IEF13 & IEBF5 Official Publication
The Global Energy Dialogue
The number of top ministerial and official contributors to this publication is a tribute to the value governments and international organisations place on the importance of the IEF as a forum to discuss today's key energy issues – supply and demand trends, security of supply and demand, energy markets and oil price stability, and investments for the future.
As Aldo Flores-Quiroga of the IEF says, the IEF is a neutral facilitator of dialogue between energy consumers and producers, whose relationship has sometimes been tense in past decades. This value of the IEF as an impartial forum for discussion of sensitive issues is emphasised by many ministers. Among them, Ali Al-Naimi of Saudi Arabia stresses the broad balance between the IEF's energy consuming and producing country members means that its dialogue is designed to serve all and be dominated by none. This usefulness of the IEF as an arena for discussion, especially at a time of increasing tightness in the world oil market, gets a strong echo from Daniel Poneman of the US.
Running through this publication and indeed all IEF discussions are the two overarching themes, as singled out by Ben Knapen of the Netherlands and Charles Hendry of the UK, of price volatility on energy markets, and investment trends to meet future supply and balance challenges. Consumers and producers will inevitably differ over prices, but diversity is the essence of the IEF dialogue. Natig Aliyev of Azerbaijan, a new IEF country member, adds to this diversity by warning, as a strongly emerging energy producer, that "unreasonably high prices" could hurt producer interests by depressing demand. But Phil Heatley of New Zealand is strongly critical of subsidised prices for fossil fuels as leading to waste and inefficiency.
Both producers and consumers deplore price volatility as disruptive of investment plans and undermining of energy efficiency. However, the IEF and its two main sister organisations – OPEC and the IEA – clearly maintain their basic faith in market forces to set prices, provided these market forces can work in greater transparency. Said Nachet of IEF lays out the IEF's extensive work programme. This includes the JODI oil data transparency initiative, which is praised by Maria van der Hoeven of the IEA, and research into financial speculation on oil markets, which is welcomed by Abdalla El-Badri of OPEC.
Investment issues loom large for energy producers of both oil and gas. Hani Hussein of Kuwait, host country for IEF13, stresses producers' concerns about security of demand for their energy, a concern echoed by Youcef Yousfi of Algeria, the major gas exporter. IEF producers have a range of attitudes to foreign investment in their energy sectors, but Martin Ferguson of Australia puts 'the welcome mat' out for foreign investment in his own country's energy production. Eelco Hoekstra of Vopak reminds of the importance of investment right along the energy supply chain, including storage and transport of oil and gas which are traded ever more widely across the world. A final perspective comes from two 'historians' of the IEF, Bassam Fattouh and Coby van der Linde. They chart the organisation's growing achievements over 20 years, but note that the forum remains one more of dialogue than of decision for the IEF's sovereign governments.