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Geopolitics of Asian energy

Geopolitics of Asian energy

The profound shift in Asia’s energy consumption patterns has triggered huge changes in global energy flows and the geopolitics surrounding energy.

The fulcrum of world oil trade has shifted decisively onto a Middle East–Asia axis. Asia now relies on imported oil for nearly three-quarters of its oil and LNG needs and certain marine transport routes linking Asia and the Middle East (Herberg, p. 4).

Continued dependence on the Middle East

Because the Asia Pacific region is so fragmented geographically and oil resources are distributed so unevenly across the region, the potential for transporting oil by pipeline is extremely limited. For both oil and gas, Asian countries rely on a limited number of suppliers, mostly the Middle East region. This could be a source of a number of potential problems.

Naval arms race and territorial conflicts

Such existing marine routes have traditional security problems like naval build-up among countries and non-traditional security problems like pirates and traffic congestion. Energy transport ships pass a narrow marine route between Malaysia and Indonesia, the Strait of Malacca. China is creating conflicts with Vietnam and Philippines over naval build-up and territorial issues in the South and East China Seas in order to address the problem.

Lack of continental connectivity

One of the ironies of Asian energy is the fact that Asian energy consumers are not connected to nearby energy giant, Russia. Continental transit and pipelines linking to Russia and Central Asia have not been fully developed. 70 percent of Russian oil and gas are exported only to Europe. Now the Middle East exports a considerable amount of gas which is 46.8 BCM to Asia, but Russia exports only 16 BCM to Northeast Asia.

References:

  • Mikkal E. Herberg, “Introduction,” Mikkal E. Herberg, Ed. Energy Security and the Asia-Pacific: Course Reader (Washington DC: National Bureau of Asian Research, 2014).
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