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.
In Turkey, whilst considering the economy, people don’t matter. What matters it whether or not it is controlled. Electricity too is controlled, manipulated and instrumentalised. Consumers do not matter, but there is an abundance of capital transfer.
Today, Ankara is not Wuhan. Wuhan is a good example compared to our capital city. Today, Ankara is a construction site. Ankara residents have to remind the city again that they do not want a municipal administration that works for contractors — alongside a presidential system that works for contractors.
As Turkish politics have been reduced to a binary dichotomy between the government bloc and the opposition, İYİ Party plays a somewhat unifying and dampening effect in that regard. But while the government is out of touch with the people, the opposition is not tuned in with it either.
In the past four months, none of our municipalities prepared the infrastructure for washing our hands. They were not able to meet the sidewalk conditions of 1.5 meters width for the social distancing of pedestrians. Almost all of our 1,397 municipalities have failed according to these criteria, including opposition ones.
Even though there are now 163,000 cases detected in Turkey and even more cases that are undetected, the malls are opening. At what cost and for whose sake they are opening? It is quite apparent that they are not opening for our sake; the data is clear. When you review the equation from the point of view of the novel coronavirus, then you have five huge reasons not to step inside these malls.
In Turkey, the pandemic seems to have also opened asphalt season for some local administrations. Municipalities regarded this period as a huge opportunity to pave asphalt.
The Energy Ministry’s 2019-2023 Strategic Plan tells us a lot about the government's intentions. It is obviously a plan that still insists on coal and hydroelectric power policies, and that has solar and wind energy only as an accessory. The climate crisis is not even mentioned.
The first coronavirus month in Turkey will be recorded in history as the month of opportunism, the month of abusing a pandemic. It kept some of its people at home and others at mines and factories, turning the country into a labor camp. Only the local administrations were left, but there were policies to curb their powers as well.
As a host to 85 percent of all international travels, Istanbul has become an attraction center for coronavirus. And as a host to 38 percent of Turkey’s domestic travels, Istanbul spread the virus to the rest of the country.
The Turkish government has not taken steps related to the seriousness of the coronavirus outbreak. They actually took steps in the opposite direction asking people to do their own homework and resisting a total lockdown in the country. Meanwhile, the opposition self-quarantined itself politically.
Both the stage that the capitalism has reached globally and Turkey’s implementation of it, cannot be neglected while discussing the underlying factors which tie the climate crisis and the COVID-19 outbreak to each other.
In 2019, the number of issues broke the record with 935 extreme meteorological issues recorded in Turkey. That's 9 times the overall number recorded for the second half of the 20th century. Last year, floods occurred in cities including Ordu, Düzce, Trabzon, Antalya and Mersin that cost the lives of many people.
While Russia needs to sell its energy to Turkey, the US must stay within the Middle East to get its oil. That is why they are both seeking Turkey on their side.At the moment, Turkey is paying for the Syrian war with its loved ones and poverty. It is only by achieving peace with its neighbors that we can attain a win-win situation.
Thanks to a Special Communication Tax that was introduced after the 1999 earthquake, some 67.5 billion Turkish Liras have been collected up to now for earthquake relief. But rather than on earthquake preparedness, the money was largely spent on construction projects.
Kanal Istanbul is a project based on unjust profit-earning that is well-known first to Turkish companies, followed by Arab, European, and even Pakistani capital owners. But we still don’t know the full truth of what is going on with the project. Good that we do not know, because if we did, the Kanal Istanbul project would end immediately.
According to OECD data, Turkey allocated 289 million dollars for waste management in 2008. Ever since, the country has developed and grown, right? Despite this, the money allocated for waste management fell to 147 million dollars in 2015. We have a government that does not want to manage waste and spend money on it. Burying trash is easy; the soil is free.
President Erdoğan's government recently suffered two fiascos, one involved thermal power plants while the other had to do with a plan to rescue the private company “Simit Sarayı”. So why would it press forward with the Kanal Istanbul project?
It is possible for us to close down all coal mines! The way to this has been paved with the veto on the proposed bill. But if we leave public policy unattended and representatives continue to leave parliament seats empty, the opposite will happen. I should point out as a warning that, just like the Environment and City Planning Minister could actually be referring to the business schedule when he says “we installed a filter in 6 months,” a similar wordplay could be at hand with the veto. We will go after the answer together, I promise.
We know how much the ministry earned from shopping bags in the first nine months of the year. At 25 kuruş (cents) for each nylon bag, 15 kuruş were deposited to the ministry and the total was 188 million lira. You heard it right, 18.8 billion kuruş.
The Ministry of Forestry routinely opens up forest ecosystems for economic exploitation. It distributes permits to use forests for mineral exploitation, mining, construction and even for oil drilling. In 2012, 2,810 permits were granted for those purposes. Between 2012 and 2018, that number rose to 18,515.
The government has found a way to take back the Bosphorus after losing İstanbul elections. The Ministry of Environment and Urbanization has drafted a 28 point legislative proposal called the Boshporus Law. With the new law, Istanbul Metropolitan Municipality and four provinces no longer have any authority in the Bosphorus.
Volkswagen's investment plan in Turkey is a scandal. It is no less than an attempt to rescue a drowning company ensnared in corruption. While the Turkish public will bear the economic costs of this plan, environmental damage will also be caused.
Erdoğan changed the climate of the UN Climate Action Summit. He talked about how he multiplied fossil fuels and how not recycling waste is a good thing, and he put concrete as a policy on the world stage.
Turkey wants to be a party to the Paris Agreement as the structure of the deal allows countries to increase emissions. Turkey, which is among the 12 countries that have not yet joined the agreement, had added 193.5 million tons to climate changing greenhouse gases in last 20 years before 2010.