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John Daly

John Daly

Dr. John C.K. Daly is the chief analyst for Oilprice.com, Dr. Daly received his Ph.D. in 1986 from the School of Slavonic and East European…

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Russia Behind Bulgarian Anti-Fracking Protests?

Pity the poor Eastern Europeans. Fifty years under the domination of their massive Soviet eastern neighbor then the collapse of Communism there two decades ago offered undreamed of opportunities to join both the European Union and NATO.

But they still remain dependent on the Russian Federation for the majority of their oil and gas needs, and the new capitalists in Moscow do not hesitate to charge the highest prices possible.

Accordingly a number of East European nations, particularly Poland and Bulgaria, are actively investigating the possibility of establishing hydraulic fracturing ("fracking") operations on their territory to develop an indigenous natural gas industry and undercut the Russian Federation’s state-owned natural gas monopoly Gazprom.

Mindful however of the possible negative environmental effects of fracking last month 166 members of the Bulgarian National Assembly’s 240 parliamentarians voted to impose an indefinite ban on shale gas exploration and extraction in Bulgaria using hydraulic fracturing or other similar technology.

Now a hard-hitting editorial in the Trud newspaper by Ivan Sotirov entitled, "Russian Lobby Against Shale Gas," accuses pro-Russian Bulgarian supporters of fomenting protests against shale gas operations in the country.

Commenting that “nightmare” protest rallies against fracking have taken place in the capital’s Sofia streets Sotirov wrote of their effects, “The ostensibly rightist majority at the National Assembly has capitulated, without any serious arguments, to this pseudo-civic pressure, and has adopted a moratorium on prospecting and extracting shale gas in Bulgaria. In other words, the National Assembly has banned Bulgaria from learning whether it has shale gas deposits - information which could have released us from the total energy dependence on Russia. The majority in the National Assembly has allowed the Bulgarian Socialist Party (BSP), the Movement for Rights and Freedoms (DPS), and several semi self-disintegrating mini-parties to insult the Minister of Energy (Traycho Traykov), who has been appointed by the same confused and helpless majority… It has been inadmissible for the chairman of the Union of Democratic Forces (Martin Dimitrov) and rightist deputies to support this decision, which contradicts the Bulgarian national interest and protects our total energy dependence on Russia. In addition, all this has been done without any serious motivation because the campaign against the shale gas prospecting has been based on cheap manipulations and lies. This has been an attempt to disguise a political issue as a purely ecological matter.”

Writing about the campaign as one of disinformation Sotirov continues, “The first lie has been that experiments with a new technology will be conducted in Bulgaria. This is totally untrue… Second - the so-called defenders of environment protection among the politicians have not cited even a single example of a serious case of pollution after fracking.”

Finally, Sotirov names names: “Noted chiefs of the Sixth Department (of State Security - the Communist era secret service), led by Dimitur Ivanov - Mityo the Gestapo and the supporters of (former President) Georgi Purvanov's Grand Slam (the ‘Belene’ Nuclear Power Plant construction, the ‘South Stream’ (natural gas pipeline to export Gazprom gas) project, and the ‘Burgas-Alexandroupolis’ oil pipeline project, are among the protestors against shale gas prospecting...

Sotirov concludes, “The most shameful fact is the realization that after 22 years of democracy Bulgaria's policy continues to be dictated by oligarchic pro-Russian circles, which, hiding behind nationalistic and ecological rhetoric have not allowed a single serious strategic Western investor to set a foot in Bulgaria. The question is when somebody will finally stop them.”

Why would Bulgarian pro-Russian interests do such a thing?

Could it be that because of a long-term contract, Gazprom delivers more than 90 percent of the natural gas consumed in Bulgaria?

Or that last November it was announced that Gazprom will enter Bulgaria's retail fuel market by buying gas stations in the country through its Serbian unit Naftna Industrija Srbije?

Or that, according to Gazprom CEO Aleksei Millter, addressing Gazprom’s Annual General Shareholders Meeting on 30 June 2011, during his presentation “Gazprom: New Horizons,” outlined a series pf projected natural gas pipelines across Bulgaria to deepen Gazprom’s market share in Eastern and Central Europe?

Or that in December 2010 Gazprom  acquired a 50 percent stake in the South Stream Bulgaria AD pipeline project?


Or the fact that the natural gas contract between Bulgaria and Gazprom expires later this year?

Or that Gazprom is forecasting its consolidated net profit for 2011 at $40 billion, or 25 percent more than in 2010?

Nah, surely none of the above – Bulgarian parliamentarians are only being good custodians of the country’s environment, surely.

By. John C.K. Daly of Oilprice.com

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  • Prj57 on February 06 2012 said:
    Mr. Daly, I sense frustration in your article... but you would probably know nothing about the heavy lobbying done from the US Ambassador in Sofia on behalf of Chevron! It does not surprise that Hillary Clinton was in Sofia yesterday ( Sunday 05.02.2012)to gather support on the Syria/Iran issue and discuss Chevron's interests as a side note. We are not a chess board and people do live in this country! I read the article you are leaning on by Mr. Sotirov and should tell you that it's political agenda is not so well buried behind the Fracking issue. We, the people of Bulgaria, were taken for fools after the fall of communism in 1989 and the chaos that ensued in the mid 90s, suddenly we were given a crash course in modern day capitalism but let me tell you that after 22 years "democracy" things have changed little and the people are fed up with endless promises and reassurances that all will be well. I agree that we need diversification in our energy supply, but at what cost?! The ideology conflict between "West" and "East" has really taken its toll on ordinary people. To sum things up, like last time, currently the situation is: "the thief shouts - catch the thief"
  • Everest on February 06 2012 said:
    Thanks for this post, it is very insightful. It's good that Bulgarians are beginning to speak up against this. Maybe something will change, finally.
  • Prj57 on February 10 2012 said:
    Topic Update: Yesterday (Thursday, 09.02.2012)I am sitting in my office on the 6th floor, downtown Sofia and suddenly a non-marked, matte grey C-130J military transport plane is approaching Sofia, Airport...

    Today, I read in the news that the USA has sent some energy expert to "teach and advise" us how to develop Shale gas - environmentally! Currently the issue is critical due to the following reasons:

    1) People are now "seeing" through the smoke and mirrors and understanding what heavy Lobbying is

    2) We are holding our breath to see what decisions will be made on the subject, although the moratorium on Shale will not be lifted easily.

    For some, what has now unfolded borders extreme impudence on behalf of the USA. First, the US Ambassador lobbies for Chevron and shale gas. Secondly, a week later Hillary Clinton comes to discuss the same issue (Secretary of State in a sovereign country, member of the EU). After we explain what our current position is and not budge, we are told that no more pressure will be applied on us regarding this issue, but suddenly today there will be talks with one Mr. Morningstar who is expected to lecture us and explain how safe and clean shale gas is...

    For me, this comes to show, how big private business can use government figures (Ambassador, Secretary of State and Mr. Morningstar) to pressure sovereign nations in order to fulfill their own agenda.

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