BEIJING, Dec 16 - China, hosting its first major energy summit on Saturday,
urged top oil consumers to join together in the face of resurgent producer power
and sought to paper over differences on how best to achieve energy security.
from the United States, India, Japan and South Korea -- nations that consume
nearly half the world's oil -- gathered in Beijing for the meeting, which marked
a rare move by China to take a leadership role on global energy issues.
U.S. Department of Energy Secretary
Samuel Bodman (L) and China's National Development and Reform Commission
Chairman Ma Kai shake hands after signing a memorandum of understanding in
Beijing December 16, 2006. [Reuters]
"We want to send out an important, positive message, which is: the world's
key energy consuming countries plan to strengthen mutual cooperation," China's
top energy policy maker Ma Kai said.
"(We will) promote conservation of oil, improvement of energy efficiency,
strong development of oil alternatives, and reduce reliance on oil," he added in
prepared remarks to the closed forum.
It may reflect shared concern over increasingly nationalistic policies
in major oil and gas producers that threaten to stymie investment and limit new
Producer cartel OPEC will see its power expand when new member Angola joins
Ma emphasised that the five countries had common problems and could benefit
from a joint approach to tackling them -- but shied away from touching on the
different approaches to security that have complicated some relationships.
Among bilateral deals finalised on the summit sidelines was a multi-billion
dollar agreement for U.S.-based Westinghouse Electric Co. to build four nuclear
plants in China.
The contract could help smooth a relationship dented last year when a bid by
China's CNOOC Ltd. for U.S. producer Unocal was withdrawn in the face of fierce
PRICE, EQUITY ISSUES
Ma's U.S. counterpart, Energy Secretary Sam Bodman, echoed calls for greater
cooperation, but also highlighted U.S. concerns about subsidised prices and a
global race for assets.
"I believe our mutual long term economic goals will be best served by relying
on global markets to set prices, in both the upstream and the downstream and
both internationally and domestically," he added.
The United States has tried to discourage Beijing's pursuit of equity
stakes in energy projects overseas, and Bodman repeated the U.S. position that
well-functioning markets were a better guarantee of smooth supplies than owning
"It seems as though there is a growing trend to equate energy security with
ownership of energy reserves, rather than broad access to reserves," he said,
according to a copy of his remarks.
Ma also reiterated Beijing's core energy policy of self-sufficiency, a source
of concern for environmentalists as China's number one fuel resource
However Beijing is pouring money and expertise into programmes designed to
exploit its coal in cleaner ways, from liquefaction to chemicals production and