|Energy agency must engage China, India to maintain relevance|
David Pilling, Tokyo January 08, 2007. THE body that represented oil-consuming nations must more actively engage China and India if it was to maintain relevance, the executive director-elect of the International Energy Agency said yesterday.
"The relevance of energy security without those big countries could be undermined," he told journalists in Tokyo.
According to the IEA, about half the world's energy consumption takes place outside the agency's 26 member countries, which are limited to Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development states.
China, which until recently was self-sufficient in oil, has surpassed Japan as the biggest consumer of petroleum after the US, causing it to scurry around the world in search of strategic supplies.
Mr Tanaka said the IEA was in close contact with China about its plans, already in train, to build a 30-day petroleum stockpile. The agency, which was set up in response to the first oil shock of 1973/74, requires members to have 90-day stockpiles.
"China understands the issues," said Mr Tanaka, referring to the strategic use of stockpiles in reducing OPEC's influence over prices and in countering supply crunches. He said India was also preparing to set up its own oil stockpile.
"The hurdle is very high for official membership," he added, referring to the difficulty of formally incorporating China or India into the agency. "But our organisation should be very pragmatic in engaging these countries."
China could, he said, be given observer status, while the agency could extend technical co-operation and information-sharing initiatives with non-members.
China was already one of the heaviest users of IEA research, energy experts said.
Mr Tanaka said the IEA must further broaden its remit by becoming to energy security what the United Nations and the International Monetary Fund were to global humanitarian and financial security respectively. "We have to move up the ladder of energy security, to natural gas, nuclear power and renewable energy."
The agency was, for example, studying the cost-effectiveness of gas stockpiles, partly in response to concerns in Europe about Russia's stranglehold over supplies.
It was also putting increasing emphasis on energy conservation as the quickest way of reducing energy dependence.