Multilateral Engagement for Energy Security

Our global need for energy reliability binds us together as surely as the global network that delivers it; a failure in one part of our network will inevitably affect everyone. Local interests and persistent conflicts that sit astride our networks, including the as yet unresolved issue of Russian gas supply to Ukraine and Europe, have again raised the specter of energy being used as a weapon to gain political leverage. Energy security is at the top of the agenda of the G-8 meeting hosted by President Vladimir Putin in Saint Petersburg. The G-8 has correctly identified the key economic issue, energy interdependence, and now is the time for focused multilateral engagement on this issue.

For some countries that are blessed with vast supplies of oil and gas, the use of energy exports to reward friends and punish foes seems a tempting option. Today, however, it is more likely to prove disruptive to friend and foe alike, as well as damaging to those countries that indulge this temptation. Energy embargoes have generally proven counterproductive. The price rises that followed OPEC’s oil embargoes of the 1970’s were unsustainable and led to conservation efforts and expansion of non-OPEC production. As a result, OPEC’s share of world oil exports dropped sharply in the twelve years following the embargo of 1973-1974.