Giuseppe Onufrio (Referendum on Oil Drilling - April 17, 2016)

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INTERVIEW WITH Giuseppe Onufrio (Referendum on Oil Drilling -  April 17, 2016)
(Greenpeace Italy – Executive Director - http://www.greenpeace.org/italy/it/)

Premise

A referendum on oil and natural gas drilling is to be held in Italy on  April 17, 2016.  There is a huge amount of information available on the media, but little of it seems to clarify what is actually at stake. What happens if I vote ‘Yes?’ What if I vote ‘No?’ The answer is not very clear yet. The referendum proposes to repeal the law that allows oil drilling concessions extracting Hydrocarbon within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion of the useful life of the fields. ‘Yes-supporters’ don’t want to miss the opportunity to put an end on such dangerous drillings. On the contrary, ‘No-supporters’ argue that such offshore drillings help Italy satisfy its energy requirement and bring several jobs.  Why should you vote 'Yes?' What’s the landscape of Italy’s offshore drilling sector? Are such offshore drilling platforms really strategic for Italy’s energy system? Giuseppe Onufrio, Executive Director of Greenpeace Italy, answered to these and other questions. 

 

INTERVIEW - (April, 2016)
This interview was made and published in April 2016
Subject: Referendum on oil and natural gas drilling (April 17, 2016)
 
 

Highlight 

  • We are called to decide whether to abrogate or not a law! A law that allows oil drilling concessions within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion of the fields. This is a law that is in contrast with a European directive: in any field State’s concessions cannot be unlimited!
     
  • This Referendum is very important. It is not just a matter of ending offshore drilling near the Italian coast! There is something more important at stake: what kind of Energy strategy we want in Italy? Unfortunately, since the Monti government (November 16 2011 – April 28 2013) onwards, Italian governments have strongly supported mining activities while they have constantly launched attack (I should say devastating during the Renzi government) on renewable energies.
     
  • We have to bring a change! We must express our will to create an energy system that is in line with the Paris Conference, as well as with the message launched in the ’Enciclica Laudato si’.
     
  • …these companies want to avoid paying substantial costs for dismantling the platforms whose concession expires.
     
  • Energy production from these offshore drilling platforms is very low. Moreover, let me make clear one thing: Oil and gas extracted in these places is ‘not ours!’ It belongs to the extracting companies; it is put on the market and priced according to market rules. Companies pay some royalties for these concessions. However these royalties are very low and they are of very little benefit to Italy’s fiscal revenues.
  • As for employment, operating platforms give a job to just 75 people!... in platforms which are bound to run out. Instead, due to the last three governments, we have lost tens of thousands of jobs in the sector of renewable energy.
 
 
Question 1: Welcome Mr. Onufrio. A referendum on oil and natural gas drilling is to be held in Italy on  April 17, 2016. Could you explain to us what is actually at stake?
 
Answer
We are called to decide whether to abrogate or not a law! A law that allows oil drilling concessions within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast to be prolonged until the exhaustion of the fields. Let me say that this is a law that is in contrast with a European directive: in any field State’s concessions cannot be unlimited!
 
 
Question 2: Greenpeace is asking us to vote 'Yes.' That means ending oil drilling activities within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast once the existing concessions expire. Could you explain to us why we should vote ‘Yes?’
 
Answer
First of all we should go to vote! In fact, this Referendum is very important. It is not just a matter of ending offshore drilling near the Italian coast! There is something more important at stake: what kind of Energy strategy we want in Italy? Unfortunately, since the Monti government (November 16 2011 – April 28 2013) onwards, Italian governments have strongly supported mining activities while they have constantly launched attack (I should say devastating during the Renzi government) on renewable energies.
 
This is why we must vote ‘Yes!’ We have to bring a change! We must express our will to create an energy system that is in line with the Paris Conference, as well as with the message launched in the ’Enciclica Laudato si’. By the way, let me add that the Italian Minister for the Environment (Gian Luca Galletti, N.D.R.), a fervent Catholic,  has quoted the pro-environment papal message in some of his speeches, but at the same time he is defending drilling activities, arguing that they have never caused any accidents. So he is completely incoherent and false! He is allowing many big corporations to commit environmental crimes both at sea and on land, and this is a story we all know very well.
 
 
Question 3: Why drilling activities near the Italian coast have not been stopped before?
 
Answer
Following the accident in the Gulf of Mexico in 2010 new concessions on offshore drilling were stopped; and the ban has been recently restored. So the question is not about new concessions; it is on existent concessions. Why companies and politicians insist so much in extending these concessions until the exhaustion of the fields (ad libidum concession)? The answer is very simple and clear: these companies want to avoid paying substantial costs for dismantling the platforms whose concession expires. "Alternative" solutions to costly dismantling have been presented several times but, as we see with recent scandals, the disposal of hazardous waste is a very hot topic.
 
 
Question 4: In the paper ‘Vecchie spilorce,’ Greenpeace Italy argues that there are 88 drilling platforms within 12 nautical miles of the Italian coast. Of these, just 24 can be considered operative, in the sense that they have a scale that give some benefits to Italy’s fiscal revenues. Most of them (64) should be dismantled so as to avoid environmental disasters. A ‘Yes’ victory in the referendum means just the end of the activities or also the dismantling of the platforms?   
 
Answer
If the ‘Yes’ vote wins, the effects won’t be immediate. Drilling activities will last till the expiry of the concessions.  
 
Sources:
Vecchie spilorce
Far west nei mari italiani, 100 piattaforme senza controllo
 
 
Question 5: And what about platforms placed beyond 12 miles?  They could cause environmental disasters too. Couldn’t they?
 
Answer
12 miles are the national territorial limit. Of course platforms that are beyond these limits can cause damage too. But as I said before, the matter goes beyond the specific question of offshore drilling. It is about what kind of energy system we would like to have in Italy.  
 
 
Question 6: ‘No-Supporters’ have 2 arguments: 1) such off-shore drillings help Italy satisfy its energy requirement and 2) they bring several jobs.  Is offshore drilling in Italy really so important in terms of energy resilience and employment? If not, why do politicians insist so much in preserving these activities?
 
Answer
Energy production from these offshore drilling platforms is very low. Moreover, let me make clear one thing: Oil and gas extracted in these places is ‘not ours!’ It belongs to the extracting companies; it is put on the market and priced according to market rules. Companies pay some royalties for these concessions. However these royalties are very low and they are of very little benefit to Italy’s fiscal revenues. As for employment, operating platforms give a job to just 75 people!... in platforms which are bound to run out. Instead, due to the last three governments, we have lost tens of thousands of jobs in the sector of renewable energy.
 
 
Question 7: What kind of Energy system should we have in Italy so as to depend less on foreign supply?
 
Answer
We should focus firmly and consistently on renewable and energy efficiency. We should head towards public and private electric mobility, as well as promote the circular economy, reusing as much materials and energy as possible. Instead the government has ‘punished’ the renewable energy sector - guilty of having invaded a market dominated by a fossil oligopoly market. Recent Italian governments have chosen the wrong pattern: they have strongly promoted the extraction of hydrocarbons. Now we have the possibility to take the floor and choose between a vision that sees Italy as a "hub for natural gas" and another more sustainable vision which sees Italy as a "hub for renewables." Let’s make the right choice!

 

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