At a press conference at the Ministry of the Environment, Energy and Climate Change on Wednesday, Antonis Samaras told journalists that the Greek state could receive a cumulative 150 billion euros in revenue over the next 25 to 30 years from the exploitation of oil and natural gas fields.
The announcement comes following offshore tests conducted by Norway’s Petroleum Geo-Services in the country’s south and west. According to the Prime Minister the surveys had provided “very strong indications of significant” reserves in the Ionian off Greece's western coast, while surveys are continuing off the coast of Crete.
All of the data from past and ongoing surveys of potential oil and gas fields are being gathered in a new purpose built ‘data room’ in the Environment Ministry which the Prime Minister visited yesterday.
It may sound as if the Prime Minister is informing the country of a new estimate based on recently obtained evidence, but it is not the first time that the 150 billion figure has been heard as pointed out in a statement released today by Independent MEP Kriton Arsenis. Specifically, the exact same claim made today by the Prime Minister was made almost two years ago by Deputy Environment Minister Giannis Maniatis in a speech on the 4th of April, 2012 (link in Greek).
“What is behind this coincidence? A simple truth,” according to Mr Arsenis. “Seismic surveys do not allow the estimation of the sizes of oil fields, let alone public revenue streams. They are conducted to see if there is a likelihood of finding gas or oil. Only after test wells have been drilled, which hasn’t happened yet, can one say whether there are indeed oil deposits, how big they are, the quality of the oil and finally if they can be exploited…I condemn this peddling of hope around oil and natural gas reserves. This demagoguery must stop.”
What is also clear, and is not disputed by even the most optimistic oil prospectors in the misnamed Ministry of Environment, Energy and Climate Change, is that whatever revenue comes to the Greek state from the exploitation of oil fields will only come after about a decade, offering little help for the country out of its current crisis. Dreams of cheap gas for Greek citizens should also be forgotten as these are determined by the prices of the international market which will not be affected by any Greek oil production.
And while the government has been making bold statements about implementing the ‘Norwegian model’ where oil wealth led to dramatic improvements in social welfare, given the level of corruption in the country, Greeks have every reason to fear a more Nigerian model of profits for the few and environmental degradation for the rest.
Because it should be remembered that Greece already has a source of wealth in its seas: the 40 billion per year generated by the tourism industry. An industry that could be made eternally sustainable through green energy technologies, or wiped out by one major oil spill.