ENERGY experts attending a recent United Nations meeting in Geneva said that oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea region could ease the world’s dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East. According to a UN report, the Middle East supplies about 30% of all the oil consumed in the world and, by 2020, this figure could increase to around 40%.
Concerned about their growing dependence, oil-consuming nations are looking for energy sources outside the Middle East; the experts at the UN meeting in Geneva agreed that the Caspian Sea region could soon be an important alternative to the Middle East.
The UN report notes that crude oil production from Russia and the other Caspian Sea countries is expected to rise dramatically. Currently, it says Russia accounts for approximately 11% of the total world production, and other potential big players are Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which together have proven reserves of about 16 trillion barrels, a figure that is likely to rise.
Igor Yusufov, a special envoy on energy matters to Russian President Putin, predicted that in five years, the Caspian region will be the third-largest exporter of crude oil, and will attain second place by 2015. “The Caspian region represents one of the new, major, long-term source of energy to the world,” he said. “Plus, you should take into consideration that the region is very close to main European oil and gas markets, and also to Asia.” But, Mr Yusufov cautioned, developing the energy resources of countries along the Caspian Sea will be expensive. These countries will need foreign investors to upgrade existing infrastructures and finance new transportation routes, pipelines, and rail facilities.
Another speaker at the Geneva meeting emphasized the urgency of finding new sources of energy. Robert MacFarlane, who was national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, is currently deputy chairman of the Energy Security Forum. He said that the emergence of China and India as huge energy consumers now makes it even more critical to accelerate the development of sources outside the Middle East.