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New authority to oversee energy sector
By Mai Tian (China Daily)
Updated: 2005-04-29 19:42

In response to the country's burgeoning energy crisis, China is expected to create a vice-ministry-level office in the next few days to strengthen management of the fragmented energy sector.

The photo shows the tanks of the 230,000-ton Fengluwan oil reserve base in Liu'an,East China's Anhui Province April 4, 2005. [newsphto/file]

The new office will replace the Energy Bureau of the National Development and Reform Commission (NDRC) - China's top economic planning body, to become the industry's top authority.

The office will work to secure overseas oil and gas reserves, resolve the chronic electricity shortage, stabilize the supply of coal, enforce industrial energy efficiency, and promote nuclear power and other renewable energy resources.

The setting-up of the office is a fresh move by the government which is seeking to restructure the energy industry following its dismantling of the Ministry of Energy in 1993, and the setting up of the Energy Bureau in 2003.

Critics say the current Energy Bureau, which has less than 30 staff, is too weak to oversee the industry.

The bureau has been blamed for failing to control runaway oil imports, the over-expansion of new power projects and inefficient energy consumption.

The bureau also failed to resolve disputes between the coal production and power generation sectors that have contributed to wide-spread blackouts in recent years.

Critics say the bureau is crippled because much of the administrative power for the energy industry is scattered between different government organs.

As an improvement, the new office will directly report to the State Council, China's cabinet.

Though it is still placed under the NDRC, the move gives the office a stronger say in decision making.

Xinhua News Agency reported on Friday that Ma Kai, minister of the NDRC, will head the office.

Ma Fucai, the former general manager of China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC) - China's biggest oil company, is also expected to be named as one of the deputy-ministers.

Ma Fucai has secured a positive reputation in the industry after turning the governments once-lumbering oil company into China's most profitable State-owned enterprise.

He resigned from the CNPC after a gas field accident in 2003 killed 243 people in Chongqing.

China set up the Ministry of Energy in 1988 but it was dismissed five years later because its administrative function overlapped with other departments such as the then State Development Planning Commission.

(China Daily 04/30/2005 page1)

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