Gas monopoly fears

US Ambassador in Athens Charles Ries reiterated his country’s position in favor of diversifying the sources and routes of energy supply in a speech he delivered at an event in the capital yesterday, indirectly criticizing Greece’s choice of Russian natural gas. Addressing a special session held by the Institute for Energy in Southeastern Europe (IENE), Ries stressed that the more energy transmission channels exist, the greater the benefit for consumers. He also warned that the European Union has very few energy suppliers and that it is in the bloc’s interest to diversify into others. We are working, he said, to ensure there is an international agreement for the southern route of natural gas transmission from the Caspian Sea to the EU, including the Turkey-Greece-Italy pipeline. Full control of carriage channels by anyone is bad, and the same applies to all markets, not just that of energy, he stressed. The ambassador’s comments are seen as criticism of the government for committing itself to natural gas supplies from Russian energy giant Gazprom, underscored by last week’s visit by the company’s chairman, Alexei Miller, to Athens, where he promised to cover Greece’s gas needs up to 2040. EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs voiced similar criticism last Friday in Athens, but focused mostly on the strong market position of Gazprom: «Russia is not the problem,» he said, «Gazprom’s monopoly is.» Ries’s speech yesterday, titled «USA Energy Policy: You Might Be Surprised,» focused mainly on climate change, noting that the target of containing gas emissions is shared by the EU, but the means to realize it are different. He mentioned that between 2000 and 2004 greenhouse gas emissions increased in the USA by just 1.3 percent, while in the EU they increased by 2.1 percent. The USA may have not signed the Kyoto protocol, but that does not mean that his country does not care about the environment, he said, adding that the protocol does not provide for any gas emission restriction targets for developing countries, including China, which is expected to overtake the USA in emissions in 2009.

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