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piping to the rich, bypassing the poor - baku-ceyhan oil pipeline in caspian region

british petroleum, uk

“I do not remember any good impacts from the Baku-Supsa oil pipeline. So I do not understand why BP carried out a social assessment. They just irritated people. When they ask questions about what people want and need, people hope that lots of things will be done for them. If this does not happen it will be catastrophic. BP will hide behind the government, and conflict will arise again between Georgians and the government.” Lela Inasaridze, local Georgian NGO Meskheti Voice.


If built, the Baku-Ceyhan oil pipeline will run 1,100 miles through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey from the Caspian Sea to the Mediterranean. The United States, with its endless appetite for energy and powerful corporate oil lobby, has been pushing for this US$3.3 billion project for many years.

The pipeline will cross through extremely biodiverse regions, including Azerbaijan’s Gobustani Reserve (recognized by UNESCO for its cultural heritage), unique forests and mineral water reserves in Georgia’s Borjomi Nature Park, and unique wetlands designated for Ramsar protection.


British Petroleum (BP), the world’s third largest oil company and head of the pipeline consortium, is seeking public funding from the World Bank and major national export credit agencies to finance the pipeline. BP is a key proponent of greenwash within the corporate climate lobby. Despite its sophisticated self-promotion as a convert to corporate environmental responsibility and its widely publicized investment in renewables, the company continues to increase its oil production. Other members of the consortium include Eni (Italy), Statoil (Norway), Unocal (US) and TotalFinaElf (France).


Affected communities and campaign groups are concerned that the pipeline will bring few benefits to poorer people, and could exacerbate tensions in a region that is just recovering from a number of major conflicts. “Although there is a permanent energy crisis in Azerbaijan, the development banks support the energy needs of US citizens before considering Azerbaijanians who have limited access to gas and electricity,” says local campaigner Samir Isaev. “The oil and gas from the Caspian will be piped straight to western markets, completely bypassing local communities.”


CEE Bankwatch and Friends of the Earth groups are also concerned about the pipeline’s contribution to global climate change. The oil transported along the pipeline, once burned, will contribute 185 million tons of carbon dioxide to the atmosphere every year. As construction plans hinge on the provision of public funding, campaign groups are lobbying the World Bank and export credit agencies not to open their coffers for this explosive project.


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