Energy ministers discuss oil, gas future in Mexico

The world's largest energy forum opened in Mexico Tuesday, calling for solidarity between oil producing nations and consumers in tackling key sector issues such as price volatility.

The biennial International Energy Forum (IEF) kicked off two days of talks due to conclude with the publication of a ministerial declaration on Wednesday and set to urge joint action in tackling risks to oil price spikes and tumbles.

Opening the 12th IEF forum in the resort of Cancun, Mexico's Energy Secretary Georgina Kessel called for "a fruitful dialogue between consumers and producers of energy."

IEF Secretary General Noe van Hulst and Mexican President Felipe Calderon also joined Kessel in highlighting the growing "interdependency" between the two sides.

US Deputy Secretary of Energy Daniel Poneman meanwhile said on the sidelines of the forum that traditional fossil fuels oil and gas still had a vital role to play in meeting consumers' energy needs.

"Energy is critical to the global economy and oil and gas which have long played such a vital part of the global economy will continue to do so for the foreseeable future," Poneman told reporters.

"That's why the United States will continue to seek to assure safe and reliable access to those resources."

But he acknowledged a need for the United States -- the world's biggest energy consumer -- to increase its use of renewables such as biofuels.

"Even if we continue to develop and secure oil and gas resources we recognize that for the sake of our future security and prosperity we must diversify our energy mix," he said.

In the second half of 2008, supply concerns resulted in crude oil prices surging to record highs of above 147 dollars a barrel before the severe global economic downturn saw them crashing to just 32 dollars.

Oil producing nations and consumers say that speculators played a large role in creating the volatility.

"The last (IEF) meeting was two years ago when oil prices were above 100 dollars a barrel on their way up to 147 dollars and recriminations between producers and consumers were flying around. Now all is sweetness and light," David Hufton, energy analyst at London-based PVM Oil Associates said Tuesday.

"Everyone now has a common enemy -- speculators."

Prices have steadily recovered over the past 15 months, occasionally spiking a little, such as on Monday when they rallied above 82 dollars as the US currency fell and major oil and gas producer Russia saw deadly suicide attacks on the Moscow metro.

The 12th IEF aims to build on the last forum in Rome in 2008 and two ad hoc meetings in Jeddah and London later that year when oil prices endured their roller-coaster ride.

The IEF is being attended by OPEC, whose member nations, including Saudi Arabia, together pump about 40 percent of the world's crude.

Also present is the International Energy Agency, which represents consumers as the energy-monitoring arm of the OECD grouping of the world's 30 leading industrialized nations.

Running alongside the IEF in Cancun is the 4th International Energy Business Forum (IEBF), to be attended by 36 companies, including bosses of oil majors China National Petroleum Corp (CNPC), ExxonMobil and Royal Dutch Shell.

A total 64 countries were expected to send ministers to attend the meeting.

Source: AFP

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