East Asia's energy chiefs pledge teamwork

Aug. 4, 2009 at 4:18 PM
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MANDALAY, Myanmar, Aug. 4 (UPI) -- East Asia's energy ministers called for stronger regional energy cooperation to build a secure, stable and sustainable energy future during a series of meetings in Myanmar.

Noting that volatile oil prices affect the global economy -- producing and consuming countries alike -- the ministers called for greater cooperation on energy policy, energy supplies, the oil market and transport routes, Xinhua, China's news agency, reported.

In their July 29 joint statement, the ministers called for "encouraging trade and investment liberalization and the reduction or removal of barriers that could impede the development of an open, competitive and more integrated regional energy market."

The East Asia energy chiefs said they reaffirmed their "strong interest" in biofuels and acknowledged the importance of protecting natural diversity and minimizing the impact on food security.

They said that capacity building, particularly energy management training, is needed for promoting energy efficiency in industrial and commercial sectors.

"Myanmar has been working its best to have energy supply security and at the same time (is) embarking on programs of energy efficiency and conservation, as well as (the) development of alternative and renewable energy," said Prime Minister Thein Sein, the Bangkok Times reported.

He added that his government is strongly considering reducing price instability, dependency on fossil fuels and environmental damage by promoting private participation in biofuel projects.

Myanmar's human-rights groups, meanwhile, called for an end to investment in the country's oil and gas sector, which they maintain keeps the ruling military junta in power by providing it with a long-term source of income.

As the world's 11th-largest exporter of natural gas and the largest exporter in the Asia Pacific, with Thailand one of its largest customers, Myanmar's sizable offshore oil and natural gas reserves have attracted interest from foreign investors. It is estimated to have some 3.2 billion barrels of recoverable crude oil.

While Myanmar's military government generates an estimated $2.5 billion annually from natural gas sales, it still lags behind in filling the country's energy needs.

The majority of Myanmar's rural areas have no electricity. Factories in the major industrial zones of Yangon and Mandalay still rely on generators to compensate for frequent electricity shortages.

According to 2007-2008 data from Myanmar's Ministry of Energy, wood burning still accounts for at least 62 percent of the country's energy consumption; crude oil and petroleum products for 12 percent; natural gas 11.5 percent; hydropower 19 percent; and coal and lignite 3.65 percent.

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