Van der Hoeven

Maria van der Hoeven, a former economics minister in the Netherlands, took over as Executive Director of the International Energy Agency in September. She is taking over amid concerns that the I.E.A. is losing relevancy because emerging energy giants like China are not members, and following a rare public split in June within the OPEC about whether to raise production levels in response to unrest in Libya.

Where in the world do you see the greatest risks for energy companies and for national energy strategies?

The Middle East and North Africa regions are already responsible for around 35 percent of the world’s oil output and, more importantly, they are expected to meet the vast bulk of predicted future growth. The recent turmoil has added to uncertainty about the pace of investment in the regions’ upstream industry - how quickly will production capacity expand and, given rising domestic energy needs, how much of the expected increase in supply will be available for export ? Our 2011 World Energy Outlook, to be presented on November 9th, will look at the implications of any possible shortfall in upstream investment in the Middle East and North Africa countries. Meanwhile the events at Fukushima this year raised serious questions about the longer-term prospects for nuclear power in Japan and elsewhere. We will also use our 2011 Outlook to examine the implications of  any reduction in nuclear investment. Such a reduction would certainly make it more difficult for the world to meet the goal of stabilizing the rise in temperature at 2 degrees Centigrade. 

What does the new energy map look like from your office in Paris?

I think that different countries and different regions will continue, quite justifiably, to vary in their energy balances due to differences in endowments, geography, economic patterns, and political and social values. Even in oil and gas, that geography is varied and regional. While U.S. shale gas may dominate the gas story in North America, lack of American export capacity means that it will not dominate the market in Europe, where piped conventional gas will continue to play a major role. Another example is the international oil market. It is too large to be dominated by one source. Increased Iraqi production, for example, will have to make up for declining mature fields in the industrialized world. But it will compete with other new conventional and unconventional production elsewhere.

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By James Kanter