The scientific side of the battle for oil in Italy


With the “Sblocca Italia” (unlock Italy) decree of last year the Italian government totally centralized the power about energy matters and is now giving many new oil exploitation concession to oil companies. This is causing a lot of alarm among the population concerned. The public debate is rising quickly and the scientific works against oil drilling promoted by citizen is starting.

Italy is the european country with the major oil reserves on shore, but has also oilfields offshore. After the crisis of 2008 the government decided to exploit them in order to reduce the dependency on the import of energy from abroad. The most important issues are that Italian oil generally is a bad quality one, almost the entire country is seismic, the impact on the fragile mediterranean environment is too heavy as it is on landscape for a touristic country like Italy. On the other side Italy has the lowest royalties in the world (10% against 85% of Saudi Arabia) so benefits are not so high. Italian prime minister, Matteo Renzi, said last year that in Italy we don’t extract more oil cause “of three, four little committees”,trying to discredit who take position against wells.

These committees, however, are growing in number and power as the areas involved by extraction increase, like in Abruzzo, and are starting to publish scientific studies, (like that published by Dr. Albina Colella on the pollution of fresh water in Basilicata) to contrast the official voices of institutions and oil companies. The lesson of Basilicata and his pollution due to oil drilling is there and no one wants it to happen again. The fight has already started and some success has been reached, as in the small village of Bomba in Abruzzo. Citizen scientific work and comunication will be an important weapon against wells in next years.

Vincenzo Senzatela


2 pensieri su “The scientific side of the battle for oil in Italy

  1. Oil drilling has a deep environmental impact and the economic advantages for Italy are quite dubious. That’ s for sure. I think it’s also worth mentioning that the activities for which oil is used are polluting too, For example, fossil fueled thermal power plants produce a large part of man-made CO2 emissions to the atmosphere, which are the cause of the greenhouse effect. Why should Italy invest in such an environment-unfriendly and anti-economic activity? Wouldn’t it be more farsighted and advantageous to place resources in the research and development of green technologies? Even countries with much larger oil deposits are doing so. Saudi Arabia, for example, in a strategy to diversify its economy and become less oil-dependent, is developing new ways to exploit solar energy and it’s planning to sell these technologies to other countries in the future.

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    1. The best argument pro oil drilling is the Italy’s energy dependence. It’s a fact that if you improve your oil exploitation you get an immediate improvement on this side. There is also the big problem that major oil’s restocks has became unsure with the actual situation in the Middle East and North Africa. But this view is really short-sighted: as you say, Irene, the entire world (and so Italy) must work to reduce his oil dependence and consumption, not improve it. In Italy it is even more so short-sighted because damages easily overcome benefits. If you wast a landscape with wells and refineries in a touristic area you will do some profit with oil but you’ll loss the entire local economy and you’ll destroy the local social tissue. If you wast the soil and the water in a rural or farming area you will damage all the local productions. The image above is taken from Val d’Agri. It’s just in a middle of a National Park. What is the meaning of an oil refinery just there? Val d’Agri was a farming area. Two IGP foods (Protected Geographic Indication) were produced just near that plant, a pecorino cheese and a particular type of beans. Now there is no milk to make the cheese and beans are contaminate by oil and sulfur. The local economy is just destroyed. This will happen everywhere you’ll put a well or a refinery in a rural area. So government should really rethink his energy policy and just ask itself: who stands to gain with oil? Italy or oil companies?

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