May 3, 2010 — Mikkal E. Herberg, Research Director of the Energy Security Program at The National Bureau of Asian Research, joined us for a discussion on “pipeline politics” in Asia and the implications for U.S. national security.
Herberg began the discussion by highlighting some of the emerging energy rivalries and principal stakeholders in Asia, the source of much of the growth in the global energy market. Thus far, for example, competition for energy resources has been stiffer between China and Japan than between India and China. More broadly, China’s need to fuel its development by expanding and securing its energy resources is likely to continue to accelerate its emergence as a world power.
Next, Herberg went into greater detail about the geopolitical and market implications of the developing energy grid in Asia, focusing on four key oil and natural gas pipeline nexuses: (1) Northeast Asia (2) Central Asia (the Caspian Sea region) (3) India (4) China and Myanmar. In Northeast Asia, China and Japan have been the principal competitors over Russian energy supplies. Central Asia, since the dissolution of the Soviet Union, has been the stage for a broad competition for resources between East Asia and the West. In India, the ability of Chinese national oil companies to secure regional pipeline development deals at India’s expense—as in the case of the China-Myanmar crude oil pipeline—has driven Indian fears of encirclement by China. Pipeline development in various other countries, such as Kazakhstan and Turkmenistan, was also discussed.
The Question and Answer session produced a number of discussions, including how China’s efforts to obtain new energy resources impact Chinese relations with the United States, Russia, and Japan. Other topics included the dynamic between Chinese national oil companies and the Chinese government and the effect national oil companies have on the health of the global energy market. Although energy deals involving national oil companies can be toxic politically, the market still predominates. The session concluded with a discussion on whether or not Russia will build a pipeline to its coast to service Japan.