Africa may provide 15 %-20 % of US oil imports

Nov 19, 2002 01:00 AM

The expansion of oil imports will key a greater economic relationship between African countries and the US, and could help America reduce its reliance on oil from the Middle East, US officials said at a conference on West African oil and gas investment. "Somewhere between 15 % and 20 % of our oil imports are going to be coming from Africa in three or four years," said Walter Kansteiner, assistant secretary of Africa for the US State Department.
John Brodman, acting deputy assistant secretary for international energy policy at the Department of Energy, echoed the importance of African oil, as part of a trio of new energy sources for the US. "Oil supplies from West Africa, the Caspian Sea and, now, Russia, we're counting on to keep (OPEC's share of US imports) level," Brodman said.

Brodman and Kansteiner were on panels of speakers at the Corporate Council on Africa's "West Africa oil and gas forum," a conference set up to encourage US- based companies to invest in Nigeria, Cameroon, Angola andother African regions. Energy, most panellists conceded, would serve as the backbone for foreign investment into these countries. The panellists also admitted that many of the countries have to overcome civil wars, corrupt governments and the spread of the AIDS virus.
"Corruption is an insidious virus that gets into a government system," Kansteiner said. "If you could make a judicial system that is independent and free of corruption, you've gone a long way."

Kansteiner and Brodman, among others at the conference, were careful to note that market forces and geophysics will drive the expansion of investment in Africa.
Brodman said the US is seeking "security through diversity" in order to minimize the impact of any oil supply disruptions like those that caused havoc in the early 1970s. But the US can't completely diversify away any disruption, he added. "A disruption of supply anywhere will eventually impact markets everywhere," Brodman said.

The Bush administration and Energy Secretary Spencer Abraham have continually prodded Congress to allow drilling in currently protected parts of Alaska and to pass other measures to reduce the country's reliance on foreign oil. Brodman focused less on reducing reliance on foreign energy sources, but more on which source is used. Cutting US reliance on Middle East sources can help the domestic oil markets avoid fallout from unrest and anti-American sentiment in the region, he said.
Switching to other sources wouldn't be a permanent solution, he added, but could give enough time to allow things to cool down in the Middle East. "By the time we get back to depending on the Persian Gulf, maybe it'll be a much more stable region," Brodman said.

Source: Dow Jones
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