Two different stories from separate parts of the world, but one underlying trend that signals just how bad the energy crunch has become. It may be the price of oil that is grabbing the headlines but you should also keep an eye on what is happening to gas.
The Emirates may have been built on oil and in a role reversal that makes selling sand to Saudi Arabia look like a sensible business transaction, the oil-rich Gulf states are planning to import coal.
An acute shortage of natural gas has led to the city states of the United Arab Emirates seeking alternative fuels to keep the air cool, the lights on and the water running.
Abu Dhabi is working with Suez, the French utility company, on a nuclear power project but coal is emerging as the best quick fix to avert blackouts as the world’s biggest hydrocarbon exporters struggle to cope with high prices for oil and natural gas, infrastructure weakness and a development boom. Some of the world’s biggest oil exporters may soon find themselves reliant on imported fuel from a leading coal exporter, such as South Africa.
Meanwhile, Gazprom the Russian state-controlled gas monopoly and the main supplier to the EU, has been advised that it should concentrate on supplying its own domestic market to avoid shortages at home.
Anatoly Chubais, architect of Russia’s 1990s privatisation programme and now the head of its former electricity monopoly, said: “I think that, in strategic terms, our priorities should not be Europe or China.
“We have this western stream, northern stream, south stream,” he added, referring to pipeline projects such as Nord Stream and South Stream to export Russian gas to western Europe. “What I believe we need is a Russian stream. The Russian domestic demand is growing a lot. I think that Russia needs to restructure its strategy in this sector.”