Following the revelation in parliament that Portugal’s new Socialist government is just as intent on gas and oil exploration in the Algarve as their predecessors, the region’s anti-oil campaign has vowed to take the fight “all the way to the European Court of Justice”.
Only two days ago, Lusa carried a story affirming that the contracts signed in Portugal’s ‘oil carve up’ do not defend the public interest.
PEV (ecologists’ alliance) spokesperson Joaquim Correia aligned his party to the anti-oil fight, bolstering “mayors, PALP (a platform of conservationsist NGOs) and the local population” because “analysis of the contracts” has shown the public interest has not been safeguarded “in any way at all”.
Highlighting the fact that the State stands to gain “less than 10%” of any profits made from oil or gas sales, Correia stressed that after the Paris congress on climate change (COP21), Portugal “needs to change its energy paradigm and concentrate on renewable energies” instead of conceding licences that will “contribute to an increase in carbon emissions”.
But on the same day, Prime Minister António Costa showed his new government has no intention of rescinding contracts already signed with oil companies Repsol, Partex, Eni, Galp and Portfuel.
His declarations, coming in parliament in answer to a question posed by PAN (the People Animals Nature party) MP André Silva, were phrased in such a way as to belie the bottom-line of licences signed by the former PSD-CDS administration.
It is “absolutely essential”, Costa told Silva, that the country “knows” its natural resources, and therefore, it must “proceed with operations of prospection”.
What his answer did not address was the fact that the contracts in place allow for prospection and commercialisation, and not only exploration.
Unless invasive techniques like fracking are required, oil companies will not have to submit environmental impact studies or embark on public consultation before they start drilling.
As one campaigner explained, the PM’s speech “encompasses the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost, that is: brainwashing, whitewashing and greenwashing”.
The issue has even prompted a full page opinion article in today’s Correio da Manhã’s Sunday magazine, under the headline: “Disquiet”.
Centering on what he calls “madness”, film director João Botelho agrees that the Algarve has “always been” the recipient of “serious and idiotic” attacks, including manic over-building involving “tens of golf courses guzzling the little water that descends from the hills”.
But these gas and oil concessions are worse, he claims. “An international consortium, with some Portuguese clever dicks… are preparing to make holes from hillside to sea in search, they imagine, of black gold.
“We need to take advantage of our natural resources. says the current minister of the economy. How? We thought the Algarve’s natural resources were its excellent agricultural produce, its extraordinary fish and shellfish which, despite the destruction, are still the best in Europe. We’re going to make shale gas and destroy the Monchique mountains. We’re going to find oil at sea between Sagres and Tavira, and pollute everyone and everything. Careful! They will drill into a seismic fault. And then there’ll be another massive earthquake. And we’ll all be back at square one”.
As Laurinda Seabra, tough-talking CEO of civic group ASMAA – vociferous over this issue from the start – has commented: “The PM may have announced that oil contracts stay, but our fight is now on full blast. We are ready to take it all the way to the European Court of Justice if we have to”.
PHOTO of Laurinda Seabra, CEO of ASMAA, voicing concerns, by SARA ALVES – OPEN MEDIA GROUP