An article from Do or Die Issue 10. In the paper edition, this article appears on page(s) 213-214 .
The Baku Tbilisi Ceyhan (BTC) pipeline is BP's latest project. Running from the Caspian Sea through 8 conflict zones in Turkey, Georgia and Azerbaijan, this 1,000 mile long oil pipeline will bring 1 million barrels of oil a day to Europe and the US for the next 40 years, and will have a devastating impact on the ecology and human rights in the area.
The pipeline is the key to unlocking vast oil reserves, the burning of which will wreak havoc on the earth's climate. The BTC pipeline will bring us oil equal to 150 percent of the pollution produced by all vehicles in the UK each year and 250 percent of the carbon dioxide pollution that the UK said it would cut under the Kyoto climate change agreement. Furthermore, BP will have no social or environmental responsibility (e.g. for leaks) even though the pipeline is planned to run through earthquake zones. Oil will be spilt by tankers and washed up on our shores. National parks and huge mineral water sources will be sacrificed. Both current and future local and EU laws and protection will be bypassed.
In terms of human rights, we only have to look at BP's track record (and that of any other oil company such as Shell in Ogoniland, Nigeria) to know what this pipeline will mean for the people on the ground. The area around the pipeline will be run under special 'BP law'. In other places such as Nigeria and Colombia, this has meant killings and disappearances by brutal paramilitaries, paid for by host countries and by us, through public money and BP tax dodges and corruption. This militarisation of oil extraction areas also gives the UK an opportunity to sell more arms.
Local communities will not see any benefit from this pipeline. It will trash or evict Kurdish villages and farmland already under violent occupation and assault by the Turkish state. They will lose their land, their independence, their skills, and some of them will lose their lives. No one except BP and its project partners will benefit from this proposed pipelines system, yet BP is asking that 70 percent of the $3.3 billion project be financed by public money. It is courting the UK government and banks such as the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) and the International Financial Corporation (IFC - an arm of the World Bank) which generate their funds from taxpayers' money. If these banks don't cough up the money, the pipeline cannot go ahead. At present, although the British government are 'minded' to give BP the £65 million they need for the pipeline, and the construction company AMEC are lined up to build it, the project is not yet an absolute certainty. Which gives us an opportunity to stop it.
Earth First! and other groups have been visiting many of the companies involved in the pipeline. In December 2002, the London HQ of Environmental Resource Management (ERM), bullshit environmental consultants for the pipeline, was occupied by London Rising Tide. Independent researchers found that consultations had not been done in local languages and that many villages had been ignored and key locations excluded. The consultants from ERM claimed to have talked to 100 percent of villagers in Hacibayram in north eastern Turkey - a village that was, at the time, completely abandoned following local conflict! BP was contacted from the ERM Chief Executive's office and a spoof consultation about the day's occupation was done. In January 2003 a group of people visited the Manchester offices of ERM and demanded to talk to David Woodward, BP's Head of Azerbaijan.
In February, Leeds EF! occupied the top floor offices of the European Bank of Reconstruction and Development (EBRD) in the City of London, interrupting an executive meeting about the BTC pipeline. They refused to leave until they had spoken to those responsible for signing off the project. In response the very eager-to-appease Public Relations, Environment and Economics directors attempted to 'dialogue' with the group for four hours. The discussion confirmed that the EBRD had already promised BP the money and were now just working out how to justify it! When asked to name one oil pipeline ever that had delivered the benefits promised to affected communities, they couldn't. An invitation to return has not yet been taken up! Documents were also found with the Bank's prepared answers to criticisms.
Also in February, Oxford Rising Tide greeted and gave out leaflets to BP shareholders outside BP HQ on the day the quarterly results were announced.
In March, another group occupied the offices of RSK in Cheshire - a greenwash company similar to ERM but this time providing Cultural and Heritage Impact Assessments, and with a client list that makes your blood run cold. Because not much was known about RSK - and because the group had no desire to listen to bullshit - the group decided on a silent occupation, refusing to engage with any of the staff and simply gathering whatever information they could from files and computers. RSK are heavily involved in managing the image of the oil industry all round the world.
Also in March, the International Petroleum Exchange (IPE) in the City of London was stormed. The trading floor was closed down as traders threw punches and insults at the occupiers, one of whom had to get stitches in his forehead. Two people managed to occupy an office overlooking the trading floor, barricading themselves inside for 40 minutes until they were dragged out by the police's riot squad. In all the IPE was closed down for three hours in an action designed to crystallise the link between oil and the war in Iraq. For more information contact: email@example.com
In April, the BP Annual General Meeting (AGM) at the Royal Festival Hall in London was disrupted by Earth First!ers. Heavy security was got past and the reception stunk out (boil up comfrey and nettles, leave to cool, then piss in it to activate a really noxious smell. You can also add fishbait - lugworm or smelly cheese - for a worse stench!) Two people got into the auditorium itself where rants were shouted and CEO John Browne was heckled. Barry Halton, BP Baku NGO Relations, 'dialogued' with a locked-on activist by sending for bolt-croppers.
The Baku pipeline is a big deal - not only because it's a nasty project but also because it is happening at a time when the first phase of the oil wars has begun - with the invasion of Iraq by the corporatocracy led by Bush and Blair. This is not an isolated case, it's not just BP, but we can make a start with BP, which is already on shaky ground. Because of visits like those described above and due to pressure exerted by groups like Rising Tide, the Baku pipeline has already been put back by 6 months. At 1 million barrels of oil a day, every day's delay means the loss of millions of dollars. Furthermore, despite an aggressive greenwash strategy (including a BP sponsored 'Ecology' exhibition at the Natural History Museum in London) concerns about BP working practices in Alaska and Colombia have already caused investors to question their involvement with BP. There is no future and no sense in the oil industry - it cannot be reformed, it has to be dismantled. So get out there and shut BP down!
For information on the pipeline contact Rising Tide, the UK grassroots network against climate change, at: firstname.lastname@example.org
Check these websites:
Also worth looking at is Some Common Concerns: Imagining BP's Azerbaijan-Georgia-Turkey Pipelines System produced by various campaigning groups (ISBN 1 900175 49 5)
Get a group together and go and visit one of the following: ERM (London and Manchester), the EBRD (London), AMEC (London and Cheshire), RSK (Cheshire), Lazard Brothers (London) and any BP petrol station or office.