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2008年6月18日 (水)


2008/6/18 --The Asahi Shimbun, June 17(IHT/Asahi: June 18,2008)

EDITORIAL: Crisis over oil prices


Soaring crude oil prices prompted British Prime Minister Gordon Brown to remark last month that the global economy is now faced with "the third great oil shock of recent decades." Crude futures on the New York market have risen 40 percent since January, and oil prices are nearing $140 per barrel.


Price hikes for oil products triggered riots and street demonstrations in developing nations. Airlines and transportation companies have begun downsizing. In Japan, soaring gasoline prices are squeezing consumers and businesses alike, while fishing industry organizations are considering severe cutbacks in their operations because of high fuel costs.



Purely in terms of supply and demand, crude oil should be valued at around $60 per barrel, according to the Ministry of Economy, Trade and Industry. Governments around the world are incensed at the way speculative money has grossly inflated the value of crude oil.


(incense=ひどく怒らせる、憤らさる、いきり立たせる)  (grossly=大いに、ひどく、相当大きく)

Some U.S. financial giants are projecting that crude prices could soon hit $150 a barrel. Thus, there is good reason to believe that prices will continue to rise.

Volatile hedge funds as well as annuity funds, which traditionally operate with long-term objectives in mind, have recently been investing in the crude oil market.


volatile=移り気の、陽気な、快活な、激しやすい) (annuity=年金)

This is causing concern among oil-producing nations. Saudi Arabia, a key member of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, will host an emergency summit meeting of the leaders of oil-producing and consumer nations on June 22.


But OPEC's ability to increase output is no longer what it was. On the other hand, there is no question that demand will grow exponentially in the world's newly emerging powers such as China and India. This explains the decision by annuity fund operators, who have turned to the crude oil market because they see a long-term demand trend.



The two oil crises in the 1970s and '80s were triggered by production cuts and price hikes by Mideast oil producers. At the time, the world still had ample crude oil supplies. But the present "third great oil shock" could be seen as a warning by the market of future supply shortages.



However, there may be no need to be overly pessimistic about potential energy shortages. If crude prices remain sky-high, oil-sands exploration and large-scale exploitation of deep-sea oil fields, which were previously viewed as unsound investments, will likely start up.


(exploration=探査、探検、踏査) (exploitation=開発、開拓) (unsound=堅固でない、論拠の乏しい、健康でない)

The challenge, though, is that global warming has to be tackled at the same time.


The International Energy Agency recently released a study on how to slash greenhouse gas emissions by half by 2050.


According to the study, the following must be installed around the world every year: 32 nuclear power plants, 17,500 wind turbines, about 200 million square meters of solar panels, and 55 power stations equipped with carbon capture and storage (CCS) devices that are currently being readied for commercial application. And this list is based on the precondition that 1 billion electric vehicles or fuel cell vehicles will have been in operation by 2050. The study estimates the total investment for this at close to 5,000 trillion yen.


carbon capture and storage (CCS) devices=二酸化炭素の回収・貯留装置)

This is the direction in which long-term investments of annuity funds should be encouraged to go. Initiatives to this end must be worked out at the Group of Eight summit at Lake Toyako in July and other forums before high crude oil prices destroy the global economy.


--The Asahi Shimbun, June 17(IHT/Asahi: June 18,2008)

朝日新聞 6月17日号 (英語版 2008年6月18日発行)


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