Analysis: Climate change on OPEC agenda
Riyadh, Saudi Arabia (UPI) Nov 19, 2007
Geopolitics and petropolitics charged the OPEC summit while the cartel defended itself against charges it was to blame for high oil prices and Saudi Arabia promoted itself.
The threat of climate change made a rare appearance at the OPEC summit with the Saudi king announcing three-quarters of a billion dollars in research. The funding was announced over the weekend, but no money has been appropriated and no details have been released. But it's a promise that could stave off a potential catastrophe.
"This is a global issue," said Abdullah Salem Al-Badri, secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, at the group's third-ever summit. "We are living in the same planet, you know, producers and consumers."
Badri sat down with United Press International on the sidelines of a three-day symposium hosted by OPEC, prior to the summit of OPEC heads of state. There, oil ministers, industry players and experts discussed major issues the cartel and the global oil sector face.
Saudi Arabia, as host, set much of the agenda. It organized rare press trips to its oil sector facilities, ensured there was food, coffee and the occasional swag for journalists, and had dozens of young Saudis available to assist with anything, including bettering the image of the kingdom.
OPEC is accused of being behind the $90-plus per barrel oil prices, of not producing enough oil and not investing enough in expanding its production capacity. Demand spiked over the past seven years, pushed by the largest consumer, the United States, as well as growing countries such as China and India.
But OPEC, which meets about 40 percent of the world's demand, says supply is correct. It blames traders and speculators driven by real or perceived fears of geopolitical strife, and a bottleneck keeping oil and products from getting to consumers quickly. While high oil prices increase producers' income, too high a price leads to a decrease in consumption and a higher incentive to look for alternative fuels and energy.
And then there's the declining value of the dollar, which is the main currency used in oil transactions.
"They get our oil and give us a worthless piece of paper," Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad told reporters after the summit.
During a closed meeting of oil, finance and foreign ministers Friday, the Iranian delegation issued a proposal to move away from the dollar.
The debate was heated, according to journalists working in a media center at the symposium's hotel, with Iran, Venezuela and others being outweighed by the Saudis, who feared the dollar would be further hurt. About 30 minutes of the session aired live on a TV that during the week broadcast the official symposium events. OPEC officials called it an accident.
The mention of the dollar was not included in the OPEC summit's final declaration.
Ahmadinejad and Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez were constantly hounded by reporters, both willing to talk. Chavez himself was given the platform at the summit's opening ceremony Saturday night, where as the host of the previous such event in 2000 he gave the opening address and handed over the chair's seat to Abdullah.
Chavez called for OPEC to stand united against aggressors, do more to help the poor and developing nations and become more political.
He rallied against President Reagan's attempts to quash OPEC, said the Iraq war was about oil and warned against a U.S. attack over Iran's nuclear program.
"If the United States is crazy enough to invade Iran, oil prices will shoot up not to $100 but $200 per barrel," Chavez said.
Abdullah, whose country is a strategic U.S. ally, said oil shouldn't be used as a weapon.
Following Chavez, he announced he'd dedicate $300 million to a new climate change, environment and energy fund for scientific research. During the closing ceremony Sunday, he said Qatar, Kuwait and the United Arab Emirates promised $150 million apiece.
From its years as a critic of climate change, OPEC has turned to the new mantra that oil is too vital for the world economy to replace and so an investment in emissions-reducing technology is the way to go.
"We need the technology," said Badri. "We need to invest money to enhance the technology. At the same time we are starting to do our part as far as trying to reduce the emissions."
"We are producers, and if there is any pollution it is from our operations. That's really a very low percentage of the emissions and we are trying to reduce or eliminate that," he said. "But the big emission isn't in the supplier nations. It is in the cement factories, in the electricity, in transportation, it is there. That's why we say if there is any accumulation we are not contributing to it."
According to data from the Energy Information Administration, the U.S. Energy Department's data arm, the largest consumers of energy, not producers, are the largest emitters.
The United States, for example, is the largest consumer in the world -- nearly twice each day what No. 1 producer Saudi Arabia pumps.
Saudi Arabia emitted 412.35 million metric tons of carbon dioxide in 2006; the United States -- the world's largest emitter -- 5.96 billion metric tons of CO2 from the consumption of petroleum, natural gas, coal and the flaring of natural gas.
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London (AFP) Nov 19, 2007
Climate change is driving the need for a "fourth technological revolution" to cut pollution and save the planet, British Prime Minister Gordon Brown said Monday.
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