Bu-lat-lat (boo-lat-lat) verb: to search, probe, investigate, inquire; to unearth facts
Volume 3, Number 25 July 27 - August 2, 2003 Quezon City, Philippines
the Rainforest and a Gas Pipeline to Enrich his Friends
to Alternative Reader Index
George Bush is seeking funds for a controversial project to drive gas pipelines
from pristine rainforests in the Peruvian Amazon to the coast.
plan will enrich some of Mr Bush's closest corporate campaign contributors while
risking the destruction of rainforest, threatening its indigenous peoples and
endangering rare species on the coast.
the beneficiaries would be two Texas energy companies with close ties to the
White House, Hunt Oil and Kellogg Brown & Root (KBR), a subsidiary of
Vice-President Dick Cheney's old company, Haliburton, which is rebuilding Iraq's
pipeline slices through some of the most biologically diverse places on earth.
Their remoteness has preserved an extraordinarily rich ecosystem in the coastal
Paracas reserve, which is home to such rare species as Humboldt penguins, sea
lions and green sea turtles.
Camisea natural gas project - with reserves of 13,000 billion cubic feet of gas
- has already scared off two big investors, Citigroup and the Overseas Private
Investment Corporation. According to an internal report by the US Export Import
Bank, obtained by the lobby group Amazon Watch, proposals to mitigate the
environmental impact of the project are "woefully inadequate" and will
lead to mudslides, destroy habitats and spread diseases among indigenous
of the Earth describes one threatened area as "one of the world's most
pristine tropical rainforests", home to the Nahua, Kirineri, Nanti,
Machiguenga and Yine indigenous groups. Past contact between indigenous peoples
and loggers has proven disastrous - 42 per cent of the Nahua died from diseases
contracted from outsiders in the 1980s.
Already, the project, which is 60 per cent complete, has run into difficulties, including the kidnapping of 60 pipeline workers last week. They were freed later by the Peruvian military.
the Bush administration plans to approve financial support for the project,
possibly as early as this week, via both the US Export Import Bank and the
Inter-American Development Bank (IDB). The two institutions, which are due to
make their own final decisions in the next couple of weeks, are expected to put
up about $300m (£185m) in loans and guarantees, which would in turn pave the
way for financing the rest of the $1.6bn project.
Hunt, chairman of Hunt Oil, was a so-called "pioneer" who raised more
than $100,000 for Mr Bush in 2000. He and his wife recently gave the maximum
personal contribution to Mr Bush's re-election campaign.
Brown & Root would not be involved in the pipeline but are well placed to
build a $1bn natural gas plant on the Peruvian coast if it goes ahead. The ties
linking KBR to Mr Cheney have prompted the same charges of favouritism that
surrounded the choice of Haliburton to oversee Iraq's oil fields. The president
of the Export Import Bank, Philip Merrill, is a close associate of Mr Cheney.
And the chief US representative at the IDB, Jose Fourquet, is also a Bush
"pioneer" who helped mobilise Hispanic support in 2000.
Camisea project has raised eyebrows in Washington as well as among campaigners
in the Amazon, not least because banks and governments usually consider
environmental impacts very carefully before approving such ventures.
US Agency for International Development is against the project and several
senior congressional leaders have urged the US Treasury to delay a final
decision until further reviews have taken place.
Export Impact Bank's report conceded that key decisions were made for economic
reasons, that massive erosion had already occurred on the pipeline route and
that unique biodiversity faced "significant, long-term and largely
irreversible" deterioration. Three lobby groups - Amazon Watch, Amazon
Alliance and Environmental Defence - said last week that the project was causing
food shortages and disease in the Urubamba valley.
Bush administration is reticent about its plans but is keen to exploit new
sources of energy to reduce dependence on Middle Eastern oil. Its ambition to
open up the Alaskan reserve proved controversial, and has so far been blocked by
the US Congress.
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