Italy, pending France and Algeria

In the last forty-eight hours, two silver bullets have whistled through the Italian election campaign.

NewsEditor
NewsEditor
20 September 2022 Tuesday 23:30
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Italy, pending France and Algeria

In the last forty-eight hours, two silver bullets have whistled through the Italian election campaign. First projectile: Algeria may not be in a position to supply all the gas committed during Mario Draghi's last visit to Algiers, last July, days before his national unity government collapsed. Second bullet: France could stop selling electricity to Italy for the next two years, starting this winter, as a result of serious maintenance problems detected in twelve of its nuclear reactors (see La Vanguardia last Sunday).

Possible gas supply problems have been reported by a digital portal called AlgeriePart, which explains in great detail recent deliberations by the board of directors of Sonatrach, the large Algerian state-owned gas company. According to this source, it will be very difficult for Italy to receive the additional 9 bcm agreed in Algiers next year. The delivery period, through the Transmed-Enrico Mattei gas pipeline, would be between November of this year and the beginning of 2024. According to the aforementioned information, Algeria could only supply Italy with about 4 bcm more fuel, with great effort.

The Transmed can transport 32 bcm per year and in the last year it has sent about 22 to Sicily. (One bcm equals one billion cubic meters.) Italy, therefore, intends to maximize the Algerian gas pipeline, to reduce its dependence on Russia, estimated at 40% until a few months ago.

Algeria would only have reserves to inject 3.5 bcm more and could reach 4, mobilizing gas for its liquefaction plants (LNG). Another alternative would be to allocate to Italy part of the gas that is re-injected into the fields to maintain their internal pressure. According to the aforementioned source, several directors of Sonatrach have spoken out against this measure, considering it dangerous for proper maintenance of the extraction wells.

Faced with such detailed information, which should be submitted to the filter of prudence, taking into account the indecipherable tensions in the circles of power in Algeria, the Italian national hydrocarbons company, the powerful ENI, has limited itself to commenting that the problem does not consists. There are five days left for the elections.

France could stop selling electricity to Italy and the United Kingdom for two years as a result of the decrease in the power of its nuclear park and the energy crisis as a whole, the newspaper La Repubblica reported last Monday, citing a report by the company that manages the French electricity network. The French Ministry of Energy Transition denied this information after a few hours, but those responsible for the Italian electricity network have already begun to make their calculations.

In the worst case scenario, if France were to stop exporting electricity due to a drop in its production, Italy would need an additional 7 bcm of gas per year to generate more electricity in its combined cycle plants. And there we return to Algeria.

The spread of two pieces of news of this caliber in Spain would cause a spectacular brawl on the media circuit. There would be no peace in the morning gatherings. Despite the traditional effervescence of public debate in Italy, a certain notion of national interest still subsists in this country. The informative treatment of both leaks has been cold, content and expectant. Nobody wants to draw an apocalyptic Italy five days before the vote.

The most contentious electoral issue related to energy is Piombino's battle against the installation of a floating regasification plant. Piombino is a coastal town in Tuscany, located opposite the island of Elba – the island where Napoleon lived his first exile – which has suffered the ravages of de-industrialisation. The neighborhood movement against the regasification plant is a condensation of all the accumulated resentment. It was a municipality of the left and its current mayor belongs to the Brothers of Italy, the extreme right-wing party that aspires to be the most voted next Sunday.

Truly difficult months await the future Italian government, whatever its color. The outgoing prime minister, Mario Draghi, is in New York, where he has been awarded as the "best statesman of the year" by the foundation chaired by Henry Kissinger. Draghi observes and sends advice to future rulers. “Draghi wants to be the Lord Protector of Giorgia Meloni”, the veteran Rino Formica, socialist minister in the 1980s, ironically predicted. (Lord Protector is the title given to regents in England and used by Oliver Cromwell in the heyday of his rule.)

Meloni, who started the campaign cautiously, trying to soften his image, is unleashing in the final stretch. He digs into the margins of discontent with continual appeals to Italy's “sovereignty” before European institutions. Yesterday he spoke words of support for Vox, a party that the Italian press usually describes as "Francoist". In the Italian imaginary, Francoism is one step below fascism. Fascism had a style. Francoism smelled like quarter

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