November 16, 2011 / 10:55 PM / in 9 years

U.S. State Dept energy office to push natural gas

* Natgas can help Saudi Arabia burn less crude for power
    * Gas can also help China burn less coal
    By Timothy Gardner
    WASHINGTON, Nov 16 (Reuters) - Encouraging the world's
major energy consumers to take advantage of a global boom in
natural gas can help ease growth in oil dependency and
climate-changing emissions, the head of a new U.S. State
Department office on energy said on Wednesday.
    "That is an issue we are addressing very seriously," Carlos
Pascual, who designed and established the State Department's
new Bureau of Energy Resources, told reporters.
    As Russia, Australia and Indonesia embark on programs to
put extensive quantities of natural gas into international
markets, the United States can work with oil producers to get
them to burn more gas and less crude.
    Pascual, a former ambassador to Mexico and Ukraine who
assumed his current role in May, said new gas generation allows
Saudi Arabia and Kuwait "to look at other opportunities for
power generation".
    Saudi Arabia, which sits on the world's largest oil and
natural gas reserves, has been forced to burn increasing
amounts of crude to generate power for its rising domestic
electricity demand.
    "These are choices that they would have to make, but (it)
could present them with options," said Pascual, the State
Department's special envoy and coordinator for international
energy affairs.
    As spare production capacity in the nearly
90-million-barrels-per-day global oil market dwindles to 2 to 5
million bpd, and U.S. oil prices trade above $100 a barrel,
introducing alternative fuels has taken on new value.
    The natural gas boom, which also includes output from the
United States, could help China to curb rising greenhouse gas
emissions by encouraging it to slow the burning of coal.
    The new State Department bureau, which has more than 50
personnel, will coordinate with the Department of Energy and
other agencies on technological and diplomatic efforts to work
on three major goals.
    Those include managing the geopolitics of energy through
diplomacy with producers and consumers, stimulating market
forces for wind, solar and other alternatives, and increasing
energy access for the world's poor.
    Pascual said the bureau is working directly with the
world's biggest producers and consumers and the Paris-based
International Energy Agency to improve world energy supply
    The more the world understands how much oil and gas is
being used and produced, the easier it will be to avoid panic
buying and price spikes that damage the global economy, the
idea goes.
    The new bureau is engaged with the IEA on data it
coordinates with its members and with other countries that are
not full members, including China, India, Mexico and Chile.
    The bureau will also be engaged in International Energy
Forum talks next week in which producers in the Middle East and
other countries hope to increase energy data transparency.
    Pascual's office will work with Energy Department officials
to maintain close ties with energy producers.
    "The challenge that we face now is to sustain the dialogue
with major producers Russia and Saudi Arabia on what their
production plans are," Pascual said.
    The new bureau will closely follow developments in
countries that have the potential quickly to produce more, such
as Libya and Iraq.
    The bureau has already started working with Nigeria, and
Brazil could produce more oil in the near future. "Working with
those countries to understand the commercial context in which
international energy companies can participate is particularly
important," Pascual said.
 (Editing by Dale Hudson)
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