5 questions for Pres. Putin about Gazprom’s first shipment of Arctic oil
by Maria Favorsky
April 18, 2014
© Denis Sinyakov / Greenpeace
Today Russian President Vladimir Putin announced that the first ever shipment of Arctic oil has launched from Gazproms drilling platform in the Pechora Sea. Putins announcement came during his traditional direct line with the Russian people, a choreographed event in which he takes softball questions presumably from ordinary Russians.
Gazprom is the massive, largely state-owned Russian oil and gas company. Its platform in the Pechora Sea, known as Prirazlomnaya, was the subject of a Greenpeace protest last fall, when 28 Greenpeace activists were arrested on charges of hooliganism and piracy.
A Greenpeace briefing(pdf) shows that oil from the platform is of low enough quality that Gazprom had initial trouble finding a buyer. The shipment has been delayed by over a month. Though no reasons for the delay have been given by official sources, it is likely that the harsh conditions and ice cover of Arctic seas played a role. The shipment also contains a lot less oil that originally expected.
If we had been allowed a direct line to President Putin about the Arctic, here are just a few of the many questions we would like answered:
1. Why was Gazprom allowed to begin the drilling at Prirazlomnaya illegally?
The company has violated several requirements of Russian Federal law in terms of safety and environmental protection. One example is that the company started operations without any financial provisions set aside for its oil spill contingency plan. Such a plan is required by law.
2. Do you believe that Gazprom can truly guarantee environmental safety of its operations in the Arctic when its oil spill prevention and response plan is full of gaps?
Gazprom suggests laughable methods for cleaning possible oil spill in the Arctic, which has the danger of slipping under ice. Included is a request for 15 shovels, 15 buckets, 3 axes, and one sledgehammer, to clean hundreds of thousands of barrels of oil from many miles of potentially affected shoreline. The company also suggests burning spilled oil as a way of mitigating a spill under the ice. How does that work exactly?
3. Do we really need to risk the pristine Arctic, and the consequences and costs of an oil spill disaster there, for this paltry amount of low-quality oil?
When finally operating at full capacity, Prirazlomnaya will only provide 5 million tons of oil a year. An equivalent volume of oil could be saved from existing onshore operations if Russian companies repaired old rusty pipes and stopped permanent leaks.
4. Why do Russian taxpayers have to sponsor Gazproms Arctic adventure?
It is profitable for the company only because of huge tax reliefs, which means this oil brings almost no money to the Russian economy. At the same time, you state that renewable energy is ineffective because it can only survive with state subsidies. Whats with the double standard?
5. President Putin, why are you not listening to your own directives for Russia to move away from heavy oil dependence?
Youve said that hydrocarbons have exhausted themselves as a source of this countrys prosperity, and that we need a new economic model based on more competitive and advanced industry. Isnt it time to start now, instead of reinforcing the structures that tie us to last centurys energy sources?
President Putin has often criticized Greenpeace for being unconstructive and protesting instead of participating in normal discussion about developments in the Arctic.
So our last question for him is: what do you suggest we do when our attempts at a normal discussion go unanswered?