Energy superpower: Wikis


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The term energy superpower has several potential definitions that might be used relating to different contexts.[1] In recent years, however, it has come to be used to refer to a nation that supplies large amounts of energy resources (oil, natural gas, coal, uranium, etc) to a significant number of other states, and which therefore has the potential to influence world markets to gain a political or economic advantage. This might be exercised, for example, by significantly influencing the price on global markets, or by withholding supplies.[2][3] The status of "energy superpower" should not be confused with that of "superpower", as the nature of an energy superpower is defined very differently due to the non-military nature of an energy superpower's power base.[citation needed]

Energy superpowers project greater power than would be otherwise possible due to their lock on the exportable energy markets, and are becoming increasingly valuable to the global economy. In the global commodities' boom of recent years many of these states have benefited massively from increased production and prices.[citation needed]


Energy superpowers of the world

There are currently two "recognised" energy superpowers globally, both of whom have the largest reserves and production in the areas of energy they specialize in. Russia has the world's largest reserves of natural gas, and is the world's largest gas producer and exporter[4], while Saudi Arabia has the world's largest conventional oil reserves, and maintains the world’s largest crude oil production capacity (estimated to be around 10.5-11.0 million bbl/d).[5] Actions taken by companies or the government in either state are enough to produce an immediate reaction in the stock market, although the markets have been known to second-guess Saudi Arabia's stated production numbers.[citation needed]



Russian natural gas as a % of domestic consumption.

Russia has the largest known natural gas reserves of any state in the world, along with the second largest coal reserves, and the eighth largest oil reserves.[6] It is the world's second largest oil producer and, from time to time, overtakes Saudi Arabia as the world's number one.[7][8][9]

Russia is also the world's biggest natural gas producer, with 22.3% of global natural gas production, and also the biggest exporter - with 24.0% of global natural gas export.[10] In recent years Russia has identified the gas sector as being of key strategic importance. Many private oil and natural gas companies, most notably Yukos and Sibneft, have been consolidated under the control of the state-controlled Rosneft and Gazprom organisations respectively.

Gazprom has control over all gas pipelines leading out of Central Asia, a region rich in the resource. Russia has used such gas, primarily that from Turkmenistan, on occasions where it has found itself unable to meet all delivery obligations from its own domestic production plants. Such circumstances in 2000 led to Gazprom allowing Turkmenistan to use its pipelines to supply gas to the highly-subsidised, low price Russian domestic market - leaving Gazprom free to fulfil its obligations towards European customers.[11] Gazprom sells 33% of its gas to Europe, accounting for nearly 70% of the company's revenue. The remaining 30% is sold for domestic Russian consumption at highly subsidised prices.[citation needed]

As of 2006, Russia supplies over 25% of Europe's oil and over 40% of its gas. Its energy superpower status has recently become a hot topic in the European Union.[12] Russia's overwhelmingly large reserves of natural gas have helped give it the title without much debate.[13][14] Still, Russia's status as an energy superpower has been called into question by some. As Vladimir Milov, of the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, says:

The “energy superpower" concept is an illusion with no basis in reality. Perhaps most dangerously, it doesn’t recognize the mutual dependence between Russia and energy consumers. Because of political conflicts and declining production, future supply disruptions to Europe are likely. As a result, there will come a day when European gas companies demand elimination of the take-or-pay conditions in their Russian contracts. This will threaten Gazprom’s ability to borrow. Putin’s attempt to use energy to increase Russian influence could backfire in the long run.[15]

Russia has recently been accused by the West of using its natural resources as a policy tool to be wielded against states like Georgia, the Ukraine, and other countries which it feels "threatened" by.[16] At the beginning of 2006, Russia greatly increased the price of gas for Ukraine, following the country's Orange Revolution.[citation needed] It later doubled natural gas prices to Georgia, following an international incident. Critics speculated that it was an attempt to undermine the Georgian leadership's defiance of Moscow.[citation needed]

In turn, Russia has accused the West of applying double-standards relating to market principles, pointing out that it has been supplying gas to the states in question (ruled by regimes Moscow considers "unfriendly") at prices that were significantly below world market levels, and in some cases remain so even after the increases.[citation needed] Russia argues that it is not obligated to effectively subsidise the economies of post-Soviet states by offering them resources at below-market prices. Russia has greatly increased the price of gas for Armenia and Belarus, which, unlike Georgia and Ukraine, have been closely allied with Moscow and form a loose union state with Russia.[citation needed]

Despite Russia's vast potential, there had been concerns voiced by TNK-BP's Viktor Vekselberg that it would run into grave difficulties in 2007,[17] citing that Russia had not opened up any new gas fields since the fall of the Soviet Union, and those which were currently in operation were rapidly depleting. However, this opinion comes in direct contradiction to known facts, as Russia was not reported to have run into gas shortages during 2007. In October 2001 Gazprom began production at the Zapolyarnoye field in western Siberia measured at 3.2 trillion cubic meters. This puts Zapolyarnoye field in the top 10 largest fields in the world. [18][19]

Despite this fact, some continue to argue that inefficient plant and aging infrastructure could force Russia to import additional gas from Central Asia.[20] Such a scenario is not inevitable, as Gazprom has access to vast amounts of gas, and according to Gazprom's Alexey Miller intends to singlehandedly explore the Shtokman Field, one of the world's largest natural gas fields.[21]

It is noteworthy that Russian gas imports present a lucrative opportunity for the country. In 2008 Russia planned to import most of its gas from Central Asian republics for a price that ranged between $100 and $150 per 1000 cubic metre. It re-sells most of this gas to Europe for a price that tops $250 per 1000 cubic metres.[citation needed]

Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia possesses both the world's largest known oil reserves and produces the largest amount of the world's oil, though occasionally outproduced by Russia, it maintains the world’s largest crude oil production capacity. Considered to be the leading state of OPEC, its decisions to raise or cut production almost immediately impacts world oil prices.[22]

In 2005, oil export revenues accounted for around 90 percent of total Saudi export earnings, which accounted for 70-80 percent of state revenues, and 44 percent of the country's gross domestic product (GDP), as reported by the IMF. Saudi Arabia is increasing its oil production capacity to 12 million barrels per day (1,900,000 m3/d) (bbl/d), by 2009.[23]


Canada holds perhaps one of the more ambiguous statuses in international relations when it comes to its status as an energy power. Supporters of it being included with Saudi Arabia and Russia will point out that Canada has the world's highest production of uranium, producing over a quarter of the world's uranium in 2006.[24] Canada also ranks number one in the world regarding energy produced via hydroelectricity, and exports large amounts of electricity to the U.S. from hydroelectric production.[25] Some Canadian institutions have taken to even calling the country an energy superpower, but these claims are almost all predicated on its oil production rates. [26] Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper has taken to calling the country an energy superpower in Summer 2006.[27][28][29] Currently, Canada ranks 3rd in the world in terms of the production of natural gas (behind Russia and the U.S.), and also listed seventh in regards to global oil production.[25]

However, there are a number of critics of this view, who feel that Canada has not really established itself as an actual energy superpower. Critics, like Shawn McCarthy of the Toronto-based newspaper The Globe & Mail feel that in comparison to already existing energy superpowers like Russia, Canada is more like a "energy superstore" compared to Russia, which he says is the "real deal".[30] Still others feel that Canada has not yet achieved the status, but rather is emerging as its production rates in oil grow, like the Oxford Analytica independent scholarly consulting firm.[31] However, even proponents like Oxford Analytica acknowledged the incredible amount of investment that would be necessary to bring this about, and that Canada's growing energy production could precipitate a confrontation between the US and China over access to Canada's energy assets. Canada's potential status as an energy superpower is discussed in further detail below.

Still others like Dr. Raymont of EnergyINet Inc. are concerned that environmental principles will be sacrificed in the pursuit of Canada being an energy superpower, and wish it to set a standard as the world's only "clean" or "responsible" energy superpower.[31]

Potential energy superpowers

In addition to the recognized powers, certain states have large or even enormous energy reserves that have not yet been exploited significantly, and which therefore have the potential to become the energy superpowers in the future.

According to Manik Talwani, a geophysicist at Rice University, there are two countries that are most likely to attain the status of Oil superpower: Venezuela and Canada.[32] Citing their enormous potential reserves (1.2 trillion potential barrels for Venezuela and 1.75 trillion for Canada's oil sands), Dr. Talwani believes that they have the reserves to become energy superpowers in the next few decades as oil production declines elsewhere. However, as Dr. Talwani notes, both need 100 billion dollars or more to increase their production levels up to those of true energy superpowers.

Australia has also been described as an emerging energy superpower. Former Australian Prime Minister John Howard in 2006 expressed a desire for Australia to become an energy superpower.[33] While in 2009 Australian Federal Resources and Energy Minister Martin Ferguson expressed similar sentiments in the wake of multi-billon dollar contracts to supply China with LNG.[34]

Canadian potential for oil production

Canada claims to be an emerging energy superpower due to its vast reserves of oil, gas, and uranium. This was declared by its Prime Minister Stephen Harper in a speech to the Canada-UK. Chamber of Commerce, and later in the speech to the Economic Club of New York.[28][29] The Prime Minister has also criticized Russia's alleged use of energy as a direct tool to increase the national government's power as "self-serving", stating that Canada believes "in the free exchange of energy products based on competitive market principles, not self-serving monopolistic political strategies".[28] Canada has however threatened during Prime Minister Paul Martin's government to use oil shipments as a tool to help Canada negotiate a better softwood lumber trade deal with the United States. It is the world's fifth largest energy producer overall, ranking first in hydroelectric power production, third in natural gas production, and seventh in oil production.[35]

The Energy Information Administration (EIA), the statistical wing of the U.S. Department of Energy, has listed Canada as having the world's second-largest oil reserves (179 billion barrels) following Saudi Arabia (260 billion barrels), however, this includes unconventional output from oil sands; conventional output is estimated at 4.9 billion barrels (780,000,000 m3).[36] EIA's estimate is based on numbers from the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers (CAPP) and released in the publication International Energy Outlook 2006. According to CAPP it has among the largest potentially exploitable oil reserves in the world, the oil sands of northern Alberta, estimated at 1.7 trillion barrels (270 km3).

Canada is also the largest producer of uranium on earth, and exports the CANDU reactor nuclear technology it has developed. As mentioned above, Canada's current Prime Minister, Stephen Harper has referred to Canada as an "energy superpower", as well as an "emerging energy superpower".[37]

Canada itself produces today some 3 million barrels per day (480,000 m3/d), and is projected to increase its production at least double by 2017. However, it has far larger capital costs associated with expanding production, as shown by the "30 percent increase in average capital costs over the last year has challenged the growing market along with major infrastructure issues", noted by Monsters & Critics' Kristyn Ecochard.[38]

Venezuelan potential for oil production

In 2003 Dr. Talwani said of Venezuela's ability to expand production, quote, "Of course, expanding heavy oil production to make it a significant part of our energy strategy will require a huge investment. For example, oil companies have estimated that achieving just an additional 200,000 barrels per day (32,000 m3/d) of converted Venezuelan heavy oil would take some $3-billion in research and new refining capacity. Extrapolating such figures is hard to do, but a back of the envelope calculation indicates that it could take more than $100-billion to bring Venezuelan daily production up to Saudi levels."[32]

Iranian potential for both gas and oil production

Iran is the world's fourth largest producer, [39] and fifth largest exporter [40] of oil. It has the second largest proven reserves of oil in the world behind Saudi Arabia. [41] Iran is also the fourth largest producer of natural gas excluding the European Union due to the fact that European Union is not a counry, [42] with the second largest proven reserves of natural gas. [43]. These give Iran a hybrid status between Russia and Saudi Arabia as a potential Energy superpower. If its current relations with United States become less tense, increased foreign direct investment in the energy sector may hold the potential for becoming an energy superpower in the combination of gas and oil energy. British journalist Julian Evans has written that the sooner Iran lets go of its outdated ambitions to be a nuclear superpower, the quicker it can become a modern energy superpower.[44]

Iran is also believed to have large reserves of uranium to use as nuclear fuel in different parts of Iran including Bandar Abbas,Yazd,North Khorasan and Iranian Azarbaijan.[45][46]

Australian potential

Australia has the world's largest Uranium reserves at 22%[47] and is the world's largest Coal exporter by short tonnes.[48]

Threats to energy superpowers

Recently a new strategy has emerged from al-Qaeda when it comes to fighting the United States. Rather than only targeting the U.S. interests directly in an attempt to cripple it, al-Qaeda now believes that cutting off the supply of energy to the U.S. should be a high priority.[49] In particular, several powerful energy producing states like Saudi Arabia & Canada have had their energy industries listed as targets in al-Qaeda's effort to bleed the U.S. dry.[citation needed] In an apparent attempt to carry out this strategy, several masked men attempted to enter and destroy a section of the Saudi Abqaiq oil refinery.[citation needed][citation needed] As of yet no attempt to attack energy industry infrastructure has succeeded by a known terrorist group, although Nigeria faces disruption of its energy industry by local rebel forces.[citation needed]

Says Ian MacLeod of the CanWest News Service, "A major supply disruption would send energy prices soaring. Had the Abqaiq attack been successful -- guards fired on cars driven by the bombers, detonating the explosives inside -- some experts say oil prices would have likely broken all records. A catastrophic hit could bring transportation and other parts of the U.S. and world economies to a standstill."[49]

Energy superpowers as a result, while blessed with enormous natural wealth, are beginning to be pegged as targets in the worldwide War on Terrorism. While Saudi facilities are relatively well-protected, there is no consensus as yet as to the seriousness of the threat to other countries nor how well prepared they might be to stop an attack.

See also


  1. ^ How Russia's energy superpower status can bring supersecurity and superstability, Civil G8, 2006
  2. ^ "Russia Won't Act Like an Energy Superpower": Making Promises that Can't Be Kept, Global Events Magazine, September 15, 2006
  3. ^ The Emergence of Russia as Potential Energy Superpower and Implications for U. S. Energy Security, Düsseldorfer Institut fur Aussen-und Sicherheitspolitik, 22.01.2005
  4. ^ Greatest Natural Gas Reserves by Country, 2006
  5. ^
  6. ^ Russia Energy Data, Statistics and Analysis - Energy Information Administration (U.S. Govt)
  7. ^ "Russia 'to top record 2009 oil output' next year". AFP. October 27, 2009. Retrieved 2009-10-25. "Russia, which has surpassed Saudi Arabia as the world's largest oil producer, expects to top record 2009 output next year due to production from new oil fields, the deputy energy minister said on Tuesday." 
  8. ^ "Russia's oil renaissance". BBC News. 2002-06-24. Retrieved 2007-05-19. 
  9. ^ Beware Russia, energy superpower[March 8, 2008]
  10. ^ Key World Energy Statistics. 2006 Edition, International Energy Agency 2006
  11. ^ Russia takes heat over energy supply, by Judy Dempsey, International Herald Tribune, 12 February 2006
  12. ^ Beware Russia, energy superpower, by Philip Delves Broughton, The First Post, 16 October 2006
  13. ^ How Sustainable is Russia's Future as an Energy Superpower?, by the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, 16 March 2006
  14. ^ Russia: The 21st Century's Energy Superpower?, by Fiona Hill, The Brookings Institution, 5 October 2002
  15. ^ How Sustainable is Russia's Future as an Energy Superpower?
  16. ^ Boris Shiryayev, Großmächte auf dem Weg zur neuen Konfrontation?. Das „Great Game“ am Kaspischen Meer: eine Untersuchung der neuen Konfliktlage am Beispiel Kasachstan, Verlag Dr. Kovac: Hamburg 2008, p.111
  17. ^ TNK-BP warned of Russian gas shortage in 2007, by Tarmo Virki,, 24 November 2006
  18. ^ Russia Poised to Dominate European Energy October 11, 2001
  19. ^ Gazprom
  20. ^ What if Russian Gas Runs Low?, by Edward Lucas, The Economist, 23 November 2006
  21. ^ Gas from Shtokman to be piped to Europe, press release by Gazprom, 9 October 2006
  22. ^ Saudi vows to keep oil flowing, by CNN 31 May 2004
  23. ^ Saudi Arabia Energy Data, Statistics and Analysis - Oil, Gas, Electricity, Coal
  24. ^ "Canada's Uranium Production & Nuclear Power. Nuclear Issues Briefing Paper # 3". Australian Uranium Association Ltd. March 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  25. ^ a b "Canada. Energy and power". Encyclopedia of the Nations. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  26. ^ "Canada – Energy Superpower in the Global Oil Market Context. CERI 2007 Oil Conference". The Canadian Energy Research Institute (CERI). 2007. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  27. ^ "FED - Canada to be 'superpower' in energy, Harper says". University of Alberta. 2006-10-20. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  28. ^ a b c Harper calls Canada “energy superpower”, by Mike Blanchfield, CanWest News Service, 14 July 2006
  29. ^ a b Canada an emerging energy superpower: Harper, by News Staff, 20 September 2006
  30. ^ "Russia, pumped". Shawn McCarthy, 2007-03-02. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  31. ^ a b "Canada To Compete In Oil Market". Oxford Analytica. 2005-02-17. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 
  32. ^ a b Canada: The next oil superpower?, by Manik Talwani. The New York Times 2003
  33. ^
  34. ^
  35. ^ Canada - Energy and Power, Encyclopedia of the Nations
  36. ^ International Energy Outlook 2006. Chapter 3: World Oil Markets, Energy Information Administration, Report #:DOE/EIA-0484(2006)
  37. ^ Canada to preach energy market openness at G20, Reuters, 14 November 2006
  38. ^ Increasing oil sands production, by Kristyn Ecochard, Monsters & Critics. 14 February 2007
  39. ^
  40. ^
  41. ^
  42. ^
  43. ^
  44. ^ The EU should be playing Iran and Russia off againsta each other, by Julian Evans, Eurasian Home, 8 November 2006
  45. ^
  46. ^
  47. ^
  48. ^
  49. ^ a b "Al-Qaeda calls for attacks on Canadian oil facilities". Ian MacLeod, CanWest News Service. 2007-02-17. Retrieved 2007-04-06. 


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