Wednesday, January 23, 2008

India China USA Competing for Natural Gas & Oil

Natural gas has become a new-age economic weapon: Goldman

K.A. Martin

Says it could be used to make a political point

KOCHI: Natural gas has become a new political and economic weapon that could be used to make a political point, said Professor Marshall Goldman of Harvard University here on Tuesday.

He was speaking to The Hindu on the sidelines of the three-day meet on the India-China-USA Triangle convened by the Centre for National Renaissance, New Delhi.

Professor Goldman, an expert on Russia, said natural gas now had more potential than oil, as natural gas supply lines acted like the umbilical cord. If it snapped, countries could come under pressure. He cited the instance of Ukraine cutting off natural gas supply to the European Union nations.

Professor Goldman, who later made a presentation on India-China-U.S. Energy Triangle, called natural gas a double-edged sword. It could be used for economic and political bargains. Cutting off natural gas supplies would be worse than oil embargoes because there were several options in sourcing oil.

He said India and China had sought oil and natural gas from Russia. This move was a diversification from the Middle East. But Russians realised that they had a new economic and political tool in their hands which threw up possibilities.

Using natural gas as a source of energy was good because it was cleaner. Sourcing it from Russia and the Central Asian countries would generate wealth for the region, he pointed out.

Prof. Yitzhak Shichor from Hebrew University, Israel, made a presentation on “Regulation or Strangulation: Beijing, Delhi and Washington in pursuit of Energy.”

He began his presentation by saying that the U.S. was Buddha of the past, China of the present and India of the future. The three countries do not have their own domestic sources to feed their energy demands, he said.

The paper analysed the competition among the U.S., India and China for oil resources from a strategic perspective. The three would remain the primary energy consumers for a long time to come. The key to ensuring energy supplies was engagement among the countries.

The former Energy Secretary, E.A.S. Sharma, sought regional cooperation in meeting the energy demands. He called for gas grids in place of bilateral pipelines so as to end the monopoly situation. There could be an electricity grid that included countries such as Nepal and Pakistan.

Hu Shisheng, Director, CICIR, China, chaired the session on India-China-U.S. Energy Triangle.

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