Oil prices, which have risen five-fold since 2003, posted their highest ever one-day gain of $10.75 on Friday to close at a new record of $138.54 in New York after a blunt warning given by an Israeli official to oil producer Iran.
 

Preparatory talks

 

The talks in Aomori, a hub of Japan's nuclear energy industry, are one of a series of meetings leading up to the G8 summit on July 7-9 when climate change is expected to be a top issue.

 

"If we leave this situation as it is, it could lead to a recession of the world economy," Akira Amari, Japan's energy minister, the host of the meeting, said in his opening address.

 

The G8 includes the UK, Canada, Italy, Japan, France, Germany, Russia and the US.

 

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Amari said that the 11 nations meeting in Aomori together consume 65 per cent of world energy while also releasing 65 per cent of the carbon dioxide emissions blamed for global warming.

  

"Climate change and energy issues are two sides of the same coin," Amari said. "It is indispensable to solve these problems together."

 

The 11-nation talks came a day after US and Asia's four largest powers in a separate round of talks voiced "serious concerns" about rising oil prices and called for more investment to keep markets well supplied.

 

Kevin Rudd, the Australian prime minister, added his voice to the chorus of appeals for production increase.

 

Speaking to Australia's Channel 10, he said that the world had a "huge problem" when it came to petroleum prices and only the Organisation of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (Opec) could fix the issue by increasing the supply of oil.

 

'Blow-torch' approach

 

Rudd said Opec needs to open the production lines to a greater extent and increase global oil supply.

 

"The G8 provides the opportunity to apply the blow-torch to the Opec organisation, and it's time that happened," he said.


However, Chandran Nair, from the Global Institute for Tomorrow, told Al Jazeera that increasing oil supply was not a solution.

 

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"Increasing supply is a kneejerk reaction you would expect from politicians. It's politically expedient to say we have to produce more ... it's intellectually lazy," Nair said.

 

"But look at long-term issues facing the world ... it doesn't take a genius to understand we have to reduce the amount of oil we consume."

Likewise, Manouchehr Takin, a senior policy analyst with the Centre for Global Energy Studies, told Al Jazeera that asking Opec to produce more oil output is only a partial answer.


"[Even] if Saudi Arabia announces that it is going to increase production, what will happen if prices go up due to world events, for example, [due to] Israeli threats to destroy Iranian installations?," he said.

"There are many factors here that need to be considered."

Saadallah Fathi, former head of energy research at Opec in Vienna and a former adviser to the Iraqi oil ministry, said: "Oil suppliers are perfectly able to meet the demand.

 

"There is plenty of oil and no demands from countries asking for oil have ever been turned down. Some countries produce more than they can sell.
 
"The hike is due to speculations of investors who are moving a lot of money into the oil future market due to the weakness of the dollar and other stocks.
 
"Some analysts have already forecast the price per barrel will hit $150 by July [and] growing economies are being [badly] hurt."

 

Seoul concession

  

Under domestic pressure in view of the skyrocketing prices, South Korea said on Sunday it would spend 10.5 trillion won ($10.2bn) over a year to help ease the financial burden on about 14 million people from the surge in oil prices.

Han Seung-soo, the prime minister, told a news conference the government planned to refund part of the additional money that low income earners spend on buying fuel.

"The super-high oil prices are affecting not only our country but the whole world. But the difficulty is especially severe with our country that produces not a single drop of oil but is the world's fifth-largest oil consumer," Han said.

South Korea's financial measures to alleviate the pain on oil users come as other Asian countries roll back oil subsidies which are proving too costly for governments to shoulder.

India and Malaysia raised fuel prices last week, joining a growing list of Asian governments no longer able to afford big subsidies and triggering protests.