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1 the national bureau of asian research nbr conference report | october 2009 The New Energy Silk Road: The Growing Asia–Middle East Energy Nexus Mikkal E. Herberg MIKKAL E. HERBERG is Research Director of the Energy Security Program at The National Bureau of Asian Research. He can be reached at . 3 THE NEW ENERGY SILK ROAD u HERBERG S ince the mid-1990s Asian energy demand has increased at truly stunning rates as consumption of the full range of fossil fuels—oil, natural gas, and coal—has rapidly grown. Though China has been at the center of this demand surge, growth has also been strong in developing Southeast Asia, India, and the rest of South Asia. At the same time, the Middle East and the Persian Gulf have remained at the center of the global oil supply system because the region is home to some of the largest oil producers and exporters in the world and holds roughly two-thirds of the world’s proven oil reserves. The Gulf has also become a much larger supplier of liquefied natural gas (LNG) over the past decade, as Qatar’s rapid LNG growth has added to LNG supplies from the United Arab Emirates (UAE) that have been flowing to Japan and other parts of Asia for two decades. Quite naturally then, energy trade and investment between Asia and the Gulf have boomed since the mid-1990s. This is one important manifestation of a rapidly shifting architecture of global oil and gas markets away from a system dominated by flows of oil and LNG from the key producing regions to the rich, industrialized world of the United States, Europe, and Japan and toward fast-growing markets in developing Asia. New capital flows, energy partnerships, and strategic relationships are rapidly being built based on this historic shift in energy demand. In an effort to explore this historic shift in some depth, The National Bureau of Asian Research (NBR), in coordination with the Global Energy and Environment Initiative at the School of Advanced International Studies of the Johns Hopkins University, organized a major conference in May 2009 in Washington, D.C., that brought together a select group of experienced analysts and policy experts. The conference, entitled “The New Energy Silk Road: The Growing Asia–Middle East Energy Nexus,” was supported by the generous contributions of ExxonMobil, Chevron, Conoco Phillips, and the Japan Oil, Gas and Metals National Corporation. In addition to nearly two days of discussion, four essays were commissioned for the conference that focus on the key state players in this growing nexus of energy and political ties: China, India, Saudi Arabia, and Iran. The conference also included presentations and discussion on the energy and diplomatic roles and interests of Japan, Korea, and Russia in the Middle East, and a concluding panel sought to draw together the various strands of the discussion toward a better understanding of the long-term strategic and energy implications for the United States of this rapidly evolving process. This report includes those four essays along with a review of the discussion of longterm U.S. strategic interests. Read as a group, the essays convey a range of the issues raised in the conference. In addition, each essay provoked an active panel discussion that provided a wider range of issues and opinions and added immeasurably to the exploration of the issues under discussion. Hence, this brief introduction seeks to place each of the essays in the context of the broader discussion it provoked. Asia–Middle East Energy Ties Japan and South Korea have long been major buyers of both crude oil and LNG from the Gulf. Both countries are virtually 100% dependent on imports for their oil and natural gas supplies and the Gulf provides between 80%–90% of their crude imports and a significant share of their LNG needs. Japan and South Korea have become major investors in upstream LNG projects in the Gulf and have also sought to invest in upstream oil development, although with much less success. Both have been active in forging stronger diplomatic ties with the Gulf producers. With the emergence 4 nbr conference report u october 2009 of China and India as booming new markets for crude and LNG, these two countries have now also become prominent buyers, investors, and diplomatic players in the Gulf alongside Japan and Korea. All four of the major Asian powers are intently focused on broadening their access to energy supplies in all the main exporting regions of the...


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