The Caspian Oil Pipeline Timebomb

Those behind human rights abuses and an alleged safety cover-up around the Caspian pipeline must be held to account

Published: 15-Jun-2005

A huge new oil pipeline, opened a week ago but not fully operational till August, is set to become an environmental, political and economic timebomb. Over 1,000 miles long, it is a classic example of pretensions to corporate social responsibility claimed by the BP consortium being trampled all over by the stampede for oil.

The new Great Game is the competition for control of the world's few remaining big oilfields. Global oil production will probably peak in 2010-15, and for the last 40 years new annual discoveries of oil have been far short of the increase in annual demand. The end of Big Oil is in sight, and with it the oil-powered civilisation we've all grown accustomed to. The struggle to dominate remaining supplies is intense, nowhere more so than in the Caspian basin, with probably the largest remaining oil deposits after the Middle East.

Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, bordering the Caspian, together hold oil reserves three times the size of America's. The route most favoured by the west to transport the oil out of the Caspian goes from Baku in Azerbaijan via Tbilisi in Georgia to the Mediterranean port of Ceyhan in Turkey. This BTC project costs around £2.4bn, with BP leading a consortium of 11 companies. Almost three-quarters of the funding comes from bank loans, with public bodies such as the World Bank providing £350m, including £56m from the British Export Credits Guarantee Department.


Visits to China, India, Malaysia and Pakistan are significant because the trip spells out the Saudi Kingdom's Look East policy, representing a new reorientation in its foreign policy that was heavily tilted toward the West.

The worst two scenarios suggest a drastic decline in output to 875,000 barrels a day by the end of 2007 and to just 520,000 a day by the end of 2008.

Bush said he envisioned a future in which a plug-in hybrid car could drive 40 miles on a lithium-ion battery, then stop at a filling station for ethanol, a fuel usually made from corn, similar to HyMotion Prius pictured below.


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