On August 4th, hundreds of people gathered at Portugal’s Cova do Vapor beach to protest against the exploitation of fossil fuels along Portugal’s Aljezur coast and instead support the country’s transition to relying on clean energy. Many of them were amongst the 40,000 citizens that signed a petition to stop fossil fuel extraction in the area. All this contributed to the court of Loulé ruling that oil companies cannot proceed with their bore off Alzejur but still, with an appeal against that court, the people of Portugal haven’t finished their fight.
“It was worth the effort of so many citizens and entities because this decision undoubtedly benefits our country,” said Rosa Guedes, a spokesperson for the Algarve Free Oil Platform or PALP, a group fighting petroleum exploration and extraction in the region. “We will continue to work so that oil exploration in Portugal will not happen.” However, this decision of the Court of Loulé isn’t definitive, as the contract that sparked this whole fight is still in force. Unfortunately, a day after the decision, the Ministry of the Sea returned to give a “green light” to proceed with the oil exploration project on September 15th in the south-west Alentejo and Vicentine Coast Natural Park.
Portugal has the conditions to be self-sufficient in its production of energy with waves, wind, and sunlight in abundance, and has the opportunity to demonstrate to the world that it’s possible to put into practice alternative solutions to the current energy models based on hydrocarbons. In fact, the demonstrations by its citizens haven’t just been to protest oil drilling. They’ve been to showcase that Portugal could be the first place to move away completely from fossil fuels and instead rely solely on renewable energies.
“On a deeper level we’re trying to demonstrate that we’re not only protesting against petroleum and the drilling but we’re representing a different future,” says Frederick Weihe, who was among the people cooking out on Cova do Vapor with the help of solar technologies. “A more beautiful sustainable and humane future that’s represented by solar technology and solar energy.”
According to information released by Quercus, the government appealed against the decision of the administrative and fiscal court of Loulé to suspend the prospection site in Aljezur. The court’s decision was made on August 13. The Ministry of the Sea and the Directorate General for Marine Resources filed an appeal on August 14.
“The Ministry of the Sea lodged an appeal against the decision handed down by the court of Loulé, which granted the preliminary injunction, previously filed by PALP, suspending the authorization to carry out the prospecting hole at sea in front of Aljezur,” reads a press release disclosed by PALP. In the same note, PALP states that it will certainly “present counter-claims” to this initiative, and from this moment any new appeal and/or counter-allegations will be decided by the Central Administrative Court of the South, located in Lisbon.
After taking one step forward, we’ve taken one step immediately back with this effort from our government. And in my opinion, the simple truth is that our coastal lifestyle is at risk due to nothing more than sheer greed.
Editor’s Note: Gustavo Lerman Silva is a writer based in Brazil. BeachCam contributed to this piece.