Politics, Markets, and the Shift to Gas: Insights from Seven Historical Case Studies

Working Papers

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Program on Energy and Sustainable Development Working Paper #35

February 2005

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Most energy forecasts envision a shift to gas in the world energy system over the coming decades. To realize that vision will require tapping increasingly remote gas resources and shipping them to distant gas markets in other countries. Few analysts have explored the robustness of such projections in the real world where political and institutional factors exert strong influences on whether governments and private investors will be able to muster the capital for long-distance pipelines and other infrastructure projects that are essential to a gas vision. Although gas has strong economic, technological and environmental advantages over alternative energy sources, will the difficulty of securing contracts where legal institutions are weak-an attribute of nearly all the nations that are richest in gas resources-impede the outlook for global gas? Which gas resources and transportation infrastructures are likely to be developed? As gas infrastructures interconnect the world, what political consequences may follow? To help answer these questions, this study on the geopolitics of gas combines two tracks of research-one that employs seven historical case studies and another that rests on a quantitative model for projecting alternative futures for gas to 2030.

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