Government faces oil and gas showdown

Thursday December 21 sees parliament finally debate the 42,000-strong petition raised in a bid to stop imminent oil and gas exploration off the Algarve and Alentejo coasts.

With offshore drilling on both set to start early in the new year (the concessions held by GALP/ ENI), all the councils involved have officially come out against the oil companies’ Plan of Works.

Thanks to legislation passed last year, councils’ opinions are to be “taken into account” – but they are in no way binding. This is the “nub of the issue”.

Activists within Groups Preservar Aljezur, Plataforma Algarve Livre de Petróleo, Alentejo Litoral pelo Ambiente , Associação Rota Vicentina, Campanha Linha Vermelho, Climáximo, Colectivo Clima, GEOTA, Glocalfaro, Liga para Protecção da Natureza, Quercus, Rias, Rocha, Sciaena, SPEA, Stop Petróleo Vila do Bispo, Tavira em Transição, Tamera, Ocean Care, Save the Waves, Sunconcept, PAS, and Newloops are posing the question: “What is the government planning to do now?”

They explain: people are against, municipalities are against, 1500 scientists have warned of the follies of further fossil fuel exploration, world governments have signed anti-carbon agreements, more than 80 economists from 20 countries have appealed for an end to investment in fossil fuel production and infrastructures, what is stopping this government from listening?

A statement issue over the weekend exhorts everyone who wants to help preserve Portugal’s coastline to join the demonstration outside parliament on Thursday “and reaffirm the urgency to develop and invest immediately in decentralised projects for renewable energies”.

The petition up for debate was raised months ago by civic organisation ASMAA – the group that kick-started the country’s mass-movement against oil and gas over five years ago.

ASMAA is demanding an end to all the concessions signed away in the dying days of the last government, and has been using every legal argument in the book.

But this week it warns that the government appears to be using every trick in the book, too.

A press release refers to what ASMAA calls “truly disgusting” underhand tactics, a form of “subversive brainwashing”.

The example: an 80c stamp purchased in Aljezur last week by a member of the group planning to send out Christmas cards.

Reproduced above, the stamp “promotes oil and gas, while relegating into the background alternative energy technologies”.

With ASMAA appealing for financial help in its campaign to promote the voice of the people, government allies Bloco de Esquerda and PAN have thrown their own caps into the arena, saying it is time to definitely rip up any and all plans to launch Portugal into a future of carbon production.

Lodging a “projeto de resolução” (draft resolution), the two parties go further, saying not only should Portugal’s concessions be cancelled (and no further concessions granted), but the quality of imported gas into Sines port from the United States should be thoroughly vetted to ensure we are not promoting ‘fracking’, the production of which poses “a serious threat to global emissions”.

In short, Thursday promises to be a showdown: the moment the government’s pledge to be carbon neutral by 2o50 (given at the Paris One Planet Summit last week) comes up against the reality that it is countenancing the polar opposite.

[email protected]