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. Last Updated: 07/27/2016

Moscow Politics Stifle Oil Trade, Official Says

WASHINGTON -- Reviving the oil industry in Russia and Kazakhstan would be the best contribution to world energy supplies, but conflicts between Moscow and local governments are delaying the investment needed, the head of the International Energy Agency said.

Some companies, notably Chevron, are already putting money into development in the Russian Federation, said Helga Steeg, a German who is retiring this year after 10 years as the IEA's executive director.

But other companies are showing no confidence in investing, she said.

The IEA was created to defend the interest of countries that buy petroleum after the big price increases of the 1970s.

Increased production in the former Soviet Union would give the United States, Japan and other major oil importers an alternative to the Middle East as a source of supply.

The U.S. government's Export-Import Bank has made $2 billion worth of loans available for equipment and expertise.

Steeg said the former Soviet Union used to be the world's biggest producer of oil and natural gas, but said production has declined from over 12 million tons (84 million barrels) a year to 6.8 million tons (47.6 million barrels). There was no sign when the decline would end, she added.

She said much depends on when Russian politicians stop fighting one another on other matters.

"You'll have to ask Mr. Zhirinovsky and others," she suggested.