Locals claim bullying by giant Chevron

  • 2013-02-06
  • From wire reports

BIG OIL: Chevron has the task to find out if there is any gas hidden in Lithuania’s hills.

VILNIUS - Lithuanian Prime Minister Algirdas Butkevicius says that shale gas exploration must be done according to the environmental requirements, and that this will convince the public on moving ahead with exploration in the country, reports ELTA.

“Resistance towards innovation is always strong at first. The public will be definitely convinced, but if it keeps on resisting, then I think we will have to find a way to do the exploration, make a step in order to attract investment. This is done not at the expense of people, but we as a state must know what resources we have. If we are stubborn without reason, even though we see that no harm is done to the community and nature, then I do not understand such decisions,” said the PM in a meeting on shale gas exploration on Monday.

But skeptics remain. Once again, a U.S.-based company offers to rescue Lithuania, say the critics. This time it is Chevron. It promises to find inexhaustible resources of shale and liberate Lithuania from Russian dependency.
The most prominent American ‘rescue operation’ was performed when Williams managed oil company Mazeikiu Nafta. It may have cost up to 1 billion litas (289.6 million euros) to Lithuania, while the American company quietly transferred shares to Russian Yukos and once again made a profit, they assert. Lithuania did not learn a thing, they add.
On Feb. 4, Chevron representatives promoting shale gas exploration and extraction met with President Dalia Grybauskaite and Prime Minister Butkevicius. Chevron is currently participating in a tender of shale gas and oil exploration and extraction organized by the Ministry of Environment. It is said that the company would like to invest 80 million litas in Lithuania only for shale gas exploration, but the price of which fluctuates on the open market.

President Grybauskaite says that if Chevron’s exploration in the western part of Lithuania will be successful, then shale gas may become an additional alternative to expensive Russian gas. The Seimas and the government said that the extraction of this gas is one of the government’s policy priorities because it is believed to be economically justified. Meanwhile, Lithuania’s greens say that shale gas extraction is extremely dangerous from an ecological point of view because, in order to extract these energy resources, rocks are fractured hydraulically using high volumes at high pressures of water saturated with several kinds of chemicals.

The president of the Lithuanian energy consultants association Valdas Lukosevicius says that even if the country has such mineral resources, there is no need to invite investors from abroad “using force” as is currently happening with Chevron, which is being promoted on the highest level.

A signatory of the Act of Independence, Rolandas Paulauskas, believes that the fuss over shale gas is happening not because it is a very cheap fuel that would help Lithuania to avoid Russian gas. “The problem of shale is not just the matter of gas; it is a geopolitical issue, in which Lithuania has been involved in as an insignificant player between the East and the West,” says Paulauskas. “The U.S. allowing the Chevron Company [to work] with us for only 80 million litas has a clear goal to push away Russia’s Gazprom from the European Union. Today a battle for the soul is taking place, while we are just small screws included in a big game just because of our geographical location,” says Paulauskas.
“I think that Lithuania will once again lose in a game of big players,” he said, reports Respublika.

Chevron representatives say that local business will be the first to feel the benefits of shale gas exploration, whereas when, or if, the extraction starts, the entire state will profit. Chevron is the second largest U.S. energy company. They are planning to look for shale gas in the Taurage region. The U.S. energy giant has a challenge ahead - to convince the local communities to allow exploration their land.

The daily Lietuvos Rytas has already reported that residents of three Taurage region villages are willing to fight to the end to prevent exploration on their land. Chevron will try to talk with the local residents. The president pointed out that the dialogue with the local communities must be active. Shale gas exploration must meet environmental requirements, whereas information presented to the public must be as clear and understandable as possible.