Mérida, April 9, 2007 (venezuelanalysis.com)— A gas cartel among gas producing countries, similar to OPEC for oil exporting countries, is on Venezuela's agenda during this week's Gas Exporting Countries Forum (GECF) in Doha, Qatar. Many gas-exporting countries have expressed interest, but the U.S. Congress has criticized the idea saying that the creation of a cartel would be seen as a "deliberate threat."
Rafael Ramírez, Venezuela’s Minister of Energy and Petroleum, arrived in Qatar yesterday for the GECF meeting, a forum attended by many of the world's natural gas exporters. The forum includes major gas producers such as Russia, Iran, Qatar, Venezuela, and Algeria, which together control 73% of world gas reserves, and 42% of the world's production.
"We are here to support a gas-OPEC. It's a good idea," stated Ramírez upon arriving tat the forum yesterday. "We will discuss the idea," he said.
Venezuela has recently been working to put in place the Organization of South American Gas Producers and Exporters (Oppegasur) among South American countries, which has been widely accepted across the continent. Bolivia, Peru, Argentina, and Trinidad and Tobago have all expressed an interest in the project.
But today the Venezuelan Oil Minister will present the idea of a larger organization among all gas-exporters at the forum in Doha. Many countries including Iran, Russia, Algeria and Qatar have already expressed their support for the idea.
The Iranian Oil Minister, Kazem Vaziri Hamaneh stated that many of the ministers at the meeting have showed support for the idea. "We also think that if the Forum goes in that direction (the forum) will be strengthened," he said.
The idea for the gas organization came up with the signing of an alliance between the Russian gas company Gazprom and the Algerian company Sonatrach in 2006, two of the major suppliers of natural gas to Europe. Since then, the Iranian Ayatollah Ali Khamenei proposed the idea to the Russian President Vladimir Putin, who considers the idea "interesting" and expressed his support for some sort of organization between producers. Soon after, Venezuelan President Hugo Chávez also expressed interest.
The United States, however, has seen the creation of the organization as a "threat to world energy supplies." Last week, in anticipation of the annual GECF meeting, the U.S. Congress urged Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice to warn the Russian government about their participation in the gas-OPEC organization, calling the existing OPEC a "global organization of extortion and racketeering."
"The United States needs to clearly convey to the Russian government that the creation of a gas cartel will be looked upon as a deliberate threat to us and our allies," said Republican Congresswoman Ileana Ros-Lehtinen in a letter to Condoleezza Rice. The letter called for Rice to take harsh measures to stop the unification of gas-exporting countries. According to a study from Oxford Business Group in London, the United States is opposed to Moscow's attempt to use their natural resources to strengthen their geopolitical influence.
Venezuela's Rafael Ramírez, however, was confident that an organization will be formed between five major countries: Venezuela, Russia, Iran, Qatar, and Algeria. Other countries that are prepared to join include Nigeria, Oman, United Arab Emirates, Brunei, Malaysia, and Indonesia.
"Just like oil, gas is a non-renewable natural resource and it can be used up if it is exploited in an uncontrolled way," warned Ramírez. He emphasized that the world needs a similar organization to OPEC for gas, to regulate the production and distribution in the world. "I definitely think it would be a good idea," he said. "Gas is the world's second source of energy."
Venezuela is currently estimated to have 150 trillion cubic feet of gas reserves and expects to reach 196 trillion upon the inclusion of reserves located in their territorial waters. This would give Venezuela the third largest gas reserves in the world.