French company Total has shares in several concessions granted for shale gas exploitation in Neuquen province, Argentina. The company is nominated for the Pinocchio Awards on Sustainable Development, for using misleading advertising to portray a “clean” image of its activities.
Total is Argentina’s main gas producer. It has licenses to extract tight gas and shale gas, even in a protected reserve in the Patagonia. Real World Radio interviewed Diego di Risio, of Observatorio Petrolero Sur (Sur Oil Watch) based in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The group follows closely Total’s operations in the country.
The Pinocchio Awards are organized by Friends of the Earth France with the support of Peuple Solidaires and the Centre for Development Research and Information. They aim to show and denounce the negative impacts of corporations that use the
discourse of clean development.
This year marks the sixth edition of the awards. Its nominees include: Air France,
for its operations in Madagascar; Areva in France; BNP Paribas around the world; Veolia in India, Société Générale in Australia; Apple in Indonesia, Alstom in Brazil and Auchan in Bangladesh.
One of Total projects in Neuquen province is Pampa las Yeguas II, located in the reserve Acua Mahuida, a place protected for its fauna and flora, with over 100 animal species, such as guanaco, ñandú, puma, etc.
On the website of the Pinocchio Awards (http://www.prix-pinocchio.org), under the section devoted to Total’s nomination, park rangers have announced their opposition to the granting of the license as well as to the use of fracking, a technology used to drill shale gas. They emphasize that it is “contradictory that the business which carries out this activity (Total Austral) comes from France where this activity is illegal because of the serious damages it causes to the environment and human health. Invasive infrastructures, water pollution, methane gas leaks, and risks of cancer are the motivation of the local populations’ opposition to this project that threatens their traditional farming ways”, reads the awards’ website. The peasants of the area live mainly on goat breeding.
Diego di Risio told Real World Radio that fracking is an experimental technique, which has been used for over a decade in the US and Canada. He said this technology is being strongly questioned because of its serious environmental impacts, mainly water and air pollution and land grabbing. “Countries, such as France and Bulgaria, banned this technique. In Argentina over 25 municipalities banned fracking”, he said.
“Fracking basically consists in injecting a chemical cocktail, a large amount of water, sand and chemicals into the soil. This breaks the rock’s permeability”, said di Risio. “Part of the water comes back to the surface and it is very expensive and hard to treat it, not only because of the chemicals that have been injected, which are mostly toxic, but also because of the presence of heavy metals and, in some cases, radioactive materials”.
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