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A new 'neighborhood watch': Azeri horsemen guard BP pipeline

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Shell in Nigeria boasts its student scholarships and HIV/AIDS awareness programs. ExxonMobil describes its vocational training for women in Indonesia, drug-prevention programs in Chile, and prenatal healthcare programs in Kazakhstan. Chevron says it provides food relief and agricultural development in Angola and "learning centers" in Venezuela and South Africa.

In Azerbaijan, what remains to be seen is whether BP's efforts are enough to overcome simmering resentment at corrupt government officials who siphon off oil money.

BP says that the 1,100-mile BTC pipeline – which links the Caspian with the Mediterranean and is the second-longest oil pipeline in the world – includes the greatest community impact of any BP project to date.

By the end of 2008, BP says it will have spent close to $100 million in Azerbaijan, Georgia, and Turkey to build water-purification systems, medical clinics, primary schools, parks, and roads in the 450 communities identified as directly affected by the pipeline.

This expense, however, may be a drop in the barrel compared with the billions of dollars of revenue from Caspian crude. (Although BP won't reveal its profits in Azerbaijan, the government's share of its revenue last year was $4.7 billion.)

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