Yielding benefits from natural gas

Most of the attention during the inauguration of works on the natural gas pipeline by Greek Prime Minister Costas Karamanlis and his Turkish counterpart Recep Tayyip Erdogan naturally went to the political dimension of the ongoing project. However, we should by no means underestimate the practical side of the pipeline project: Long-term use of natural gas can reduce Greece’s dependence on oil. Regrettably, the Greek political establishment has not yet grasped the multiple benefits of using natural gas for both the economy and the environment. Although Greece has secured a considerable supply of Algerian and Russian natural gas, it has failed to distribute it in the local market mainly because the required infrastructure for industrial and household consumption is not yet in place. Moreover, the state does not have a competitive price policy. As a result, the price of natural gas in Greece is artificially set at prices higher than that prevailing internationally, including in neighboring states. It makes one wonder why the government has failed to follow up on the positive example of natural gas-powered buses in Athens. The use of natural gas reduced both operational costs and pollutants emitted from public buses. The ill-conceived pricing policy of the Socialist government deterred taxi owners from using liquefied natural gas (LNG). Drivers rather opted diesel-powered vehicles. The conservative administration wants to reverse the trend and introduce incentives for LNG-fueled engines. In this context, and given stubbornly high oil prices, the government should also consider allowing the sale of private vehicles which use engines that run on natural gas. In any event, it is largely up to the state whether it will encourage this use of natural gas for automotive, industrial and household use so that pipelines between countries can yield both a political and an economic benefit.

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