The US-Russian gas argument

The rivalry between the US and Russia over European energy supplies continued in Thessaloniki yesterday, centering on the issue of diversification in energy sources and supply and its impact on sufficiency. Addressing the 2nd International Meeting for Energy Dialogue in Southeastern Europe in Greece’s second biggest city, the counselor of the Russian Embassy in Greece, Michail Sava, said that the US is the biggest importer of natural gas worldwide, satisfying 85.8 percent of its needs thanks to Canada. Greece, on the other hand, has seen its efforts toward diversification bear fruit, as it imports 78 percent from Russia, 19 percent from Algeria and 3 percent from Turkey. Over 55 percent of global natural gas reserves are in Russia (26.6 percent), Qatar (14.3 percent) and Iran (14.9 percent), «but the geopolitical situation of Iran limits Greece’s diversification options,» said Sava. Expressing a different view, US Ambassador to Greece Daniel Speckhard said Greece depended on a monopoly for its natural gas needs, saying that 80 percent of the country’s requirements are covered by Russian firm Gazprom. He stressed that this monopoly jeopardizes both energy supply and the price of gas as market competition cannot function. He suggested that the answer to this problem is Azerbaijan, which, through the Greek-Turkish pipeline and the Nabucco pipeline that begins in Turkey and ends in Central Europe, will supply the continent with 45 billion cubic meters of natural gas, which corresponds to 20 percent of Europe’s current gas imports. However, the construction of the South Stream pipeline – in which Greece is also participating – is competing with Nabucco, its sole aim being to increase Gazprom’s influence on the market, Speckhard argued. Responding to the statements of the Russian diplomat, the US ambassador said his country’s needs in natural gas are met by independent American companies (85 percent), by independent producers in Canada (12 percent) and by liquefied natural gas (3 percent).