Wed, Jun 23, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Energy concerns focus of ministerial meeting

AP , QINGDAO, CHINA

Alarmed at soaring oil prices, a conference of 22 Asian foreign ministers were preparing yesterday to issue a call for closer regional cooperation in developing alternative fuels and renewable energy sources.

The statement was to be released at the end of a two-day meeting of the Asia Cooperation Dialogue in the northeastern port city of Qingdao. The group includes Japan, China, South Korea, India and other major economies.

"The increasing demand and high consumption of oil has depleted natural reserves of energy sooner than expected," Thai Prime Minister Thaksin Shinawatra said in a speech to the gathering. "Asia ... must look closely into the strategy of oil usage as well as the research and development of alternative and substitute energy."

The conference statement, drafted last month by China, calls for Asian governments to increase exchanges of technology and cooperate in energy pricing and construction of oil and gas pipelines, according to an advance copy..

Thaksin said oil was expected to remain Asia's primary energy source for at least 20 years. He said the region would be the world's biggest energy consumer by 2020, accounting for 35 percent of global demand.

"That will pose a huge obstacle for many Asian countries still trying to emerge from the poverty line," the Thai leader said.

China and other Asian governments are aggressively promoting gas and other energy projects to fuel booming economies. But many depend on imported energy, much of it from the Middle East, and worry about prices and the stability of supplies.

"Enhanced energy cooperation is necessary to safeguard Asian energy security and promote economic development in all countries," Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao (溫家寶) said yesterday in a speech to the conference.

"We stand ready to conduct energy dialogue and cooperation with other countries in Asia and the world at large."

Wen promised to work toward an "energy-saving society" by promoting research on efficiency. He said China planned to rely on nuclear power and its abundant coal supplies as it tries to reduce dependence on imported energy supplies.

Thaksin also urged Asian countries to combat the sources of terrorism by fighting poverty and increasing trade.

"While there remains poverty, there remains discontent," he said. "Asia's priority therefore is to reduce and eradicate poverty."

The Asia Cooperation Dialogue was founded two years ago at Thaksin's initiative.

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