Algeria and Its Environment

In today’s Algeria, a high amount of the regime’s income is from oil revenues. According to the Energy Information Administration (or EIA), Algeria ranks third in the world’s shale deposits and is the largest producer of natural gas in Africa as well as the second largest provider of gas to Europe. Gross production of natural gas, however, has slowed in recent years due to a multitude of security problems throughout the Sahel and inefficient technical expertise and infrastructure.

Although the discovery and production of shale gas had a positive impact on the Algerian economy, there are many environmental concerns related to production process. The EIA estimates that an average shale may take up to 5 million gallons of fresh water. With already scarce water resources, this could be a major challenge for the fracturing process.

Sonatrach’s Ambition Threatens the Environment

Thousands of Protestors have taken to the streets of Algiers to protest the national energy giant Sonatrach, an Algerian state-owned company founded in 1963. To this day, Sonatrack remains a major player in the oil industry and is ranked one of the most powerful countries in all of Africa 2014. Sonatrach is the first company to start producing shale gas in Algeria, following the government’s agreement on May 21st, 2014 concerning unconventional hydrocarbons. Sonatrach announced its desire to increase investment in gas, despite huge public opposition in the Salah region of central Sahara where the first drilling tests were conducted. Fears of possible health and environmental impacts on schools, businesses, infrastructure, and public services is continuing to grow within the affected areas of Algeria. During one of the protests, hundreds of police surrounded the capital of avenues to prevent the demonstrators from practicing their freedom of expression and their right to challenge the planned exploitation of shale gas. Near the Saharan oasis and its cities, drilling plans also threaten the water supply within the area.

An Economy dependent on its hydrocarbon.

The hydrocarbons sector is at the heart of the Algerian economy. Algeria has about 1% of world oil reserves and 3% gas. The country alone accounts for nearly half of its GDP. It’s contribution to GDP in 2008 reached almost 50% with a contribution value approaching 77 billion. This growth is attributed to the increase in hydrocarbon prices and increased export volumes dating back to 2002. 79.139 billion dollars in merchandise exports come from oil, that’s more than 97.6% of the value of exports in 2008.

Without regard for the environment or the concerns of the Algerian people living within the affected regions, Algeria is one accident away from a crisis. With an invisible leader, who is going to listen? Who is going to respond? Ali Benflis understands the need for new solutions for energy and the environment. As a man of great understanding of Algeria’s history and economy, Benflis brings a leadership that listens to the people. As an advocate for Human Rights, Benflis believes that Algerians deserve clean air and environmental protections to keep from the overexploitation of vital resources.