April 10, 2007 / 3:37 PM / 13 years ago

Energy Secretary objects to OPEC-style gas group

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Energy Secretary Sam Bodman on Tuesday reiterated objections to a move by some top natural gas producing nations to form an OPEC-style group, even as the group insisted it was not a threat to consumer nations.

“When you have anti-competitive activity it generally leads to problems for both the consuming nations as well as the supplying nations,” Bodman said.

Bodman’s comments came a day after leading natural gas producers such as Algeria and Russia met in Qatar and took a small step toward setting up an OPEC-style group. Members of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum, formed in 2001, control about 60 percent of world gas exports.

At its first meeting in two years, members decided to establish a group of experts to study how to strengthen the previously toothless organization.

Bodman declined to label the group as anti-competitive because “I don’t know what they are yet,” he said.

“When you see all the suppliers gathering together in one place at the same time, or many of the suppliers, one has to worry about it,” he said.

U.S. officials are concerned such moves could boost prices for consumers, who will rely more heavily on coming years on imports of super-cooled liquefied natural gas, or LNG.

LNG accounts for less than 3 percent of total U.S. natural gas supplies, but that figure could soar to 25 percent in coming years as more terminals to offload special LNG tankers come online.

The lion’s share of current U.S. natural gas supply is produced domestically, or imported from close-to-home producers like Mexico and Canada.

Qatar’s energy minister, host to Monday’s meeting and home to the world’s third largest gas reserves, placed the emphasis on improved dialogue between producers and consumers.

“We should work towards greater cooperation to stabilize the market, to give confidence to our consumers. We should send a very positive statement to our customers that we are with you, not against you,” Abdullah al-Attiyah said.

He took exception to the term cartel, saying he preferred the term club or group. “I hate the word cartel,” he said.

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