Under the Radar
Oil, terrorism and drugs intermingle in Colombia
Seventy U.S. Special Forces soldiers are training Colombians to protect an oil pipeline.
Japan's struggle to secure future oil supply
Energy dependent Japan looks to Iran for oil, causing tension with the U.S.
Chad-Cameroon pipeline project put to test
Will the pipeline, partially financed by the World Bank, improve the lot of Chad and Cameroon
or exacerbate existing corruption and strife?
Natural resource curse hits São Tomé
A tiny West African country illustrates a well known problem.
On the technology front
Fuel Cell Locomotive for Military and Commercial Railways
An international consortium is developing the world’s largest fuel cell vehicle, a 109 metric-ton, 1 MW locomotive.
Fuel cell power plant installed at NJ Sheraton
A stationary fuel cell will supply 250 kilowatts of electric power as well as heat to the Sheraton Edison
Hotel, accounting for about 25 percent of the hotel's electricity and hot water.
Fuel cell scooters for Europe and China
Palcan's fuel cell powered scooter is designed to address the world's need for a low-end mass transport vehicle.
U.S. Air Force
to get fuel cell bus
Fuel cell powered thirty-foot hybrid bus to be stationed at the Hickam Air Force Base in Hawaii.
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Japan's struggle to secure future oil supply
After the U.S., Japan is the world's largest oil importer. Japan imports most of its oil
from the Middle East (88.4% in 2001.)
In an effort to secure its energy supply, Japan has been pursuing a $2.8 billion deal with Iran to
develop oil at Azadegan in the oil-rich Khuzestan Province where an estimated reserve of six billion barrels is located.
Japanese officials, reported the Economist, were warned by the U.S. that Japanese consortiums might be punished with
sanctions were they to sign the Azadegan deal. Richard Boucher, U.S. State Department spokesman, said this was a
"particularly unfortunate time" to be striking deals with Iran.
The U.S. opposes the oil deal for two reasons. First, it would strengthen Iran's economy,
rolling back the
efforts by local opposition to undermine the ruling clerics, whose Islamic regime is described by
the State Department as the world's "most active state sponsor
Second, oil revenues may be used for Iran's nuclear program, which the U.S. believes masks efforts to develop
weapons. Just last month Iran equipped its elite revolutionary guards with a locally made ballistic missile - the Shahab-3 -
capable of carrying a nuclear warhead and reaching U.S. forces stationed in Saudi Arabia and Turkey.
The strong American opposition puts Japan in a delicate position. Japan is reluctant to
compromise its relations with the U.S, on which it depends for both its economy and its security, by enriching a
country its ally considers a threat. Japan needs the U.S. to serve as a deterrent to a
nuclear armed North Korea and must be sensitive to U.S. concerns regarding Iran's nuclear
capability (it's worth noting that Iran's
Shahab-3 is based on the design of North Korea's No-dong ballistic missile.)
Unlike the U.S, however, Japan maintains diplomatic and economic relations with Iran - in fact, Iran is its
third-largest supplier of oil.
On July 1, Japan suggested a compromise aimed at securing the deal while allaying American concerns: Japan would sign
the deal if Iran would sign an additional protocol to the Non-Proliferation Treaty allowing for surprise visits to suspected
nuclear sites. Iran refused. Two days later, Japan announced the deal would be "prolonged" while concerns about
Iran's nuclear program were addressed. Iran responded by playing down Japan's decision. As of this writing it is not yet
clear if the deal will fall through, but there are signs that due to Iran's difficult economic problems some influential Iranians
are coming round to the idea of signing the additional protocol. Iranian Oil Minister Bijan Namdar Zanganeh has said Iran
and Japan are close to an agreement despite U.S. objections.
Were the deal to fall through, Chinese, Indian and Russian oil and gas companies would likely compete over
rights to develop Azadegan. China Petroleum & Chemical Corp., known as Sinopec, has announced it is "more
willing than ever before'' to enter into joint ventures with Iran. India's petroleum ministry, for its part, announced that
India will be "perfectly happy" if given the field.
The obstacle to its deal with Iran comes at a pivotal moment for the future of Japanese oil supply. Due to its excessive reliance
on the Middle East, Japan has sought to diversify its sources of oil, looking particularly to Russia. However, Japan's
Russian prospects plummeted in May, when China's National Petroleum Corporation (CNPC) signed a
$150 billion preliminary agreement with the Russian company Yukos to pump oil from Siberia to Daqing. Japan, which
had proposed a pipeline from Siberia to Nakhodka (a port in Russia's Far East,) had been competing with China for the deal.
Despite initial press reports indicating that the Sino-Russian deal was final, Japan has not surrendered the field. It has
continued to send officials to Moscow to plead its case, and its labors might bear fruit. Two days after CNPC and
Yukos inked the deal during a state visit by Chinese President Hu Jintao to Russian President Vladimir Putin, the
Russian leader emerged from a meeting with Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi and announced that neither
possibility had been ruled out. Three weeks later, Putin indicated that he actually preferred Nakhodka, because oil
could be transported from there not to either China or Japan but to both, and to the entire Asia-Pacific region, as well.
During a June 28 visit to Vladivostok, Japan's Foreign Minister boosted an offer made in mid-April to help Russia develop
oil fields in Western Siberia in exchange for the Nakhodka pipeline. This story continues to develop.
Japanese Government: Fundamental Philosophy of Japan's Oil Policy
Japan and the Middle East: Signs of Change?
Chinese Oil Demand and the Middle East