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Oil Substitutes Seeked
The global oil market's outlook remains uncertain amid the possibility of U.S. retaliation for terrorist attacks, though current world production levels are high enough to guarantee a stable supply, a senior Chinese industry official said yesterday.

"What will happen after the U.S. retaliatory actions and what the impact will be on both the world and China are unpredictable," said Wang Tao, senior vice president of the World Petroleum Congress.

Wang made his remarks on the last day of a three-day Asian regional meeting of the World Petroleum Congress, attended by 560 government officials and executives of petroleum companies worldwide.

"Both oil producers and consumers want a stable price of crude, which is still the foundation of the modern economy," he said.

At present, China, one of the world's oil-hungriest nations, imports more than half of its oil demand. Its crude imports will likely grow, following rising domestic consumption. "China would survive a fluctuation in the global market if its imports accounted for only 25 percent of its demand," Wang said.

World crude consumption is forecast to equal global supply by 2020, and an oil shortage may follow, industry experts said.

As a result, finding substitute energy resources, such as natural gas, has become a global trend, the experts said.

For China's energy consumption, natural gas is expected to exceed crude by 2020, Wang said. "The nation has accelerated its gas explorations to 'peak' levels," he noted. "In China, the exploitation of natural gas is 20 years behind that of crude oil, due to higher costs of laying pipelines."

The retired president of China National Petroleum Corp. expressed his enthusiasm in pushing forward the exploitation and use of cleaner fuel.

At present, natural gas makes up only 2 percent of domestic fuel consumption, with crude accounting for more than 19 percent and coal occupying most of the remainder.

The central government has started a 4,200-kilometer pipeline project to carry natural gas from China's remote, western Xinjiang Uygur Autonomous Region to Shanghai on the eastern coast.

It also is seeking foreign resources, such as natural gas and oil from Russia. Wang said the regional meeting has ensured further cooperation between China and other countries.

(eastday.com 09/21/2001)

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