The challenge of costly oil

The passivity with which the whole of Greek society – people and government – has sat and watched the frenzied galloping of oil prices in international markets has been truly surprising. As the equilibrium shifts in the world markets, creating instability and unfavorable conditions, here in Greece we do not seem to have grasped that these new forces will soon begin exerting an influence – quite possibly a very serious one – on our social and economic activities. No one appears to have grasped the need for feverish preparations, on at least two levels. In the short term – and specifically well in advance of the winter months – we need to implement emergency measures to ensure we will be able to tackle the serious problems that will emerge if the price of oil stabilizes at current levels or – even more so – if it rises yet further. In the medium-to-long term, we must start some serious planning, set goals and implement the measures that will allow us to achieve them. Out of the first 15 members of the European Union, Greece continues to be the most dependent on oil. Even if we insist that our irresponsible approach towards exploiting alternative energy sources was justifiable when oil cost between $15 and $25 per barrel, it is surely criminal for our future now that prices are oscillating between 60 and 70 dollars per barrel. However, expressions of concern and wishful thinking will not solve any problems. In view of this, it is imperative that certain actions be taken to tackle this major problem; examples include extending our natural gas network – which has been subjected to serious delays to date – moves to further optimize the exploitation of wind and solar energy, and utilizing the latest technology to curb pollution caused by burning lignite, which exists in such abundance in this country. The profit made from the implementation of such policies would give a significant boost to our ailing economy. The one thing that is certain is that sitting back and observing oil price fluctuations on the international markets, and waiting for them to fall, does not constitute an effective energy policy.