trans Adriatic Pipeline AG is registered in Baar, Switzerland, and will never pay taxes in Italy, or in the other countries crossed by the pipeline.
2. IT WILL AFFECT TERRITORY far beyond its construction area…
The bulldozers and the technologies that will be used are concerning. After the construction, things will not be “as before”. We have seen it in other places where similar pipelines were built. Where a gas pipeline passes, all other economic activities become “secondary” or collateral, with inhabitants in these areas becoming secondary or collateral too. The TAP project has many aspects to be clarified: the hundreds of comments submitted by associations and the administration of Melendugno (Lecce, Italy) cannot be summarised in a few lines, but they do emphasise a wide range of different concerns. Moreover, the pipeline is the bridgehead of a model of “development” that brings with it concrete, pollution and environmental damage set to manifest itself in the years to come.
3 … AND THE WIDER ECONOMY, where the sea, the land and natural resources are at the heart of everything
The construction of the pipeline would not cause economic damage that can be “compensated” with cash. The infrastructure, in fact, comes from the sea through an aquifer, that precisely in the area of San Foca goes almost to the surface, putting at risk the coast, the marine habitat, fresh water reserves and plantations of ancient, thousand year old olive trees. It would destroy the environment in which people live, where all economic and commercial activities – on which life in this land is based – are rooted, and which are part of the social and cultural fabric of the area. Fishing, agriculture and vineyards – this land has made its simplicity and respect for the environment its strong point. A pipeline, with all it entails, is not part of the future that the inhabitants of the area are building for their children.
4. IT IS ANTI-DEMOCRATIC and it is not listening to citizens
The TAP pipeline is only one part of a longer pipeline, whose construction was decided by governments and private companies without consulting citizens. No one has asked those living in the territories that will be crossed by both TAP and the other components of the longer “Southern Gas Corridor” if it was or was not appropriate to build this pipeline, either in Italy or in Azerbaijan. The exercise in democracy may fiddle with the details of the project, bringing at most some alteration in the pipeline’s path or, in the case of Italy, a different arrival site. All such “details” will be presented as reflecting high democracy. But what if the project is simply not serving needs?
5. IT IS IMPOSED FROM ABOVE, from higher than you might think!
Whenever the Italian government or the TAP company speaks, they say that the TAP pipeline is a “European priority.” In other words, Europe is demanding it. Yet this is a half-truth, first of all because EU governments have failed to have a real, strategic discussion about energy at EU level. What has emerged, instead, is a long list of over 100 “strategic” projects drawn up by the European Commission that should appease everyone, including businesses, to some extent. Appeals have been lodged with the European Court of Justice to review the manner in which the Commission defined what is strategic and what is not – in general, though, the fact remains that the territories and their inhabitants were excluded from this decision. Many of the projects are in fact competing with each other, confirming that the Commission’s choices are political and not based on economic criteria, “strategic” evaluations or simple common sense. The price of this is likely to be a huge waste of public money for projects of questionable utility, that will continue to feed Europe’s dependence on gas.
6. IT HAS NOTHING TO DO WITH ENERGY SECURITY … but just for nothing!
This is the second part of the chant that governments and companies repeatedly trot out: we are asked to do it by Europe, for European “energy security.” The truth is that Europe has coined the concept of energy security when it became apparent that only a matter of “security” would legitimise the use of any means to protect the primordial right to secure oil and the gas that Europe would “need.” Too bad that more than 60% of the gas and 80% of the oil sold in Europe comes from outside the Union, in many cases from Southern countries such as Nigeria, or from the Caspian region. Justifying new investments in these countries to extract oil and gas, or new infrastructure in Italy and in Europe to ensure that oil and gas can feed into the “European market”, is hypocritical and overshadows the rights of communities who live where the gas is extracted and where the mega works are to be constructed. But, above all, it does not address the real problem, namely to reduce our dependence on oil and gas.
7. IT SERVES FINANCIAL INTERESTS and not ours
“Building the gas market” is a mega deal into which companies, investment funds, pension funds and, too, banks and insurance companies are ready to dive. Provided that all the project risks are covered in some way by governments, the European Commission, or by financial institutions such as the European Investment Bank. Yet what kind of market is being built? The models are different: the one intended by the Commission is to be instrumental for the interests of large investors who aim to create a system that allows them to make money (and safely), controlling a resource from which it was first created dependency and then scarcity (as controlled by large private investors). Today, for many the price of gas is already too high: what will happen when the market is completed and the price defined by profit-seeking investors? And why should governments and public institutions invest public resources in order to guarantee these profits?
8. IT SUPPORTS AUTHORITARIAN GOVERNMENTS
The largest gas reserves yet to be exploited are located in the Caspian Sea region. The TAP pipeline would carry gas from Azerbaijan, from the Shah Deniz II field in the Caspian Sea. And in the future possibly from Turkmenistan, if a Trans Caspian gas pipeline is ever realised. At what price though? Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan are two countries ruled by authoritarian governments, where violations of civil liberties are a daily reality. Only a few weeks ago an international campaign denounced the imprisonment of dozens of people in Turkmenistan, about whom there is no news.
In Azerbaijan, only in the last year, dozens of human rights activists, journalists and bloggers have been arrested, allegedly on made up charges. They have been denouncing the corruption of the government, in particular linked to misuse of resources derived from the country’s oil and gas supplies. Defending freedom of expression in the arts, painting and music is still denied in a country that has already been defined as “a post-modern dictatorship.” Buying this gas means supporting the Aliyev regime and the human rights violations that have been perpetrated for over two decades.
9. AND SHOULD WE PAY FOR IT? It seems so…
Just by dint of being on the list of “projects of common interest”, the TAP pipeline is a candidate to receive low-interest loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development and other public financial institutions (such as the European Investment Bank and Cassa Depositi e Prestiti in Italy). Beyond this, the project promoter would possibly finance the construction through the selling of debt on financial markets (via “EU project bonds”) with a favourable rating thanks to the intervention of some of the mentoned institutions, together with the European Commission. In other words, significant public support, likely to unload the cost of the work on the public purse, leaving intact profits for the construction company and for investors who bought the bonds … a good deal for many but not for Italian and European taxpayers who will have to pick up the bill!
10. IT IS NOT AN ALTERNATIVE but an obstacle to alternative practices
The TAP project is often presented as “an alternative to Russian gas,” but is this really the case? Looking at the gas consumption data, even in times of recession TAP could not replace the amount of gas that Europe imports from Russia. Moreover, we do not know the total cost of TAP (though it is likely to run into billions) and of the other parts of the Southern Gas Corridor snaking from Azerbaijan to Italy. We also don’t know how it will be funded. On balance, real alternatives would mean looking into defining the needs of each territory, looking to the future and to the economic model that communities are choosing and developing. And then think of what energy is needed and how to produce it, cutting dependence on gas. A project such as TAP, however, goes in the opposite direction – it is an obstacle to the ability to think of alternatives that can be truly transformative for the territories in question, and under threat.
For more information:
NO TAP Committee, Italy: https://www.facebook.com/notapitalia?fref=ts
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