On several occasions in the last month we have passed huge lorries parked up in the valley. They arrive in the early morning around dawn and only leave when they have been fully loaded with immense amounts of olive wood. When they leave they are driven down to the harbours at Rethymnon and Souda where the wood is shipped out to Piraeus.
Gypsy lorries pass us on the highway stacked high with old central heating boilers that once burned olive stones: ripped out to be replaced by oil burning ones. The heating oil tankers rush past in the other direction.
Stacks of halogen, ceramic and, electric heaters block the entrances to almost all supermarkets in every winter season now. In the larger supermarkets they nestle beside the air conditioning units that start at a meagre 8 kilowatt ratings. And they sell well.
Plentiful firewood is being exported. Olive wood burns efficiently and with a high calorific value. Olive stones have the same properties as wood since the major component is lignite and the calorific value is similarly high. Olive stones are a natural by product of olive oil production. Olive firewood is also a natural by product of olive production. At the last count there were more than 35 million olive trees on Crete. Neither olive wood nor olive stones need to be imported and the supply of both is self sustaining. The price of these fuels is not controlled by some wide boy commodity dealers in ridiculous coloured jackets.
The price of olive firewood has increased some 15% in five years and we are told that olive stone prices have increased at roughly the same rate. And fuel oil prices? And electricity prices?
I am no expert but I suspect that Crete is one of the few places in Europe that could be powered without recourse to fossil fuels. And from sustainable resources within its borders. Crete has 300 days of sunshine each and every year. There was a plan drawn up in 1990 for solar Crete. Sadly the reality never materialized (if you read closely you'll see that the contractor was to be Enron) and instead the Greek government built another oil fired power station.
I am sorry but, bugger the green eco warrior arguments, simple fiscal probity makes that a dumb decision and one that could have been identified as such by a simpleton. It is a decision that could be reversed: the solar and olive options are still there and becoming more attractive daily. And yet?
And yet the Greek governemnt refuses to even implement an environment ministry despite a Greek being EU Environment Commissioner (Stavros Dimas - how the hell did that happen?). They refuse to provide incentives to install photovoltaic systems and tie them to the grid (why not make it compulsory on all new builds?). And yet the public here is rushing to a future power economy that is guaranteed to become ever more expensive and ever more difficult to sustain. And they don't care - they just don't care. The convenience of flicking a switch. of never having to fill a hopper or to chop some wood is just too seductive.
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