Mr. Gustav Boëthius presented his research findings at MEI on Friday, January 6 in a presentation entitled “A Quiet Realignment: The Impact of the 2011 Popular Unrest in the Gulf on Southeast Asia’s Energy Arrangements.”
Boëthius noted that Asia is the most reliable long-term market for Middle East energy (particularly that of the Gulf), and would thus cause enormous consequences if it shifts to importing from other sources. Southeast Asia, he continued, serves as a microcosm of the Asian situation more generally.
Oil demand is increasing in Southeast Asia, though the region also has the potential to use others forms of energy such as solar power and wind power. Obstacles to energy cooperation in the area include sovereignty issues and territorial disputes; as such, Boëthius defined the situation in the region as “a diffuse cloud of energy arrangements.”
He described the “Arab Spring” as a crisis driving change in energy in Southeast Asia. Though direct impact from the uprisings has been very limited in the sense that, for instance, an increase in Saudi production has guaranteed a steady supply of oil, the psychological impact of the events has been significant.
As a result, Boëthius said, we are seeing Southeast Asia move toward a more regionally integrated energy system—one in which it would rely more on its neighbors for energy consumption. He cited Singapore’s announcement that it will import electricity from Malaysia and the cooperative relationship between Indonesia and Thailand on renewable energy as two examples of this trend. At the same time, he noted that Qatari gas and other Gulf energy projects are still expanding in Southeast Asia.
Of course, changes in regional energy cooperation will take years. But, according to Boëthius, regional integration has begun and will increase with time. In conclusion, he noted that his project emphasizes the “need to challenge the assumption that the demand for Middle East energy is something that can be taken for granted.”