The fossil lobby is back on the attack

The full scale invasion of Ukraine was beneficial to ENI, Italian biggest oil&gas company, controlled by the Ministry of Economy and Finance with a 32,3% stake[1]. Besides seeing its profits skyrocketing thanxks to oil and gas price increase[2], ENI has also achieved some important concessions by the Italian State since the energy crisis began.

From February 2022, Italy has had two goverments. The first one was a coalition government led by former Ecb’s President Mario Draghi, who was already in place at the time of the war initiated by Russia. On October 2022, after parlamentary elections, he was replaced by far right leader Giorgia Meloni, whose party was the only one to stay at opposition during Draghi’s government. Both cabinets have had a positive attitude towards fossil fuels industry, particularly with national champion ENI.

Oil&gas explorations

More than 10% on ENI’s reserves of oil and gas are located in Italy[3]. Therefore, the company has always been in favour of increasing national production. On 18 February 2022, CEO Claudio Descalzi reiterated it: “We still have some reserves. … We still have the capability to increase production in Italy. … Clearly we are open and ready to act and invest in Italy on the gas side”[4]. On 28 December 2021, Draghi’s government had already passed a law called “Plan for a sustainable energy transition in suitable areas” (PiTesai)[5] . The law had allowed to oil and gas exploration and production on around 50% of the Italian territory, and had unlocked a number of  oil and gas concessions that were frozen in 2019. Yet, for ENI was not enough. According to minutes of the meeting between ENI and Snam’s representatives and EU Energy Dg Ditte Juul Jørgensen, during her/his official visit to Rome on March 15-16 2022, thanks to the new law ENI had already “2.5 bcm of additional volume over a 10–15-year plan.. But it was “too slow for the emergency situation we are in”[6], was explained to Ditte Juul Jørgensen by the two Italian fossil fuel companies. Less than one year later, their desires were met in Italy. On 17 January 2023, the Parliament passed a law proposed by Meloni’s cabinet. The law provides that oil and gas concessions can be also exploited in some of the areas previously banned by PiTesai, opens to drilling in offshore sea areas between 9 and 12 miles, and to the High Adriatic Sea[7].

LNG terminals

Until the start of 2023, Italy could rely on three LNG terminals, located in Livorno, Rovigo and Panigaglia. For years, the oil & gas companies have been asking the government to build more terminals. Snam, which owns and operates Italy’s gas distribution network, has been lobbying for new gas infrastructure since at least 2018, with the aim of tranforming Italy into a European gas hub [8]. The war in Ukraine and the following energy crisis has helped fossil fuels companies achieving their target. On November 2022, ENI’s CEO Descalzi, whose company produces large quantities of gas in sub-Saharan Africa, where there are no pipeline links to Europe, said that Italy “would need four additional terminals”[9].  On 30 May 2023, the Italian government led by Meloni passed a new law called Decreto Energia[10]. It provides for an increase of LNG capacity by inviting all Regions to apply for hosting terminals on their territory. It does not set a limit on the number of LNG terminals to be built. Since then, two new floating LNG terminals – both owned by Snam – were approved. One will be located in Ravenna. The other will be placed in Piombino until 2026, and then it will be moved to Vado Ligure.

Windfall tax

On 30 September 2022, the Council of the European Union agreed to impose an EU windfall profits tax on fossil fuel companies, called solidarity contribution, to fund relief for households and businesses facing high energy prices (due primarily to Putin’s war on Ukraine)[11]. “Member States should remain free to apply a rate higher than 33 % for their solidarity contribution”[12], states the Council of the EU. As the biggest fossil fuel company in Italy, ENI was afraid to see the extent to which the measure was going to be implemented. Although it anticipated the regulation introduced by the EU, Italy has never reached a 33% rate. A solidarity contribution was firstly introduced in May 2022 at 10% rate, then increased in July 2022 to 25%[13]. When Draghi was replaced by Meloni, the new goverment announced another increase. “We can go a bit further, the EU regulation says the rate should not be lower than 33%”[14], deputy Ministry of Economy Maurizio Leo said on November 15 2022. However, on 30 March 2023, Meloni’s government passed a law that offers fossil fuel companies a tax advantage on solidarity contribution[15]. According to the the reasearch office of the Italian Senate, this will decrease revenues for the Italian State by 404 milion euros in 2023[16].

Conflict of interest at the Ministry of Environment

One of the advisors chosen by the current Italian minister of the Environment and Energy Security, Gilberto Pichetto-Fratin, is an experienced lobbyist whose company has been working for years for some of the biggest oil&gas companies in the world. His name is Maurizio Ravidà[17]. On February 7 2023, he has been appointed advisor to the minister as “strategic communication expert”. His first contract, valid until May 30 2023, was free of charge. The following one, starting on May 30 and ending on 31 December 2023, provides for a total gross remuneration of 5.000 Euro.

Ravidà states he’s not in a conflict of interest[18]. However, as he writes in his resume, since 2004 he has been working as CEO of Sec & Associati Srl, an Italian company that Ravidà co-founded in 1997[19]. Sec & Associati is a subsidiary of SEC Newgate Italia Srl[20], a multinational group focused on communication and lobbying[21]. The area of interest of some of SEC’s customers matches the one of the Ministry of the Environment and Energy Security.

Among its fields of interest in Italy, SEC mentions petroleum and natural gas[22]. One of its clients in Italy is Adriatic LNG, a company controlled by ExxonMobil along with Qatar Energy and Snam, operating a regasification plant off the Veneto coastline[23]. Another of its clients is IGI Poseidon[24], a joint-venture of Edison and Depa International Projects, whose main goal is building Eastmed, a pipeline aiming to provide a direct link between the Eastern Mediterranean gas resources and the European markets through Cyprus, Greece and Italy[25]. Another customer of SEC is TotalEnergies: the French company is active in Italy, where it operates the Tempa Rossa oil field (the country’s second largest oil field) and holds several exploration licenses in the Southern Apennines region[26].

Ravidà serves also the interests of Eni. Through its subsidiary SEC Newgate EU[27], the group lobbyies European institutions in favour of its clients. Some of these clients are associations of which ENI is member, namely the International Association of Oil & Gas Producers (IOGP)[28], the Natural & bio Gas Vehicle Association (NGVA)[29], Hydrogen Europe[30], FuelsEurope[31].

Just to give an example of the influence of these associations, over the last years FuelsEurope and IOGP lobbyied on the European Commission to have gas included among sustainable energy sources[32]. Eventually, they achieved their goal – the European Commission has included gas under the transitional activity category of the Taxonomy Regulation[33].

According to the European Commission transparency register, in the period 2019-2022 SEC has invested between 375,000 and 760,000 Euro to lobby EU institutions in favour of the fossil fuels industry[34] (see chart).

Ravidà is also one of the founding member of Cultura Italia[35], an Italian association whose goal is to “develop and spread a cultural, sustainable and competitive model”[36]. Every year Cultura Italiae organizes a conference gathering famous people from the world of Italian politics, film and industrial fields. In 2022 edition, ENI was one the main sponsors of the conference[37]. CEO Claudio Descalzi was among the speakers[38].







































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