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Asean energy concerns

By David Swartzentruber
AseanAffairs  24 June 2010

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Energy, the lack of it and the means to obtain more to support industrial and domestic needs, is a growing concern for many Asean countries.

Recently Vietnam and Thailand have announced plans to pursue nuclear energy plants, however, those are only statements at this point.

Vietnam has reported that its trade deficit increased this month and a factor in this was energy blackouts that impeded the production of goods.

More recently, China’s extensive damming of its part of the Mekong River in its active search teamed with the extremely low water levels of the river downstream this year have brought concern to the residents and countries of the Mekong region.

Energy also plays a role in sustaining Myanmar’s military dictatorship as both China and Thailand have entered into agreements to develop energy resources there.

A thumbnail view of the 10-member Asean group suggests that within the group there are substantial energy resources.

Indonesia ranks among the top 20 oil-producing countries in the world and Brunei, Malaysia and Thailand also produce significant amounts of oil.

Recent oil discoveries have been made in Myanmar and Cambodia and there may be more oil and gas in the Gulf of Thailand. The Asean region is relatively unexplored.

Explorations efforts are also underway in Myanmar and Laos with China’s state-owned CNOOC teaming up with Thailand’s PTT.

The Asean region has 4 percent of the world’s proven natural gas reserves with Indonesia and Malaysia having the most significant reserves. Asean is now the world’s fourth largest liquid natural gas producer. Natural gas is particularly used in power generation, especially in Malaysia and Thailand.

The Asean countries with the largest coal reserves are Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam, in that order.

Hydropower is significant in the region as it drains five major river systems: the Irrawaddy, Salween, Chaophraya, Mekong and Red River.

With the exception of Singapore, the Asean countries have energy resources but accessibility to those resources is an issue and the scale of energy needs in these throbbing economies is relatively limited to the needs.

Demand for energy in the Asia Pacific is growing faster than any other region on earth. Increasing urbanization and the development of a larger middle class in many of the countries suggests a 60 percent growth in demand for energy within Asean.

Along with other world regions, oil accounts for 40 to 60 percent of the region’s energy consumption with natural gas in second place.

However, sharing energy resources across national borders is a significant task as was stressed in the document, ASEAN Vision 2020, in December 1997.

A significant development in this regard is the building of eight gas pipelines encompassing the countries of Myanmar, Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and other pipelines are in the works.

The future scenario for the Asean countries includes an increasing use of solar energy and solar power, there certainly is a lot of sunlight in the region, the development of biomass energy production and an emphasis on energy conservation education of the population, which seems behind other regions in this effort.

In Thailand, that educational effort has already started.


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