The nations with the world’s three biggest reserves of natural gas – Russia, Iran, and Qatar – are quietly moving ahead to form a “gas OPEC,” an organization modeled after the oil cartel.
By Fred Weir
The Christian Science Monitor
In Tehran last week, representatives of the Russian natural-gas monopoly Gazprom met with counterparts from Iran and Qatar and agreed to create “a big gas troika.” The group will meet quarterly to discuss pricing and supplies. Between them, these three countries hold an estimated 55 percent of known global gas reserves. The possibility of a cartel has long been opposed in Washington and European capitals.
The new cartel plan may be finalized Nov. 18, when Russia hosts a forum of gas-exporting countries in Moscow, including possible additions to the group such as Algeria, Indonesia, Libya, and Venezuela.
For Russia, which blames the US for causing the current global financial crisis and the attendant collapse of oil and other commodity prices, forging new energy-based international relationships holds political promise. “There is a clear desire in Moscow to work toward breaking what it perceives as US dominance of the world economy, but it’s way too soon to predict where this global crisis is leading,” says Masha Lipman, an expert with the Carnegie Center in Moscow. “If the US should really go into decline, I suppose we shall see new groups of states, and new contenders, come forward.”
As global energy prices plunge, cooperating with the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) to stabilize markets has gained fresh traction in the Kremlin while the long-discussed idea of creating a “gas OPEC” of leading producers is suddenly getting a big push from Moscow.
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