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NATO Forum on Energy Security & Technology

On February 22-24, 2006 in Prague, the New Security Program, NATO and IAGS hosted the NATO Forum on Energy Security, one of the largest conferences to date to look at how to assure Western energy supplies in an increasingly uncertain security environment. The Forum, which brought together 150 government officials, industry leaders and experts from 35 countries, reflected the growing concern felt by producers and consumers alike at the vulnerability of energy supplies. The sustained sabotage against oil installations in Iraq and Nigeria has demonstrated how supplies can be disrupted by politically motivates saboteurs. Russia's recent decision to cut off gas supplies to Ukraine also loomed large in the Forum. Beyond geopolitical issues delegates also looked to practical ways of making energy supplies more secure.

IAGS senior fellow Kevin Rosner, the co-director of the conference, said in his opening remarks that "the issue of energy security, whether from a producer or consumer standpoint, is in many cases the most important national security issue facing both alliance members and partners." On the first day of the conference a lineup of energy ministers described the various energy and security challenges their countries face, calling for increased multinational collaboration among nations. On the second day participants attended workshops on topics including maritime security, LNG, IT, and pipeline protection. A whole session was dedicated to the broader and more strategic aspect of energy security, examining alternative technologies and solutions. The Forum's delegates agreed that diversification of energy resources and a shift from oil and gas to domestically produced alternative fuels should be a centerpiece of every country's energy security strategy.

From left: Dr. Grygoriy Nemyria, Senior Advisor to the Ukraine Prime Minister, Dr. Kevin Rosner, Jiri Paroubek Prime Minister of the Czech Republic.
As if to remind participants of the vulnerability of our energy system, as the Forum was closing, two suicide bombers blew themselves up in the outer perimeter of the Abqaiq processing facility in Saudi Arabia. Luckily they caused little damage, but this was just another reminder that the threat is real and the process NATO has embarked upon is worthy of pursuing. Indeed, NATO Secretary General Jaap de Hoop Scheffer recently said in his Fresh Changes for a New NATO lecture: "I believe that there are many more issues that we should consider bringing to the NATO table. And one that leaps to mind is energy security. NATO's Strategic Concept includes elements of the protection of vital supply lines as one area critical to the security of Allies. Today, for reasons that are obvious - including the potential of terrorists targeting our energy supplies - it makes sense to me that the Allies should discuss this issue. [...] I want all Allies to engage in a frank and open discussion. To anticipate future trends. And to develop a common perspective."

Dr. Harold Elleston, Director of the New Security Programme, Dr. Fatih Birol, Chief Economist of the International Energy Agency, Dr. Gal Luft, General Constantin Degeratu, Senior Advisor to the President of Rumania.
Here are some highlights from the Forum:

Polish Deputy Minister of Economy Piotr Naimski, presented a proposal to create a new alliance committing NATO and EU members to act in concert "in the face of any energy threat provoked by either a cut or a diminution of supply sources that may occur because of natural disasters, disruption of wide distribution and supply systems, or political decisions by suppliers." He said that Warsaw would like to see such an alliance oblige the parties to help each other during an energy crisis just as they might in a time of military crisis, on a "all for one, one for all" principle.

IAGS executive director Dr. Gal Luft with Polish Deputy Minister of Economy Piotr Naimski, Janis Fokmanis, Senior advisor to the President of Latvia and Darius Mesca, Minister of Energy, Romania.
Gal Luft noted that non-state actors such as terrorists have become "new players" in the world energy arena and consumers should develop mechanism to deal with supply disruptions that are not necessarily caused by governments. He also assessed that China's growing energy demand is likely to drive Beijing deeper into the Middle East and other oil producing domains. This could create more opportunities for friction between the great powers and hence destabilize the global security picture.

One of the topics of the three-day conference was how to protect key energy facilities from terrorist attacks. Anne Korin said that the oil market loses over one million barrels per day due to politically motivated sabotage which exacts a high terrorist premium for each barrel we consume.
IAGS co-director Anne Korin with Azmi Khreisat, Minister of Energy and Mineral Resources of Jordan, Jiri Havel, Deputy Prime Minister, Czech Republic, Mohammed Boutaleb, Minister of Energy and Mines, Morocco.

The conference also heard that the United States is currently supplying radars to Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan to monitor security in the oil- and gas-rich Caspian Sea. The region, always a concern for security experts, is in the spotlight due to the current tensions over Iran's nuclear program. Iran is one of the five states that border the sea and the exact demarcation of borders in the sea and ownership of its resources remain in dispute. Such tensions have on occasion led to military confrontations.

General Charles Wald, Deputy Commander of U.S. European Command discussed the nature of the threats to energy facilities within EUCOM's territory, particularly in the Gulf of Guinea, conceding that important installations for the supply of energy in Western Europe are also vulnerable to attack.

General Charles Wald
Jordan's Energy Minister Azmi Khreisat said that "We are now facing the third oil crisis in twenty years and new threats to energy security have emerged in recent years [...] The absolute security of energy is critical and shared issue for both importing and exporting countries." Minister Khreisat expressed the readiness of the government of Jordan to actively contribute to the success of the Forum and to facilitate the implementation of its future activities.

Robert McFarlane
Robert McFarlane, former U.S. National Security Advisor, keynote speaker at the Forum's gala dinner, described how countries can diversify their fuel choice in the transportation sector by introducing cars that can run on alcohol fuels and electricity in addition to gasoline. He particularly highlighted the potential for plug-in hybrid vehicles which allow motorists to tap into the grid fro transportation energy. "Plug-in hybrid electric vehicles can reach fuel economy levels of 100 miles per gallon of gasoline consumed. If by 2025, all cars on the road are hybrids and half are plug-in hybrid vehicles, U.S. oil imports would drop by 8 million barrels per day. If all of these cars were also flexible fuel vehicles which can run on ethanol and methanol, U.S. oil imports would drop by as much as 12 million barrels per day."

Czech Foreign Minister Cyril Svoboda: "The issue of energy security is about our survival. Not only our physical survival but also our cultural survival."
"At a time when energy markets are tight, prices are at an all time record and terrorists attack energy facilities on a daily basis, energy security has topped almost every country's agenda," said Gal Luft at the concluding session. "We are glad that NATO has decided to address this critical issue and seek a leading role in bringing together alliance and non-alliance countries to explore ways to enhance collective energy security." He called upon NATO to continue the process, expand its role in it, and strive to involve other consuming and producing nations from outside the alliance.

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