In 2015 there were a total of 15 areas contracted for fossil fuel projects in Portugal, and various local groups and movements emerged to fight against these projects.
By 2016 everyone was talking about oil exploration in Algarve, as local population and politicians supporting the social movement. This anti-oil movement launched a mass petition campaign that practically blocked the public consultation process of the Aljezur drill (by ENI/GALP consortium). Meanwhile, the struggle spread from Algarve to Alentejo coast and further north to Peniche, with new local groups organizing against oil and gas extraction in Portugal. In December 2016, Portfuel’s onshore contract in Algarve was cancelled.
In March 2017, all the offshore contracts south of Algarve (belonging to Repsol/Gulbenkian) were also cancelled. The ENI/GALP consortium continued its plans to drill in Aljezur and was blocked by precautionary measures filed by local governments. The ENI/GALP contract was to expire by the end of 2017. (In the meanwhile, the offshore contracts in Peniche also disappeared from official maps.) The onshore contract in Batalha/Pombal is still active, with its first drill set for 2019.
During November 2017, a (non-binding) public consultation process to municipalities of Algarve resulted in unanimous opposition of all the local politicians. Then in December 2017, the Parliament approved “the suspension of all fossil fuel exploration activities in Aljezur, until the finalization and public discussion of the environmental impact assessment and the impacts on other economic activities”. But the next month, in January 2018 , the government extended the deadline of the ENI/GALP contract for one more year. This decision is the formalization of “a declaration of war to Algarve“, quoting the press conference organized by social movements and mayors. Right afterwards, because of another precautionary measure, filed by PALP (and in September 2017 lifted by the Minister of Oceans and the Minister of Economy), the drill seems to be suspended until May. Then, more recently, the Portuguese Environment Agency decided that it was not necessary to have an environmental impact assessment process to start the operation.
These are unprecedented times where an expired contract to extract fossil fuels, with activities suspended by parliament decision, and to which all mayors actively oppose, coupled with massive social opposition, still produces political discussion as to whether the drill would happen.
This is climate crisis translated into a crisis of democracy. In a mentally healthy society, we would be discussing the practical details of how to manage a just energy transition. To be able to do exactly that, we must stop this drill.