Energy geopolitics Kazakhstan

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09.02.2009 00:31
oil&gaz2.jpgArtyom Ustimenko
Unfortunately, oil is concentrated only in certain regions in the global scale while substantial part of countries doesn't possess sufficient oil reserves that could have very harsh long-term consequences for their stability even as political entities. Access for oil for a majority of leading actor such as China, the USA, and the European Union is quite restricted and limited in reality, being based on external sources of it.
In fact that situation entails a complex of quite unstable consequences that are able to grow in importance in time to come. It also means that a political component in energy relations will dominate, complicating the whole range of issues. Modern structure of energy relations under conditions of strengthening of a global competition and an intensification of interdependence between countries and regions seems to be less stable and, that is why, more susceptible to growing energy-geopolitical threats of global and regional scale.
Oil is a heart of the economic development for any society still, and never matter backward or advanced one. Any serious consideration of energy or foreign policy must recognize that now, and for the foreseeable future, oil represents the life's blood ofthe international economic order. But recent trends show that global energy market becomes more and more unstable and volatile. The reason of it stems from a progressive depletion of oil reserves in some regions, like Mexican and Indonesian ones, and a constantly rapid growth of oil consumption throughout the world.
It should be recognized that the humanity doesn't invent any real substitution for oil yet. And it will not invent it in a close future, for sure. Biofuel and other so-called «breakthroughs» are not a genuine way out from the energy impasse. A prolonged trend of increasing prices and supply volatility would severely restrain economic recovery in the United States, Europe and Japan. Oil shortages would be particularly disruptive to stability in Asia, the area of fastest economic and oil demand growth. But oil reserves' depletion and consumption's growth are not the only problems, unwise geopolitical actions and strategies are much more important. While such tendencies require mutual and coordinated response, some countries try to use a behavioral matrix that concentrated on their exclusive self-interest in an attempt to increase their «share» in the global energy sector. Energy component becomes more and more substantial driver in the global geopolitical balance. Nowadays we witness that unbiased tendencies for revision of global and regional rules of energy relations unfold. Intense competition for unimpeded access to the world's natural resources is continuing and is likely to increase greatly. Though, quite the contrary, it is necessary to achieve stability and security in that sphere in the frame of comprehensive and coordinated international approach to avoid tensions. Oil and energy issues launched the situation when they are often positioned as a decisive factor for formulation of a real politics, global actors' conduct in the form of petropolitics. Some of those actors try to establish control over key oil-producing regions while others are ready to use the favorable situation to thrust their political priorities and principles of energy nationalism on others, to use the oil produced as an instrument for heavy pressure. Deepening tensions between importing and exporting countries can be seen and they contribute the strongest negative impact on the global energy relations environment. Those tensions are stipulated by geopolitics, first of all, when zero-sum game is the only pertinent result for some states, although it poses risks and policy dilemmas that seem likely to intensify. The greatest risk is that this struggle will someday
breach the boundaries of economic and diplomatic competition and enter the military realm.
Essentially, we have moved from a world in which energy was sufficient to meet the needs of the world's major consuming nations to a world in which energy supplies are insufficient to satisfy global requirements, and that this in turn is going to affect the balance of world power. Thus, the current situation can impose a profound revolution in international energy and real politics affairs, representing a significant and permanent shift in that balance of world power.
Kazakhstan approach to energy geopolitics
Kazakhstan, without doubt, is situated not only in the epicenter of oil geopolitics but also in the region that is highly sensitive to any considerable geopolitical shift under the Great Game conundrum. Given the size of the Kazakhstan oil sector, the republic has a unique and critical role in that power game. But Kazakhstan, from the very outset of the statehood, regarded geopolitics not in the terms of rivalry but as a suitable instrument for evolving cooperation and mutual interdependence. The reason is that only understandable, diversified and open oil policy can create favorable conditions for resolving the complex of problems and impasses which become apparent now. Kazakhstan will never take part in unjustified actions that can inflict damage on interests of other players of global oil market. And it has already evaded the direct impact of a great deal of unfolding geopolitical tensions around oil. Kazakhstan leadership understands that only cooperative approach, free from any biased omission and innuendos, is able to promote strategic interests of both exporting and importing countries. While otherwise, very grim perspectives loom ahead.
That is why the energy security as a key factor of the international stability is one of main politico-economic priorities for Kazakhstan. The country has already become an important element of global energy infrastructure, and considerable part of the foreign policy of Kazakhstan is highly concentrated on solution of problems of stable and safe export directions of domestic hydrocarbon resources. It is important that Kazakhstan initiated some practical steps to improve a continental energy rapport, for instance, including proposal of Asian Energy Strategy and Asian Energy Dialogue, elaborated with a close involvement of KazEnergy Association, under the SCO structure.
Kazakhstan is in the midst of an oil boom that has made it one of the fastest-growing economies in the world. And its energy policy bases only on strict economic pragmatism and mutual approach. Kazakhstan builds a constructive energy interaction with the EU, the USA, Russia, China that clearly is guided by the principle of non-discrimination, and regards the latter as a main feature of any energy cooperation between states in spite of their potentially intersecting geopolitical objectives. It is important to note that Kazakhstan strives to consolidate a balanced regional system of energy cooperation. As before, the republic intends to maintain relations with foreign investors in line with the earlier set effective and plain formula of mutually beneficial cooperation. The underlying element of this formula is to provide an opportunity to unrestrictedly participate in development of promising oil and gas fields, in return for respect of key national interests and aims of development of Kazakhstan.
Kazakhstan is blessed with an abundance of natural resources and the giant discoveries at Tengiz, Karachaganak and Kashagan have placed the country among top leaders in terms of worldwide oil reserves. Yet, Kazakhstan is still a country that remains relatively under-explored. So, at a time when new hydrocarbon resources are scarce and exploration is becoming more difficult and costly, the country is ideally placed for further exploration and growth. Peaceful and constructive cooperation is the only factor that is able to provide a sufficient impulse for it.
A major priority of the national energy policy that has a clear geopolitical tinge is to ensure stable and diversified supplies of hydrocarbons to international markets.
The current transit potential is exploited with due consideration of the multi-vector approach and with a view to maintaining the balance of interests of the major consumers of energy resources. Without it inadequate pipelines and port facilities can severely constrict the ability of Kazakhstan to increase production and exports, taking into consideration the fact that domestic production of oil will grow to 130 million tons to 2015. Until recently, all of the pipelines used to transport oil and natural gas from Kazakhstan went through Russia, which is itself an oil and gas producing state.
But now Kazakhstan can boast about quick tempo of pipeline diversification. Apart from the already existing export routes such as Atyrau - Samara and the CPC, there are new routes that are being shaped. Plans are afoot to join the Baku - Tbilisi - Ceyhan pipe; special importance is being attached to the Kazakhstan - China route, first phase of which is already in act. The country is not losing sight of possible transportation of energy resources to the South of Asia.
Thus, in a close perspective Kazakhstan will be able to provide its oil with a direct access to different markets, mitigating risks to energy stability and allowing neighboring countries to effectively secure their energy balances.