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Economy

Going Green, Greece Pushing LNG Sales for EU – With United State’s Help

ATHENS – Covering its bets while moving fast toward sustainable energy and green power, Greece also aims to become a major supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe, cutting into promises to reduce the effects of climate change.

That coincides with world governments accused by environmentalists of paying lip service to the problems caused by fossil fuels and with Greece reopening coal-fired plants to generate electricity – after vowing to close them.

In a report, The New York Times noted how Greece is simultaneously embracing solar and wind power as part of a green energy program but also becoming a hub for supplying LNG through the northern port of Alexandroupoli to Europe.

“Greece​ is deliberately pivoting back toward fossil fuels, just not to burn at home. This time it’s betting that it can become one of Europe’s main suppliers of natural gas, with much of it shipped from the United States, the newspaper said.

https://www.nytimes.com/2024/05/31/climate/greece-europe-natural-gas-lng.html

That noted that Greece’s New Democracy government is getting EU subsidies to build new pipelines across the country to connect to a new import terminal that will transport the LNG to Central and Eastern European countries for decades.

It’s a big revenue driver for Greece although not good to deal with climate change that Prime Minister Kyriakos Mitsotakis blamed partly for 2023 deadly fires and floods that wiped out a big chunk of Greece’s agricultural heartland.

Greece isn’t alone in pursuing LNG, the report noting that there’s been a rush around the world to invest in the commodity in the wake of Russia’s ongoing invasion of Ukraine which spiked energy markets, and profits, especially for Greece’s world-leading shipping sector carrying Russian products.

“While nations have agreed on the necessity to transition away from fossil fuels as quickly as possible, almost all major economic powers are promoting gas as a ‘transition fuel,” the report said, providing an out for not meeting emission reductions.

That means Greece can cash in from carrying LNG and is being aided by the United States – the world’s main exporter of gas – and which wants Greece to be a nucleus for American gas while investing heavily in Alexandroupoli.

Greece is getting billions of dollars of heavily subsidized gas infrastructure and making a big move on the political chess board, backed by the US, seeking to be a pivotal part of American policy to isolate Russia and wean off Russian energy.

American gas companies will be raking in huge gains through the arrangement between the US and Greece’s government, with the American-educated Mitsotakis chasing foreign investors frantically to accelerate an economic recovery.

GOLD GAS

Greece has a new floating gas terminal off the country’s northern coast, a former tanker now stationary and held in place by anchors while being a connection to an undersea gas pipeline with branches across Europe.

In April, its first delivery of LNG arrived from the Gulf Coast. The operators of the terminal hope that more than half of its supply will come from the United States, former US Ambassador to Greece Geoffrey Pyatt calling the terminal “near and dear to my heart.” He’s now the State Department’s top energy official, with ties to Greece.

He also said he was “eager to see” American fossil fuel companies partner with Greece and nearby Cyprus to exploit their own offshore gas fields after he and other US officials lobbied EU countries to use Greece’s new terminal and pipelines while promoting American LNG as a replacement for Russian gas.

“It is unfortunate to say, but war gave us the demand,” said Kostis Sifnaios, who heads Gastrade, the company operating the new floating terminal. “If I think about the money the U.S. puts into Ukraine, Bulgaria, Moldova and so on, somehow they will have to get paid back, no? That’s why you see so much American LNG flowing into this region.”

Sifnaios recalled Pyatt and other officials “actively lobbying countries like Serbia, Bulgaria and North Macedonia and encouraging them to make bookings” for gas from the new terminal. Even Ukraine is a potential customer, the report said.

But  the real market is in the Balkans and Central Europe, with Greece’s neighbors like Bulgaria and Serbia trailing other countries in moving toward renewable energy and needing the LNG.

The EU said its decision to give Greece $180 million toward the cost of building the floating gas terminal was determined largely by understanding that, “the project would not be financially profitable without the aid measure.”

Over the protests of environmentalists, Greece now wants to build a second terminal right next to it, which Theodora Nantsou, head of policy for the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in Greece said “would be just outrageous.”

The group is seeking an injunction to prevent it. “I just don’t see why we continue to subsidize fossil fuels with taxpayer money,” she said, pointing out that last year Greece, if only for a few hours, ran its entire electricity grid on renewables.

The switch toward more alternatives means Greece’s demand for gas has fallen that its one previously existing import terminal, which occupies a small island called Revithoussa just outside Athens, was idle for a day recently.

But the new floating terminal is seeing strong demand, helped by political squeezing, the problem for now being that Greece, and the EU, need Russian supplies exempted from sanctions. “If they order it from Russia, it’s not like we will deny them,” Sifnaios said.

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