SANTA CRUZ, Bolivia – Participants in a summit of the Gas Exporting Countries Forum protested on Friday against alleged efforts to manipulate the price of the fuel and said greater unity was needed to combat those pressures.
Only three presidents took part Friday in the Fourth GECF Summit of Heads of State and Government – Bolivian host Evo Morales, Venezuela’s Nicolas Maduro and Equatorial Guinea’s Teodoro Obiang – while more than a score of ministers also were in attendance.
Morales inaugurated the meeting in the eastern Bolivian city of Santa Cruz with an explicit call to reject price distortions, saying they are harmful to his country and other nations that depend on natural gas exports.
“We must be able to work together to combat those who want to appropriate our resources through abusive price manipulation, which is a tool to destabilize our countries and democratically elected governments,” he warned.
Maduro said for his part that dialogue and integration in forums like the one held Friday in Bolivia or meetings of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) were the only way for nations to defend their natural resources.
The leftist leader recalled that OPEC had reached an agreement with other crude-producing nations to control prices after they had fallen over a period of 30 months, adding that that two-year-and-a-half drop also had been due to “manipulation.”
Proposals to regulate natural gas pricing or production have been put forward ever since the GECF began to take shape in 2011, but few significant strides have made to date even though its member countries account for 70 percent of global gas reserves.
The forum also represents 40 percent of global natural gas production and 60 percent of liquefied natural gas (LNG) exports.
At present, gas prices typically rise or fall in tandem with the movement in oil prices.
But experts and energy company executives gathered in Santa Cruz said this week that the price of natural gas was no longer strictly indexed to oil prices and now is fluctuating amid regional rivalries.
In that regard, the price of the fuel is different in South America or North America than in Asia, while there also are variations in the price of products such as LNG and compressed natural gas.
As part of efforts to achieve its objectives through greater integration, the forum’s plenary session on Friday approved the Declaration of Santa Cruz, which proposes that members make strides in promoting “long term natural gas contracts necessary for projects.”
The GECF also resolved to recognize the importance of long-term contracts at three previous summits held in Doha (2011), Moscow (2013) and Tehran (2015).
The Doha-based GECF consists of 12 member countries (Algeria, Bolivia, Egypt, Equatorial Guinea, Iran, Libya, Nigeria, Qatar, Russia, Trinidad and Tobago, Venezuela and the United Arab Emirates) and seven observer countries (Azerbaijan, Iraq, Kazakhstan, the Netherlands, Norway, Oman and Peru).