Vol.10, No: 105, | Tuesday, May 31, 2011
The 86-nation International Energy Forum (IEF), established 20 years ago in Riyadh to foster producer-consumer dialogue, is set this week to choose a new secretary-general.
As the clock winds down to the vote in Vienna on Wednesday, a week before the Opec ministerial meeting, political maneuvering and horse-trading are intensifying behind the scenes, similar in many ways to the battle to replace Dominique Strauss-Kahn as head of the IMF.
Four candidates short-listed by the IEF executive board at a meeting in Amsterdam on May 18 are in the frame-from Turkey, France, Iran and Mexico – to replace the Norwegian incumbent, Noe van Hulst, for a contract of four years plus options for a two-year extension.
The IEF executive board, which draws its members from oil producer group Opec and the consumers’ International Energy Agency, along with heavy-hitters Russia, China, India, Brazil and South Africa, is looking for a new secretary general to lead the organization in tackling issues such as increased volatility in financial and commodity markets, energy efficiency, and the need for improved transparency in oil and gas data.
One of the front-runners is Mehmet Ogutcu, from Turkey, who now works as a director at a UM oil and gas major, and offers wide-ranging experience from the worlds of business, diplomacy and academia. Countries from both sides of the IEF spectrum, ranging from producers like Iraq, Russia and Venezuela to consumers such as Japan, China and South Korea, are said to have thrown their weight behind him.
Also in with a chance is the Mexican candidate, Aldo Flotes. He may be able to count on support from the US, as a neighbor and consumer of Mexico’s crude oil. Flores is also a member of the IEF executive board, so has had plenty of opportunity for internal lobbying.
The board members will, however, be mainly voting according to their government’s wishes, and it may be that. Mexico’s changes will be dimmed because another Mexican, Angel Gurria, has just had his term as OECD secretary -general extended for five years.
Likewise, with French Finance Minister Chiristine Lagarde the favorite for the IMF vacancy, the chances for French candidate Said Nachet could be limited, although his Algerian background may hold a certain appeal in some quarters.
Little is known about the Iranian candidate, although he is certain to be blocked by the US and Saudi Arabia, and possibly others.
This could be Turkey’s time to make its debut on the world state, some analysts believe , Turkey’s vibrant economy is a major consumer of energy, and the country is carving out a key role as a leading transit nation for oil and gas from the Middle East and the Caspian region. Although not a major producer in its own right. Turkey has around (See Forum, page 2)