Tuesday, 4 January 2011

Schlumdog billionaire

Energy efficiency is a buzzword not restricted to the United States or the European Union, as it might be commonly misunderstood. While Indian initiatives for environment, in the past, have been restricted to banning poor Korean steel making companies on the basis of their environmental track record, it has now decided to make itself energy efficient.

And not surprisingly, this unprecedented declaration has been implemented, albeit somewhat counter intuitively by raising the number of energy projects in India to tipping capacity. For, indeed the cautionary tales of energy shortage have been taken somewhat didactically by most of India's energy producers. The erstwhile Dabhol power plant, which has cost more to reconstruct and maintain than maybe building a new plant, heralds a new age in energy efficiency after being restarted under new ownership.Unfortunately it has to now import gas at $7 per thermal unit more than it sells power at, thanks to the high maintenance costs that vitiate with idling machinery.

And everyone is keen to jump on the bandwagon. Reliance Industries, with their umpteen energy resources, Suzlon, Essar, Jindal, some of the biggest powerhouse conglomerates of the country are putting their weight behind power production glut.

But perhaps, the least known story behind the energy boom is that of a rather touching cross border friendship. That of India and Pakistan. After 26/11, and Headley inter alia, relations between the nuclear neighbours have been a bit strained. And where Richard Holbrooke may fail, oil and natural gas is bound to succeed. The massive oil pipeline, running from Turkmenistan to India, via Pakistan, is now expected to bring in enough energy resources to India to fire up its gas plants, and whet its appetite for energy, while maybe mellowing tensions between the two countries.

However, this moral turpitude is not merely restricted to diplomacy. Energy producing corporations, which have publicly denounced Chinese machinery in the past, are now looking eastwards for their turbine solutions. And the Tatas, which had the largest private sector share of the power production pie, are being continually challenged for their crown, as their rate of growth, far from being a boom, barely even reaches the level of backfire now. And while the RBI might have rescinded the method of payment used by India to import oil from Iran, it is still not enough to quell the demand for oil from OPEC nations.

Against the backdrop of international intrigue, one company Schlumberger continues to placidly recruit Indian engineers for its work. The work being primarily to set up mines and wells in order to extract natural resources. And most college students would only know it for the obscenely large pay package it pays to its new recruits. Which is not surprising since it has in its accounts profits ranging to a few billion dollars.

While all this pans out on the grand global stage , we have one more thing to look forward to in the new year and new decade, energy efficiency.

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