Although US companies are sanguine about their Year 2000 (Y2K) preparedness, the same can't be said of many oil producers overseas.
US Energy Sec. Bill Richardson recently said the Department of Energy will monitor disruptions to energy supplies worldwide.
He said DOE would staff its existing emergency operations center around the clock between Dec. 28 and early January to collect information on the electricity, oil, and gas industries.
DOE will issue status reports to the public and to a White House Y2K information coordination center run by the President's Council on Year 2000 Conversion.
Lawrence Gershwin, a Central Intelligence Agency science and technology analyst, recently testified on foreign Y2K preparedness before the US Senate special committee on the Year 2000 technology problem.
He predicted, "Russia, Ukraine, China, and Indonesia are among the countries most likely to experience significant Y2K-related failures. Countries in Western Europe are generally better prepared, although we see the chance of some significant failures in countries such as Italy.
"Major economic powers such as Germany and Japan are making great strides in Y2K remediation, but their late start and the magnitude of the effort suggest that even these countries are at risk of some failures.
"Canada, the UK, Australia, Singapore, and Hong Kong are very well-prepared and have a lower chance of experiencing any significant Y2K failures."
Gershwin said, "The US is unlikely to experience a significant disruption in oil deliveries, because our key suppliers appear to be Y2K-ready. Major multinational firms have been in the forefront of remediation and testing efforts, and operators of oil terminals and tankers have been similarly active in correcting Y2K vulnerabilities."
He said that locally severe gas shortages may occur in Russia, Ukraine, and in parts of Central and Eastern Europe due to reduced Gazprom pipeline efficiency resulting from Y2K problems.
But he said several European nations are preparing to increase their gas storage in anticipation of possible disruptions.
Gershwin said Russia is likely to experience localized electric power blackouts lasting possibly up to a week and regional brownouts of much shorter duration.
He said, "Y2K has a unique capacity to produce multiple, simultaneous crises. Its probable impact, however, is difficult to assess. We have an uneven understanding about global and national infrastructures, and the reactions of decision-makers and the general public in a Y2K-stressed environment are also uncertain."