IEA members seek energy security, sustainability

Ministers of the IEA's member countries gathered in Paris May 14-15 to identify methods of achieving energy security and sustainability.

May 16th, 2007

Doris Leblond
OGJ Correspondent

PARIS, May 16 -- Ministers of the International Energy Agency's member countries, having confronted growing energy challenges since their last meeting in 2005, gathered in Paris May 14-15 to identify methods of achieving energy security and sustainability, which are "absolutely paramount," said IEA Executive Director Claude Mandil.

At a press conference that concluded the meeting, Mandil said, "Both must be taken care of simultaneously."

Members also called upon the organization to deepen its global reach. "Actions within our own borders will never be enough to achieve a truly sustainable energy future," said the ministers, who welcomed IEA's reinforced work with major non-IEA energy consumers and producers as "essential partners in achieving a secure and sustainable energy future and combating energy poverty."

The ministers want IEA to promote across the globe what it advocates for its own members—the development of efficiency goals and action plans that identify sustainable, least-costly policies for combating energy-related climate change.

That will require development and deployment of new technologies, among them carbon sequestration capture and storage to promote clean coal and the encouragement of research and development to reduce the costs of advanced biofuels, solar power, hydrogen fuel cells, and electric vehicles. Energy technology collaboration with major emerging economies must be enhanced, they said, both bilaterally and through IEA's technology network.

However, several leaders denounced the environmentally unfriendly way some biofuels were being produced in a number of countries. Each particular way of producing ethanol must be assessed to determine if it is good for the environment, they said. Brazil's method using sugar cane was considered the most environmentally friendly because less fuel is used. An IEA delegation will head to Brazil shortly to study its technology.

IEA is anticipating that second-generation biofuels will be ready in a few years, not decades, said Mandil.

Russia and OECD
Concerning relations with Russia—a possible candidate for the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development's membership enlargement policy—IEA indicated that its rules were not the same as those of its OECD parent organization, and membership in one did not mean membership in the other.

Nonetheless, Mandil said the main driver of relations between IEA and Russia was one of mutual benefit. Such bilateral relations have been in effect over the past 15 years and were renewed a fortnight ago with a fresh memorandum of understanding signed, meaning that "our relations are existing and alive," he said.

This does not mean, added Mandil, that they were totally without dissent. "But on a number of topics we listen to each other."

Gas cartel?
Concerning the recurring topic of the formation of a gas cartel much like OPEC's being formed, Norway's Minister Odd Roger Enoksen, who chaired the Ministerial meeting, and Australia's Deputy Secretary Resources, Energy, and Industry, John Ryan, pointed out that they were major gas exporters—Australia by next year would be the third ranking LNG exporter worldwide—and did not see a gas OPEC emerging. "But open dialogue would be welcomed as for oil markets," they agreed.

In any case, unlike oil, gas can more easily be replaced by other fuels, pointed out Mandil, so a gas OPEC would not be a threat for the world energy market. He also revealed that at the close of the recent Doha meeting of gas exporters, there resulted a working group on transparency of the market, chaired by the Russians. Mandil asked if IEA could be part of that group, and he received a positive answer.

IEA expressed concern about a shortfall of oil and gas investment as outlined in the organization's recent publication "2007 Natural Gas Market Review."

"In the medium term," said Mandil, "we see increased capacity from investment projects, starting now. But this does not give us room for complacency."

The Ministers' final press release cautioned: "Markets need more transparent, stable, and predictable regulatory frameworks to boost investment as well as better data for timely investment. All countries must accept the responsibility for creating such conditions."

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