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Caspian Sea to Become Major Oil Supplier

Energy experts attending a United Nations meeting in Geneva say that oil and natural gas from the Caspian Sea Region could ease the world's dependence on oil from the volatile Middle East.

According to a U.N. Report, the Middle East supplies about 30 percent of all the oil consumed in the world. By 2020, it says, this figure could be around 40 percent.

Concerned about their growing dependence, oil-consuming nations are looking for energy sources outside the Middle East. The experts at the U.N. meeting in Geneva agreed that the Caspian Sea region could soon be an important alternative to the Middle East.

The U.N. report notes crude oil production from Russia and the other Caspian Sea countries is expected to rise dramatically. Currently, it says Russia accounts for approximately 11 percent of total world production. Other potential big players are Azerbaijan and Kazakhstan, which, together, have proven reserves of about 16 trillion barrels and that figure is likely to rise.

Igor Yusufov is a special envoy on energy matters to Russian President Putin. Speaking in Geneva, he predicted that in five years, the Caspian region will be the third largest exporter of crude oil and will attain second place by 2015.

"Caspian region represents as one of the new, major, long-term source of energy to the world,” he said. “Plus you should take into consideration that Caspian region is very close to main European oil and gas markets and also…to Asia, oil and gas to Europe and then to the United States of America."

But Mr. Yusufov cautions that developing the energy resources of countries along the Caspian Sea will be expensive. He and others have said they will need foreign investors to upgrade existing infrastructure and finance new transportation routes, pipelines and rail facilities.

Another speaker at the Geneva meeting emphasized the urgency of finding new sources of energy. Robert MacFarlane, who was national security adviser to President Ronald Reagan, is currently deputy chairman of the Energy Security Forum. He says the emergence of China and India as huge energy consumers makes it even more critical now to accelerate the development of sources outside the Middle East.