A HISTORY OF A KIND OF DEPENDENCE
Wiesława Lewandowska talks with dr. Piotr Naimski about slowness of searching for the shale gas, sluggish legislation and ‘ecological’ results of discontent of Gazprom
WIESŁAWA LEWANDOWSKA: - The EU commission has started an investigation about monopolizing gas supplies by Gazprom to the Central European countries. Was everything done in Poland after the year 1989 so that this monopoly, resulting mainly from geopolitical conditions, would be minimalized?
DR. PIOTR NAIMSKI: - The situation of a kind of dependence of Central European countries on the import of natural gas from the territory of Russia was inherited after communist times. After the year 1989 the Russians formulated a political doctrine based on the fact that the dependence of the Central European countries on the Russian influences will be maintained not through military tanks, but pipelines and supplies of natural gas and oil. The first threat of stopping supplies of gas to Poland appeared in January 1992. (during the times of the government of Jan Olszewski). A year later this dependence on Russia was sealed with the so-called Jamalski contract signed by the government of Hanna Suchocka. We have had its consequences till today.
– The attempts of freeing oneself from this dependence were undertaken by Poland though….
– Yes, and a few times. In Spring 1992 the government of Jan Olszewski was the first to make this attempt but, unfortunately, it was quickly overthrown. Not until the years 2000-2001 the government of the Electoral Action Solidarity negotiated a contract and an agreement with the Norwegians and the Danes. Contracts prepared at that time were rejected by the government of Leszek Miller in the years 2002-2003. The third attempt was undertaken by the government of the Law and Justice political party – at the end of the year 2006 there was a decision about building a gas-port in Świnoujście, as well as talks with the Norwegians and the Danes were restarted. Their result was a purchase of a gas field on the North Sea by the Polish Oil Mining and Gas Industry which turned out to be a very promising investment.
– What kind of results for Poland can we expect at present, after the intervention undertaken by the European Commission?
– The result of the proceeding may turned out to be very important for Poland. If the European Commission acknowledges the practices of Gazprom as incompatible with the European law, it will be fined and contracts signed with it earlier will have to be corrected at our benefit.
– However, our whole hope for the improvement of energetic safety of our country has been laid for some time into the extraction of the home gas from shale rocks. However, the report of the National Geological Institute published this spring has cooled down this hope. Despite the fact, can we still rely on our own extraction, which makes Poland dependent on the Russian import?
– Yes, we can. Despite the final evaluation of supplies it is known that this gas simply is. We do not know yet whether it will be possible to extract it in moderately big amounts, big amounts or very big amounts. A few days ago a report of CASE was published which says in the case of realizing of a good scenario, in the perspective of the year 2005, it will be possible to extract 10-20 milliard m3 gas. If it turned out that in the years 2020-2022 we can extract as much gas from non-conventional fields as we import from Russia now, it will be a very essential strategic change of the situation for Poland.
– However, there are skeptics – also among geologists – who state that polish rocks are not abundant enough and we rather have to be aware of a lower than higher extraction.
– It is worth reminding here that these forecasts are still based on historical data or very general estimations or analogies between rocky formations in Poland and the North America. It is clear that this all must be verified in realities, that is, through a suitably big number of drillings. We also must be aware of a possibility to adjust extraction techniques used in America at present to Polish conditions. Shale fields are similar but not the same.
– For now it has not been proved enough drillings, so we really know very little about actual supplies. It seems that the searching action has somehow slowed down…
– That’s true that so far searching drillings have been too slow but, anyway, they are not accelerating in a way which we would expect. But it must be emphasized that the plans of actions presented during acknowledgement of searching concessions are being realized.
– How is it probable that this lack of acceleration results from supporting actions from the state?
– Undoubtedly the cause of this lack of acceleration of investigations is waiting of companies for the state legal regulations. Companies which want to prepare investment projects must know in what conditions they are going to work in the perspective of many years; stability of legal and administrative regulations is extremely important. The present legal state is unacceptable and not to maintain both from the point of view of foreign investors and Polish interests; whereas the government only announced essential changes in law but it is not eager to carry them out.
– ExxonMobil is withdrawing from Poland and it can be followed by others reluctant…
– That’s true, the representatives of ExxonMobil stated that they were planning to withdraw from Poland but not it is the only company which is undertaking this decision. In Poland there are still other big American consortiums which are still carrying out searching works.
– Why is Exxon resigning from searching gas in Polish shale fields? Maybe because Polish rocks turned out to be hardly promising?
– There are various interpretations of the decision about this biggest American consortium. It may be a consequence of signing the biggets contract in history by Exxon with the Russian Rosnieft. Surely the perspective of managing the bottom of Karski Sea is more important for such a big American company than a share in exploitation of shale gas fields in Poland. So, it is probably a decision dictated by a global strategy of the company. We find it more important that the companies operating in Poland today are rather trying to buy shares in companies owning more concessions, so increase their area of action. It means that Polish shale fields are still interesting and promising.
– So, the main obstacle in development of their activity are still insufficient legal regulations…
– Surely, yes. Here, first of all, it is all about an act which would normalize conditions of granting the concession and conditions of action of functionaries in Poland, and also financial conditions – fees, taxes, etc. Here we are dealing with a strange situation because, luckily, last year the main geologist in the country – HenrykJezierski was dismissed fromhis post, who used to state publicly that there is no need to haste in the matter of Polish shale fields – thanks to which the matter, as it seemed, became accelerated. The Environment Ministry even prepared a project of an act. I will remind that a project of the Law and Justice party has been ready for a long time.
– How different are these two projects?
– It is difficult to speak about it because as much as the project of the Law and Justice party has been available on the website of the Seym for nearly a year, the project of the government is not available at all; it has not been passed on to social consultations.
– The project prepared in the Environment Ministry cannot gain approval of the government of Donald Tusk for some reason, because – as it turns out – interested ministries cannot reach an agreement in this matter; the project is waiting then…It would be better if in the Seymthe both ideas met in an essential discussion – the parliamentarian and governmental ideas – then it would be possible to reach a rational compromise. Let’s hope that the governmental project prepared in the Environment Ministry will secure Polish interests. However, it may turn out that the Environment Minister is isolated in this matter and his project will not be considered by the government at all…
– Whereas the project of the Law and Justice party is still waiting for the first reading in the Seym. It has been 10 months, hasn’t it?
– Yes, the project of the Law and Justice party was submitted in last November, in the beginning of the presidency of the Seym. The first reading was planned during the present meeting of the Seym, that is, 13 September. However, on 11 September it turned out that in reply to the submission of the Treasury Minister Mikołaj Budzianowski, the Marshal MrsKopacz removed this point from the schedule. The minister probably applied for postponing it for the next debate, explaining that the government has not elaborated its attitude in this matter yet. As it is seen, the government has a problem with its project as well as an opinion about our suggestion. It is worth asking a question in this matter: is the government going to support any action for the sake of starting the gas extraction from shale fields in Poland?
– What is the main essence of the parliamentarian project, the main principle of the legal regulation promoted by the Law and Justice party?
– We think that, first of all, we must give the Treasury a possibility of a suitable control over the management of concessions in Poland. Now there is a situation when the concession granted to the economic subject is not subjected to the further trade ( it is impossible to sell concessions), whereas it is possible to sell the whole company (or shares in it), which received this concession, and according to the present law, it is out of control of the government. And, after all, due to the safety of the country we should know who will finally be extracting this gas in Poland, who will participate in building this sector of economy strategically new for Poland. Our project also suggests clear principles of granting concession.
– Critics accuse the project of the Law and Justice party of an exaggerated care about the state interests at the cost of investors without whom the whole matter collapses…
– There is no exaggeration here. It is worth saying that our project is based on the experiences of countries which produce gas and oil (Norway. Holland, Canada). We are trying to take over these solutions which are possible to implement in Poland. Our project suggests fair distributing an investment risk during the search and production of gas. We also present a clear mechanism of taxing this activity in Poland, so how the State Treasury – that is all Poles – will have advantages from this natural riches.
– However, one can hear accusations from economists that Polish politicians will make a ‘jump onto shale money’ now or in the future.
– Therefore we suggest establishment of a special fund which will collect income from the gas extraction from non-conventional fields. It would be a fund of a special purpose and the Seym would have to express its opinion about this purpose. It is all about the fact that this would not be money used in budget purposes year after year.
– How much is a dreamrealisticthat influences from the extraction of shale gas will rescue the Polish economy and will put the state budget on its feet?
– Truly speaking today it is difficult to estimate the number of influences from this new sector, however, thinking about American experiences, in the case of a success they will be a very important impulse for economy. First of all, it is all about a significant number of workplaces which this new sector will create. Today we count on it but what the scale of development will be depends also on geological conditions.
– …and also on lobbying actions of Gazprom, which – we can fear it - will do everything in order to eliminate Polish extraction of gas?
– We must always be prepared for that. We must be watching very carefully all false prophets, people who are trying to use arguments connected with ecology and environment protection. It is very often a hypocritical argumentation and the sources of their actions come from…Moscow; as well as from Germany or France where the opposition against this new sphere of gas mining is strong. Much devastation is done by showing the film ‘Gasland’ which has hardly anything in common with the reality, every film frame requires correction and a comment. Therefore pro-social actions of companies investing in these searches are so important, so that they would talk with local communities and self-governments.
– Similar organs of the state administration and the government should create a suitable atmosphere around this sector of economy, whose creation and development can be acknowledged even as the Polish raison d’etat. Does the government of Donald Tusk – in your opinion pay enough attention to such an essential matter of Poland?
– I think that the government of Donald Tusk is not doing what it should do in this matter. The fact that it has not been able for many month to agree on the attitude in the matter of legislation concerning this sector, is a sign that it neglects the whole thing. The prime minister Tusk is not treating this matter seriously and it is high time it started doing it. It is going to be verified in this matter by electors.