So it was finally finished this week, though it will take 6 months for the oil to go from one end to the other. At full capacity the pipeline will provide 1% of the world’s oil needs. The Economist notes the significance:
The BTC pipeline, though the most expensive option for exporting Caspian oil, was backed by America because it avoided Russia, thereby reducing the dependence of the Caucasus and Central Asia on Russian pipelines. The pipeline also provided an opportunity to bolster regional economies that the West is courting, especially those of Georgia, Azerbaijan and Turkey, a NATO ally, and build support for America in the region. Georgiaâs location gives it a âstrategic importance far beyond its sizeâ?, according to Americaâs State Department.
Upgrading an alternative route through Georgia to Supsa on the Black Sea would have made for a far shorter (and cheaper) pipeline. But Turkey complained that it would lead to an unsustainable level of shipping passing through the Bosporus Strait that bisects Istanbul. At Washingtonâs urging, the BTC pipeline wended its complex way through Azerbaijan, Georgia and Turkey. However, some critics of the pipeline point out that the oil revenues provided to Azerbaijan will help to prop up the countryâs autocratic and corrupt regime. And environmentalists have complained that the pipe slices through a national park in Georgia.