A OPIC? The Need for a Forum on Energy Security

Introduction – Lugar, IEA and Energy Cooperation

The Christian Science Monitor has an interesting article, “Bold idea for energy woes: global cooperation“, weighing in on the need for some sort of global cooperation among major importers in terms of energy security and alternative fuel development.

The article touches on a speech Senator Lugar gave at Brookings Institute early March. I highly recommend reading Lugar’s excellent speech here. Additionally, Sen. Lugar (R) and Sen. Obama (D) introduced a bill late March 2006 pushing for alternative fuel development.

The CSM article chiefly focuses on International Energy Agency (IAE) as a potential vehicle for energy cooperation:

So is it time for an OPIC – an organization of petroleum-importing countries – as a way to build up cooperation among the world’s booming and increasingly competitive energy consumers?

One hurdle in the road to developing cooperation among energy-consuming countries is the Bush administration’s distaste for the kind of international bureaucracy that might be charged with overseeing such a project, some experts say. But others add that the bones of what might be a starting point already exist in the International Energy Agency (IEA), a branch of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development that serves developed countries.

James Bartis, an expert in energy security at the RAND Corp. in Arlington, Va., says the IEA or something like it could serve as an “umbrella of oil consumers” that could begin to address fears about stable supplies and develop joint energy-investment strategies – and therefore become a force for stability in a world of tightening energy supplies.

The IEA was founded in 1974 in the wake of the 70s energy crisis. Its last major move was to coordinate the release of +2 million barrels of oil after Katrina. Will it take a bigger energy crisis to move the IEA towards a more robust, pro-active stabilizing force for energy security?


As noted in January 2006 at StrategyUnit, India and China has declared a “Year of Friendship” centering on energy cooperation on the development of alternative fuel, sharing information on energy bids and joint energy development.

That such emerging powers like China and India are taking steps to coordinating their energy policy is a telling development in global affairs. The US must see this as an opportunity to take the next step and slowly build a wider forum for major energy importers. In order to be taken seriously by other states, the US must also take steps to put its own house in order.

Holding hearings on high gasoline prices, while makes on popular with the public opinion, does little and to address the core concerns of our energy security.

Global energy security and coordination is in the US interests as it must seek to avoid a global dependency on oil-rich regimes that are far too often hostile to the US and its interests and even including those of other importing nations. The questionable stability of oil supplies, environmental damage, hostility of oil rich regimes, and oil peak concerns should be more than enough motivation for the US to help lead and shape a global forum to combat these issues. If not by the current Bush Administration (which is facing a lame-duck problems), than hopefully the next.







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