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Analysts: NatGas 'OPEC' No Threat To U.S. -- Yet

Thursday, 5 Apr 2007 | 12:42 PM ET

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum -- which includes names like Iran and Venezuela -- meets in Qatar Monday to discuss the formation of an OPEC-like cartel. Would such a combination pose a clear and present danger to America's interests? Two energy analysts told "Morning Call" viewers not to worry. Not yet, anyway.

Nat Gas Cartel
Discussing what the formation of a natural gas cartel would mean to American consumers, with Rakesh Shankar, Moody's Economy.com energy analyst; Ben Smith, First Enercast Financial president and CNBC's Liz Claman

Gabriel Wayne, global gas group manager at PFC Energy, sees no threat at all from a cartel. He gave CNBC's Liz Claman three reasons:
-Natural gas is "regionally fragmented" -- not geo-centralized like oil;
-The U.S. gets "higher than 95% of our gas from North America"; and
-The "price sensitivity is much different" from oil.
Wayne said there are many acceptable substitutes for natural gas if the price rises too much.

Ben Smith, president of First Enercast Financial, agrees that the proposed gas combine doesn't menace the U.S. -- at least, not in the short-tern. But he warns of a "profound impact" to Europe as the market matures, and says the effects will ripple across the Atlantic.

Smith pointed out that Russia and Iran -- which have often enjoyed a trade relationship -- together would account for one half of the world's natural gas reserves. He fears that the cartel will amass political power, a la OPEC, and be in a position to strongarm America's allies in Europe.

The Gas Exporting Countries Forum includes Algeria, Iran, Qatar, Russia and Venezuela; as well as smaller players such as Australia, Brunei, Egypt and Libya.