Spotlight on Research: EWC Fellows Discuss Asia’s Energy Future on Capitol Hill

As gas prices soar in the U.S., concerns about energy security take center stage in the international dialogue on economic development. Editors of “ Asia’s Energy Future: Regional Dynamics and Global Implications ,” EWC Senior Fellows Fereidun Fesharaki and Kang Wu, examined this issue in light of Asia’s sharply increasing energy demands, during an EWC briefing in late April on Capitol Hill.

Asia’s rapidly growing economies are becoming ever more dependant on oil imports from Africa and the Middle East to support their changing lifestyles.  Though America remains the primary consumer of the world’s petroleum resources, since 1990 more than half of the annual growth in global oil consumption has originated from Asia, fueling fears of tension among Asian nations and between Asia and the West.

The global liquefied natural gas (LNG) market reflects a similarly dramatic shift, according to Fesharaki.  In 2007, the Asia Pacific region’s share in the world’s LNG demand was 65 percent, compared to just 24 percent in Europe.  He noted the radical change in the global LNG equation is the result of five primary factors:  higher oil prices, rising construction costs, the U.S.’s rapid entry into the LNG market, the decline of Indonesia as a major LNG exporter due to resource problems and political pressure, and the near-term importance of Qatar.

Kang Wu explained that coal remains China’s primary source of energy consumption and will continue for years to come, which raises concerns about the problems of air pollution and global warming.  Meanwhile China will continue to enhance its domestic oil and gas exploration activities and infrastructure to maximize production.

Fesharaki and Wu concluded their discussion by touching on some future directions for the Asia Pacific energy market. They noted that nuclear fuel will make a return, especially for China and India, where other viable alternatives are lacking.  They also emphasized the importance of cooperation among Asian countries on common areas such as oil storage, pipelines and investments.