ARE governments of the Levant fooling their people with false promises of an offshore gas bonanza? From the proceeds, Lebanon hopes to fund a bullet train that will end Beirut’s traffic snarl-ups. Across the water, the Cypriot government has equally grandiose plans. By 2020 a vast new complex in Vasilikos, on Cyprus’s southern coast, is supposed to start shipping liquefied natural gas (LNG) to Europe and even Asia, salvaging the country’s finances. Gas reserves, say Cypriot optimists, amount to 96 trillion cubic feet.
Yet most oil analysts say this is all wildly over the top. Even Israel, whose development of offshore gas is most advanced, is unlikely, they reckon, to start exporting large amounts by 2020, as it hopes.
The sceptics say that the main brake is a lack of regional co-operation rather than a shortage of oil and gas. The Americans’ official Geological Survey estimates that from Gaza’s coast to southern Turkey the eastern Mediterranean holds 122 trillion cubic feet of gas, comparable to the reserves of Iraq. But Lebanon’s caretaker government lacks the authority to pass the legislation needed to persuade foreign oil companies to start drilling; a heralded auction is again likely to be delayed. America’s effort to mediate over a disputed maritime boundary between Lebanon and Israel is stalling progress. The civil war in Syria is scaring away big oil companies. And drilling off the Lebanese coast has yet to begin. (…)
Read the rest of the piece here.