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Agenda: With Rodger Baker

7 MINS READNov 26, 2010 | 14:29 GMT
The fast-growing economies of Asia, particularly China and India, are moving rapidly to secure their energy supplies for the future, STRATFOR's VP of Strategic Intelligence Rodger Baker says. Editor's Note: Transcripts are generated using speech-recognition technology. Therefore, STRATFOR cannot guarantee their complete accuracy. Colin Chapman: After defending your patch and securing shelter, food and water, a reliable source of energy is the most important policy goal. The two most populous countries - China and India - compete with Japan and the United States for energy. China's energy consumption has more than doubled in the last decade and is now more than that of the United States. So how are these Asian giants going to secure their future energy? Welcome to Agenda and to discuss this, I'm joined by STRATFOR's Rodger Baker. Rodger, let's start with China. Rodger Baker: China has been ramping up its energy consumption and we've seen that the rate of consumption increased quite a bit in the past few years. One of the things they're doing to try to alleviate some of that is increasing natural gas imports. That's by pipelines from Central Asia, it's by pipelines from Russia that they're working on, as well as building LNG import terminals. The Chinese are looking at additional nuclear power as well - trying to set up more nuclear power plants, trying to increase the electricity that comes from that. They're looking at alternative sources for energy - trying to spread out where they can get oil, where they can get gas, where they can even get coal or uranium. But in general, it's it's a very difficult proposition for the Chinese because of the speed and the pace at which energy consumption continues to rise. Chapman: There's a world shortage of natural gas at the moment, so this is a good time to do deals. Baker: It's certainly good to try to lock in deals for the Chinese at this time. They are a major consumer, and one of the advantages that they have is that they're fairly close to several of the suppliers in Southeast Asia, in Australia, in Central Asia. Chapman: Despite the failure of the Copenhagen Summit, China now seems to be at least thinking about clean energy. How serious is it? Baker: Well, China's energy and electricity production is almost 3/4 based on coal and is very hard to break away from coal. They've got massive domestic supply's, although in recent years we've seen them have to shift to supplement with imports, particularly at peak times or when there's transportation disruptions within the country. Their green energy push has a couple of different focuses behind it. One is, of course, the idea that they want to improve the quality of energy that they produce. The other though is an attempt to draw in additional technology and additional payment from other countries, and the Chinese have been strong promoters of green energy, green energy technology and development. But they've hoped that a lot of the technology is going to come from the United States, from the Germans, from maybe the Japanese and the Koreans, and on that side they're starting to find problems, and as we saw at the latest round of global talks on green energy, the Chinese initiative that we saw a year ago that seemed very strong is starting to pull back, starting to fade back, and they're not really able to push forward as fast as they thought they would. Chapman: Now the country with the second largest population is India. And it's growing fast too. How is it going about securing its future energy supplies? Baker: Like the Chinese, the Indians are looking at natural gas and trying to find ways to bring that in. The domestic infrastructure makes it very difficult in India to move a certain product to different locations of the country. Another thing with India, though, is that they are a fairly high user of a biomass and waste to produce energy. That's been good for them in some ways in that it gives them domestic sources of energy that perhaps China and other countries don't seem to take advantage of. On the other hand, the the polluting problems of those sorts of energy are starting to cause a backlash in India and starting to cause them to readjust the way in which they use those sorts of technologies. Chapman: And then there's Japan, which is the world's third-largest economy. And an island state totally dependent on imports. Baker: Japan is certainly one of the world's largest economies despite years of economic malaise, and their energy consumption remains very high. But if you look at the charts - in the past - the Japanese were very good at implementing early on energy efficiency measures, and so that the importation of oil, the importation of natural gas didn't continue to grow apace - where we saw the Chinese starting to rise in their consumptions. The Japanese maintain their security of their supply lines by maintaining a very strong defense relationship with the United States, but we've also seen Tokyo start to dabble in developing its own ways of of ensuring supply lines. So we see them working closer with India, now we see them working in the Middle East. The Japanese have been working on what effectively is a base for their operations out of Djibouti, and these are ways that Japan, both from a security perspective and kind of a long-term interest perspective, is trying to strengthen their supply lines, particularly in the face of a China that seems to be not only more active but a China that is sucking up more and more resources. Chapman: Of course, on the Pacific is Russia, which is a big energy supplier. Are they preparing to cash in on the huge increase in energy demand in the Pacific? Baker: One of the problems that Russia faces in really breaking into this large East Asia demand for energy is location. The Russian energy resources aren't near the borders are, not near the the coastal facilities except for maybe Sakhalin, and are not even near the Chinese border. So they have to run very long pipelines, they have to run the energy by rail and draw it out from really hostile territory inside Russia - based on the weather, based on how far north some of the territory is. Another issue the Russians have is that they continue to be a little cautious about just where and how they supply their energy. For the longest time you would hear ideas that Russia was concerned that the Chinese were going to rush across the border and hold Siberia because they have a big population, and the Russians have a small population. That's not really a concern at the moment. There's no infrastructure there really to absorb the Chinese population or for the Chinese to do that. The question becomes if you build these pipelines, if you bring in the Chinese investment to develop these energy fields does that change the equation on the way in which China looks at this Russia. So there's a little bit of caution there. The Russians really have been pushing through their relationships and Central Asia to be able to feed into this region, but we certainly saw Moscow looking at substantially increasing its flow of energy products to the Pacific, to Asia over the next say 10 years. Chapman: Rodger Baker, thanks very much for those insights on the Asian giants and the future of their energy security. That's Agenda for this week. I'm Colin Chapman. Thanks very much for joining me.

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