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The Italian Job

quadrino090908.jpgI’ve long argued that Paolo Scaroni of ENI and Fulvio Conti of Enel were both in the Kremlin’s pocket ever since agreeing to be the first foreign companies to buy stolen Yukos assets in an auction, then subsequently help Gazprom launder these assets via a call option. Of course, what is much more valuable than recruiting some high-level accomplices to assist in state theft is the powerful service they can provide to change the foreign policy of Italy, be it under Il Professore Romano Prodi (who nearly took a job with Gazprom like Schröder) or the inimitable Silvio Berlusconi, who finds it difficult to get through a meeting with the Russians without proposing a wife swap. So really it should have come as no surprise to Vice President Dick Cheney’s delegation that visiting Rome to talk about a united front on Russia’s invasion of Georgia would expose many serious divisions in that happy relationship (Berlusconi is gleefully right-wing when it comes to Iraq). However, the Cheney delegation did have one successful meeting which may provide optimism that not all of Italy has acquiesced to Moscow’s authoritarian energy empire. Meet Umberto Quadrino (photo), CEO of Edison, and the potential saviour of Italian and European energy security. The Financial Times includes an interesting footnote to their article about meetings held between the delegation and Mr. Quadrino, who is enthusiastically interested in helping bring Azeri gas to Italy via the Nabucco … call him the “anti-Scaroni.” Let’s keep our eyes on the progress of this project.

Umberto Quadrino, chief executive of Edison, Italy’s second-largest energy group, is lobbying the Bush administration to put its full weight first behind Edison’s ITGI Corridor project and, later, the more ambitious but still somewhat hypothetical Nabucco pipeline. Both would bypass Russia but transit Georgia.

ITGI would take 8bn cubic metres of gas from Azerbaijan’s Shah Deniz field in the Caspian all the way to Italy. Azeri gas is already reaching Georgia and Turkey and can be extended to Greece. The only “missing link” is an undersea pipeline across to Italy to be built by Edison and Greece’s Depa.“We are ready to do it,” Mr Quadrino told the Financial Times after the Ambrosetti conference in northern Italy where he lobbied the Cheney delegation.