Go East, Young Oilman

How Asia Is Shaping the Future of 
Global Energy

Coal country: rescuers at a mine in Heilongjiang Province, China, November 2009. ALY SONG / REUTERS

Most observers agree that the United States, propelled by its boom in oil and gas production, is becoming increasingly central to global energy. As oil prices have plummeted, American oil producers have taken credit. As U.S. imports have fallen, foreign policy thinkers have suggested that Washington could rely far less on the Middle East. As U.S. firms have prepared to export liquefied natural gas (LNG), market watchers have braced for a transformation of global natural gas markets and, as a result, geopolitics. And as U.S. energy companies have begun to capitalize on shale gas and renewable energy to tame their reliance on coal, scientists have hoped that Washington might finally take the lead in combating climate change. But when future historians reflect on the ongoing transformation of the global energy landscape, they won’t focus narrowly on the United States: Asia will feature at least as prominently, and interactions between the two sides of the Pacific will prove most important of all.

Ships anchored near a refinery on Singapore's Bukom Island, on the Strait of Malacca, July 2014. About a quarter of the world's seaborne oil trade passes through the Strait of Malacca, a choke point on the route between the Middle East and East Asia.  Tim Wimborne / REUTERS

In the first decade of this century, Asia’s centrality—and China’s in particular—was obvious. China’s growing appetite for oil helped drive crude prices above $100 a barrel, for the first time ever, in February 2008. Surging coal consumption in China fueled record rises in greenhouse gas emissions. And Chinese investments in overseas energy infrastructure sparked fears that mercantilism would undermine markets and trigger resource wars. Meanwhile, the economies of India, South Korea, and Southeast Asia continued to churn through fossil fuels. Asia, it seemed, would determine the future of energy.

Then, stunning gains in U.S. oil and gas diverted the world’s attention. The new emphasis was in one sense justified; today, the United States is indeed

Loading, please wait...

Most Read Articles

Related Articles

This site uses cookies to improve your user experience. Click here to learn more.