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Context of 'November 1993: Enron Power Plant Creates Demand for an Afghanistan Pipeline'

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The Dabhol power plant.
The Dabhol power plant. [Source: Enron]The Indian government approves construction of Enron’s Dabhol power plant, located near Mumbai (Bombay) on the west coast of India. Enron has invested $3 billion, the largest single foreign investment in India’s history. Enron owns 65 percent of the Dabhol liquefied natural gas power plant, intended to provide one-fifth of India’s energy needs by 1997. (Nayar 2/27/2000; Allison 1/18/2001) It is the largest gas-fired power plant in the world. Earlier in the year, the World Bank concluded that the plant was “not economically viable” and refused to invest in it. (Dugger 3/20/2001)

Enron’s $3 billion Dabhol, India power plant runs into trouble in 1995 when the Indian government temporarily cancels an agreement. The plant is projected to get its energy from the proposed Afghan pipeline and deliver it to the Indian government. Enron leader Ken Lay travels to India with Commerce Secretary Ron Brown the same year, and heavy lobbying by US officials continue in subsequent years. By summer 2001, the National Security Council leads a “Dabhol Working Group” with officials from various cabinet agencies to get the plant completed and functioning. US pressure on India intensifies until shortly before Enron files for bankruptcy in December 2001. US officials later claim their lobbying merely supported the $640 million of US government investment in the plant. But critics say the plant received unusually strong support under both the Clinton and Bush administrations. (Burger 1/18/2002; Milbank and Blustein 1/19/2002)

The Associated Press will later report that the Enron corporation bribes Taliban officials as part of a “no-holds-barred bid to strike a deal for an energy pipeline in Afghanistan.” Atul Davda, a senior director for Enron’s International Division, will later claim, “Enron had intimate contact with Taliban officials.” Presumably this effort began around 1996, when a power plant Enron was building in India ran into trouble and Enron began an attempt to supply it with natural gas via a planned pipeline through Afghanistan (see 1995-November 2001 and June 24, 1996). In 1997, Enron executives privately meet with Taliban officials in Texas (see December 4, 1997). They are “given the red-carpet treatment and promised a fortune if the deal [goes] through.” It is alleged Enron secretly employs CIA agents to carry out its dealings overseas. According to a CIA source, “Enron proposed to pay the Taliban large sums of money in a ‘tax’ on every cubic foot of gas and oil shipped through a pipeline they planned to build.” This source claims Enron paid more than $400 million for a feasibility study on the pipeline and “a large portion of that cost was pay-offs to the Taliban.” Enron continues to encourage the Taliban about the pipeline even after Unocal officially gives up on the pipeline in the wake of the African embassy bombings (see December 5, 1998). An investigation after Enron’s collapse in 2001 (see December 2, 2001) will determine that some of this pay-off money ended up funding al-Qaeda. (Barrett 3/7/2002)

Vice President Cheney is holding a series of secret energy task force meetings to determine the Bush administration’s future energy policy. Starting at this time, Enron leader Ken Lay and other Enron officials take part in a least half a dozen of these secret meetings. After one such meeting, Cheney’s energy task force changes a draft energy proposal to include a provision boosting oil and natural gas production in India. The amendment is so narrow that it apparently is targeted to only help Enron’s troubled Dabhol power plant in India. (Milbank and Blustein 1/19/2002)

Enron’s power plant in Dabhol, India, is shut down. The failure of the $3 billion plant, Enron’s largest investment, contributes to Enron’s bankruptcy in December. Earlier in the year, India stopped paying its bill for the energy from the plant, because energy from the plant cost three times the usual rates. (Dugger 3/20/2001) Enron had hoped to feed the plant with cheap Central Asian gas, but this hope was dashed when a gas pipeline through Afghanistan was not completed. The larger part of the plant is still only 90 percent complete when construction stops around this time. (Dugger 3/20/2001) Enron executives meet with Commerce Secretary Donald L. Evans about its troubled Dabhol power plant during this year (Stevenson 2/21/2002) , and Vice President Cheney lobbies the leader of India’s main opposition party about the plant this month. (Stevenson 2/21/2002)


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