Minister warms to natural gas use

As part of an effort to set the example in energy conservation and in promoting alternative forms of fuel, the government said yesterday that the majority of public buildings would be kept warm by using natural gas rather than with heating oil by next year. The move was unveiled by Development Minister Dimitris Sioufas after an Inner Cabinet meeting yesterday, as the government attempts to come up with ways of weaning Greece off its dependence on oil as a source of fuel. Sioufas said that Greece spends up to 3.5 percent of its gross domestic product (GDP) on oil – more than double the amount spent by many other European countries. Sioufas underlined the financial implications of this apparent over-dependence by highlighting the sharp rise in the price of crude oil from $31 per barrel to $67 over the last 16 months. Oil refineries, distributors and the government agreed last week to tighten profit margins in the gasoline market in an effort to soften the impact of rising energy costs on consumers’ pockets. In a bid to promote alternative energy sources, all state buildings in Attica, Thessaloniki and Thessaly will be heated using natural gas, as opposed to heating oil, by April next year. This will involve the replacement of all the boilers in the relevant buildings. Sioufas did not indicate what the cost of the scheme would be. He added that licenses would soon be granted to three new companies wishing to provide consumers with natural gas.