There have been plenty of meetings and plenty of fear about the consequences of exploiting oil and gas resources in the Algarve. Few have mentioned the reports on major accidents in the last twenty years. In these you can read that most of the serious tragedies, as in the Gulf of Mexico and in Brazil, ignored warnings given by the maintenance engineers from the oil companies.
There also was no control by supervising agencies which trusted the corporations.
In general, governments have weak agencies as leaders are afraid to have tight control over those who often finance the political parties that are in power, independent of their politics.
If there is control, the findings are worded diplomatically and often only symbolic penalties are charged so as not to anger the bosses.
Quite often those corporations prefer to pay the fines and continue to disregard the safety rules.
Only many years after a disaster, corporations have to pay large amounts, as has just happened with Shell because of the drama in Mexico. The company appealed to the Supreme Court to have the fine reduced, alleging that the amount demanded would force the company to stop operations, leaving thousands unemployed.
The only organisation capable of controlling and enforcing the rules and laws are the NGOs or Associations whose members could be affected by a disaster. This means voluntary workers with engineering competence who forward proposals which need to be implemented by companies in the short term.
The Government is right announcing that exploration has an almost zero risk. There is a huge difference in pumping gas against pumping crude oil.
If something happens with a gas pipeline a small amount goes up to the trillions of cubic meters in the air, with almost no pollution. Up to now, a problem with crude oil is a natural disaster.
It is possible to avoid tourists seeing a few gas rigs by placing them over 30km from the shore.
In terms of safety, what we need is a system which takes into consideration what has happened before, and guarantees it will not happen again.
Let Almargem, AHETA, NERA, and local associations establish and control the rules energy companies have to follow.
By Jack Soifer