Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdoğan announced that the Turkish drillship Fatih, which left Istanbul in May, had drilling rigs fitted at Trabzon Port in June, set off for the drilling zone in July, and finished its drills and tests in three weeks, has found 320 billion cubic meters of natural gas. It is unbelievable that a ship that took two months to arrive at the drilling zone from Istanbul accomplished this job in 3 weeks. What is even more unbelievable is that it has found 100 times more than the reserves that have been found up to now.
The ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) leader Erdoğan was enthusiastic in his remarks: he said an investment project that would normally take eight to 10 years would be completed in two years. Turkey, which has found the gas in three weeks when it comes to politics, can also finish a political job of eight to 10 years in two years, can’t it?
However, Erdoğan’s announcement of this good news cannot cover up the scandals. The good news is only the tip of the iceberg. Below the surface of the water, there are several scandals in terms of the environment, the climate, energy policies and society.
Extra gas, extra payment
In Turkey in 2019, some 233,000 meters of drilling was performed in 120 wells. It is unbelievable that, despite this much drilling, such a reserve had not yet been found up until the recent three-week long drilling and testing activities by the Fatih. Also, Turkey only produces 405 million cubic meters of gas annually. This level of production is not even one hundredth of the country’s consumption. Turkey’s current reserve is around 3 billion cubic meters. They expect us to believe that everything will change due to this one exploration.
The important thing is that we have a natural gas purchase agreement for more than 70 billion cubic meters and our consumption is less than 50 billion cubic meters. We have an extra 20 billion cubic meters of natural gas through this purchase agreement. More importantly, we have this much capacity and on top of it, we have agreements that demand we either “buy or pay.” In other words, even if this Black Sea natural gas is drilled, we will be losing again — not once but multiple times. In 2019 alone, the amount of money that we paid for the gas we did not consume was around 2 billion dollars.
Even more importantly, Turkey is even installing natural gas connections to villages in order to increase gas consumption. It is not closing shopping malls, which are places with high energy consumption, even during the pandemic. Turkey cannot implement energy efficiency; it is constantly postponing it. But even with this, it still doesn’t work. Here are two relevant pieces of information: first, Turkey was estimated to have consumed 52.1 billion cubic meters of gas for 2019. The real consumption was 45.3 billion cubic meters. We had 26.5 billion cubic meters of contract surplus against the 45.3 billion cubic meters of consumption. The other piece of information is that our 2019 consumption was behind our 2015 consumption. These estimates simply fail and fail again.
This good news about the discovery of natural gas reserves in the Black Sea at the same time means a disaster for the environment. Turkey is a country in which environmental protection standards are very low, and it cannot control even this. This project will be the end of the Black Sea — it will be like the prairies and valleys of the Black Sea region.
In terms of the consumer, the project means more energy bills. As a part of the bills sent for our natural gas consumption, we also pay items such as a system use price, a value added tax and a special consumption tax. The total amount of these additional payments, beyond the price of the gas itself, are nearly 5 billion liras annually. Drilling costs of hundreds of millions of liras and billions of liras of investment expenses will be added to our bills — every year.
In terms of the climate, the situation is as usual. This now means more flooding disasters in the Black Sea. It means record high extreme climate incidents in Ankara, İstanbul and İzmir, the three big cities of Turkey, all of which are covered in asphalt and concrete. The death of energy efficiency means paving the way for unproductiveness. Besides, Turkey is a coal- and gas-dependent country. Its dependency will just soar.
The news Erdoğan gave was actually the news of more destruction of nature. These kinds of projects are not energy projects. Actually, we can call them destruction of nature and property transfer projects. We have seen this in Hasankeyf, where the city and its archeological sites have been flooded as part of the Ilısu Dam project. We are seeing this in the HES (hydroelectric power plants) projects in the Black Sea region. We have seen this in the companies that have continued cutting trees and destroying nature, even in the pandemic, and in the state that overlooked them.
This gas resource has been discovered politically, not technically. Erdoğan has given us the news of poverty, with more taxes and exploitation, more climate disasters, less productivity, more pandemics, more violence and inequality, and less peace.
Let us give you the real news: they will not be able to drill for this gas. Technical affairs do not happen with political manipulation. World history is full of such scandals. Moreover, everybody knows this project means the destruction of nature and poverty.
You will not be able to drill for this gas. Even if you extract it, you will not be able to use it because the world is no longer that kind of a world. You may love to sign climate agreements and do just the opposite — just like what you have done with the Istanbul Convention when you became the first country to sign it and ever since then, you have done just the opposite of what it envisions.
The good news President Erdoğan gave has disclosed the scandals everyone knows, which is actually good, in a way.