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NATO warns of natural gas cartel on horizon

Stephen Beard Nov 14, 2006


STEPHEN BEARD: A confidential study by NATO economics experts has given a stark warning to the West, claims the Financial Times. The study says that Russia may be trying to put together an OPEC-style cartel for natural-gas producers.

Algeria, Qatar, Libya, a number of central Asian countries, and perhaps even Iran would be possible members. Such a cartel would be dominated by Russia, which has a quarter of the world’s natural gas reserves. The NATO study reflects a growing anxiety. says the Financial Times’ Energy Editor Ed Crooks:

ED CROOKS: There is a great concern about the security of gas supplies just as there is a great concern about the secuirty of oil supply, and that’s the warning being raised by these NATO advisers. They’re saying: “Hang on. We don’t want Russia to have a stranglehold on this very important source of energy.”

NATO, he says, is already worried that Russia has been using its natural-gas supplies for political ends — to punish its pro-Western neighbors, Ukraine and Georgia.

The Kremlin today denied the gist of the NATO report. And Nick Redman of the Economist Intelligence Unit is also skeptical about any possible cartel of natural-gas suppliers:

NICK REDMAN: I just don’t see it happening. All these potential suppliers are, in essence, rivals. So rather than cooperating, I think they’re going to be competing for the moment.

Nevertheless, he concedes, the very fact that NATO appears to be fretting again about Russia shows how acutely sensitive the issue of energy supply has become.

In London, this is Stephen Beard for Marketplace.

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