ECONOMY

Energy crisis committee in first meeting

The Development Ministry’s energy crisis management committee met for the first time yesterday to discuss how to deal with the consequences of a war in Iraq, with the focus principally on managing fuel stocks and ensuring a steady flow of supplies. The meeting came as war clouds loom over Iraq, with the USA yesterday indicating its willingness to launch an attack without the UK’s help, suggesting that military action could come soon. Greece’s vulnerability to volatile oil prices was brought home last week with the release of February inflation figures. Along with fresh produce, high oil prices contributed a percentage point to the hike in the consumer price index, lifting it to 4.3 percent, the highest in more than a year. Industrialists have also threatened to pass on the additional fuel costs to consumers should the price spiral continue unabated. The energy crisis management committee will concentrate on securing fuel stocks in line with a decision made by EU energy ministers in Thessaloniki last month but will not intervene in the event of a price spike, Development Minister Akis Tsochadzopoulos said. «We must take measures to secure stocks. But we will not interfere with any change in the price, this will be decided by the market,» he said. Tsochadzopoulos said there was no cause for concern as Greece has adequate fuel stocks. Oil refineries, fuel product companies and gas stations were also behaving responsibly by keeping price increases at around 15-18 percent compared with the 40 percent hike in crude oil prices in the last five months. The crisis management committee, staffed by representatives from the various ministries, the armed forces and the energy industry, has been tasked with drawing up emergency plans to deal with any disruption to energy supplies. It will also propose rules on energy reserves and ensure their implementation. Like the majority of EU countries, Greece’s strategic fuel stockpiles are held by privately owned companies. The committee will in addition act as a coordinator between the various local organizations, the EU and the Paris-based International Energy Agency.