Natural gas and Greek-Israeli relations. Unforgivable illusions and hidden agendas

The great economic crisis in Greece destroyed the “Vision” and brought it down to a chimera, proving that the very prominent, but in reality counterproductive, model of growth the last decades did not bring prosperity. Instead, it rooted out existing economic foundations and social structures, while it strengthened speculative activities, founding “new” ethics and life-style behaviors. The “real economy” was defeated by a peculiar domestic casino-capitalism and the international credit and stock markets.

All these are gone now though, been set aside by a new reality. But this reality is also vested with a material-economic and imaginary skin, suggesting a new Dream, a new Promise and a new “Protector”…


Field research results, scientific conclusions or illusions?

Before anyone should speak about the use of a natural resource, about the possibility that this country can be saved by such a “Deus ex Machina”, it would be quite useful to seek accurate scientific data, which could document to an extent, the forecast about the propagated “good news”…

Dr Th. Kariotis, Professor at the University of Maryland, recently made a reference on “large quantities [of natural gas] that would help Greece in the long term, take such a ‘breath’ that would place the country in G20”1 . A similar statement was made by Dr A. Foskolos, Professor at the University of Crete, in the welcoming (regarding this specific topic) media.

Objecting voices are rarely heard; but, up to this date, no credible scientific team or body, Greek or international, working in the field of geology, has verified anything more than the already known estimations.

The Greek media, regardless of the real possibility of future use of those natural gas reserves, are flaunting the great benefits that will come as a result of exploiting the gas reserves that Israel and Cyprus recently announced. This “bloating” is becoming larger and takes on another dimension after the threatening, unfounded according to sea law, obviously pretextual and of a different purpose, Turkish intervention.


What Mr. Davidson said and what the real numbers also say?

Regarding the Israeli reserves, let’s hear what the head of the US-Israeli consortium conducting research for the last 13 years in the Levant basin, had to say.

Noble's Charles Davidson

Noble's Charles Davidson

“We say ‘potential’ Israelis hear ‘discovery’”, said Charles Davidson, Noble’s  Energy Inc. President on July 13th 2010, regarding the natural gas reserves of the Leviathan sub-basin. This technically and economically precise statement, was made right after presenting the first results of investigation that estimate the Leviathan reserve containing 16 trillion cubic ft (500 billion m3). In the same statement, Mr. Davidson says: “Investors should be cautious and differentiate between concepts and reality.”

Naivety or hidden agendas?

Nevertheless, in August 2010, Israeli PM B. Netanyahu, during his formal visit to Greece, proceeds to political statements and says that he proposed to then Greek PM  George Papandreou, the construction of an underwater pipeline, that would carry natural gas to Greece and from there to all of Europe.

The news were reproduced in a victorious tone by most of our country’s media, while international media were much more careful.  Articles on the topic were not based on scientific facts, but were rather pseudo-scientific and politically coloured. An article from a mainstream newspaper (not hiding its real geopolitical agenda) says: “The discovery of natural gas and oil reserves in Eastern Mediterranean has brought Greece, Cyprus and Israel closer, which could create in the future a new axis in the region… The recent Greek-Israeli approach upgrades Greece to a major regional actor in the path of natural gas to Europe”2 .

Two months later (December 29, 2010), a new announcement of Noble Energy has simply raised the geological potential of exploiting the Leviathan reserve to 50%. But the estimation about the volume of those reserves remains at 16 trillion cubic ft (±40%).


Praising the geopolitical and economical overturn: Europe’s independence from Russian gas.

After all that, an avalanche of similar news items are publicized, expectations grow, moreover political discourse is dominated by geo-economics. Newspapers and television talk shows refer to a “treasure”, to a “gold vein”, focusing on the “geostrategic importance of the discoveries”3 . Political analysts now join the choir, apparently embracing those opinions, connecting them with the strategic need of Europe to substitute Russian oil and gas imports by another, much more “cooperative and friendly” provider. In many Internet web sites, these views are methodically promoted. From the side of Israel, Foreign Minister Dani Ayalon says that “the new discoveries in the maritime area of Israel can offer alternate energy sources to Europe”, while some websites also contain theological articles  citing  prophet Ezekiel… This is the way in which the Greek citizens are being “informed”, more than a year now.


The difference between scientific evaluations and …political statements related to natural gas reserves

Of course the 25 trillion cubic ft gas volume of the Israeli reserves (9 confirmed plus 16 estimated), sound to the largely uninformed and misinformed public, very impressive. But what does this quantity mean in real numbers?

Firstly, the scientific difference between the confirmed and estimated resources [that of quantitative assessment and technical-economical feasibility as well]  of a gas reserve, has to be underlined. Then, it has to be exposed with mathematical clarity, that Leviathan reserve represents:

● only 20% of the total estimated gas volume in the Levant basin (USGS)
● only 11% of the total estimated in the cone of Nile, in neighboring Egypt (223 trillion  ft3), 56 of which are confirmed and already being exploited
● only 1,5% of the confirmed reserves of (first in world classification) Russia
● only 0,4% of the worldwide confirmed or only 0,15% of the worldwide estimated resources.

Other interesting comparisons of reserves would be with those not widely known reserves of some European countries that were never considered to be rich in hydrocarbons, such as The Netherlands, whose reserves are four times larger, or Hungary, which has reserves twice as big as Israel’s.


Peace  and Law in the  region – The case of Palestine

Moreover, if dangerous conflicts are to be avoided and peace be secured in the East Mediterranean region, then Exclusive Exploitation Zones (EEZ) have to be delimitated according to International Sea Law. All coastal countries neighboring in the Levantine basin and South East Mediterranean waters have to take part in that process.
Consequently, Syria, Lebanon, Israel, Palestine and Cyprus in the first case, as well as Greece, Turkey, Cyprus and Egypt in the second case, are called upon to follow the international legal processes. Bilateral arrangements, aiming to confiscate natural resources from any country– as is the case of the Palestinian Gaza waters- is unacceptable.

Another issue is the transfer of Israeli natural gas to Europe, through Greece. Supporters of this idea overlook the much closer and incommensurably more important reserves of Egypt and the fact that Algeria and Libya -already providing with gas Europe through pipelines – have much more important reserves than Israel. As also, not to be forgotten, Nigeria – Libya pipeline project.

Even moderate knowledge of the “economics of energy” combined with the above mentioned official data, as also combined with data related to energy consumption by the Israeli Ministry of Housing, allows the conclusion that Israel will use its gas resources mostly as strategic reserves. Increasing, maybe, the substitution rate of its gas imports, as today Israel imports 40% of its gas consumption needs from Egypt, but times are changing…

Regarding Cyprus’s gas reserves, according to contractor Noble Energy, they vary from 5 to 8 trillion cubic ft, raising them to about 1/2 of Leviathans’. These reserves, although they could become a major local source of growth, of course they are not sending the message of the new “Vision” constructed by certain opinion-makers ‘on duty’.


The mythology of Israel as regional protector for Greece and Cyprus

The new high-voiced arguments about Israeli natural gas reserves and its messianism is only a storytelling tool of a new servile ideology. Another storytelling tool, crushed under the social ruins of the austerity policies, is the argument that portrayed the Israeli lobby acting as an intermediary-protector of Greece in the international monetary-credit market.

Nevertheless, common sense oblige us to think on the contrary. Israel’s  interest now is, on the one side,  to keep  Greece on its knees, in order to increase its dependence upon the international credit markets  and, on the other hand, to promise mediation -offering at the same time only  some crumbs- in order to maintain, that way, his “supporting”  role.

First conclusion: Fuel/gas  reserves are not the solution; they might become a positive contributing factor  -to a certain extent, under certain conditions, and only if they will not be sold-out to any oligopoly- to a restructuring process of our national productive sectors, which is the only real solution to the crisis.

Second conclusion: Peaceful exploitation of the Greek fuel reserves in the future requires defining the EEZ according to international maritime law: Not with Israel of course [since there are no sea frontiers], but with Egypt and Libya, to the south of Crete and Turkey to the South East. All this arrangements shall be implemented according to a Greek strategic planning and a Greek national agenda – not someone else’s.

Third conclusion: Some try to raise the tensions in the region. Natural gas is only a pretext for their very different geopolitical goals. Greece in it’s history’s weakest moment, is involved in the explosive geopolitical game of the region under the Israeli agenda. It’s historic, traditional relations with the Arab countries, especially with the new Egypt, are being undermined by Israeli interference and our politicians negligence. Taking into account European Union’s gradual political decline and the related Greece’s intra-european muros marginalization, our country is being pushed to a suffocating and dangerous international isolation.

Our politicians and their advisers – constantly mutating, are in reality praising only their own “national interest”.

  1.  “Kosmos tou Ependiti”, 27/11/2012
  2. “Ta Nea”, 20/11/2010
  3. “Ethnos”, 3/1/2011


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