Understanding today's energy challenges a little better

OPEC Bulletin Commentary June-July 2012

The 5th OPEC International Seminar reminded us once again how vast, complex and diverse are the issues facing the oil industry today.

One only has to look at the topics discussed in Vienna's Hofburg Palace on June 13-14 to see this: the global energy scene, petroleum upstream and downstream, the oil market, the world economy, financial institutions, transportation, capacity expansion, investment, national and international oil companies, technology, the environment, sustainable development, energy poverty and so on, and the array of speakers, including the Federal President, Republic of Austria, Dr Heinz Fischer, who gave a presidential address, to appreciate the diversity of the participants.

The speakers' backgrounds reflected this diversity, as they sought to simplify the complexities for the 700-strong audience. Coming from more than 25 different countries, they represented governments, intergovernmental organizations, industry, commerce and academia at the highest levels.

This is what it involves these days to get oil to the consumer!

Nothing can be viewed in isolation in today's high-tech, globalized world.

Oil supply is now part of a vast global economic matrix that must accommodate, at the same time, challenges of a political, social and humanitarian nature. And this is not to forget the time-dimension, and the delicate task of balancing today's needs with those of tomorrow and, indeed, decades into the future.

Interdependence is the watchword here, and dialogue and cooperation are its companions. Thankfully, much progress has been made with dialogue and cooperation over the past two decades, with clear benefits for the industry and the world economy at large. OPEC has actively encouraged this, whether it has been through multilateral institutions like the International Energy Forum, bilateral processes, such as our Energy Dialogue with the European Union, or other more singular arrangements.

Seminars, workshops and similar gatherings also provide important opportunities for dialogue, and the 5th OPEC International Seminar in Vienna was no exception.

As President Fischer noted in his opening message: "The convening of important meetings of top international decision-makers and experts in our city, in discussing the energy-related challenges in today's world, are highly beneficial to Vienna's role as a centre of dialogue ... I very much value the efforts the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) makes to extend dialogue and cooperation on energy issues."

The Seminar presented a prime platform - and a gratefully exploited one - for informative, insightful exchanges among the gathered decision-makers and experts on the many pressing topical issues set before them. Moreover, the tacit recognition of the way these diverse issues interlinked with each other in the broader global context lent a vital backdrop to the proceedings.

The result was a perceptible enhancement of understanding about the state of the oil industry and, in particular, the market today, as well as the challenges that will face all of us in the future. Details of the proceedings can be found in the exclusive feature on the Seminar in this issue of the OPEC Bulletin  (see p16).

On top of this, the delegates were able to intermingle during the breaks, establishing and reinforcing contacts among themselves, which again bodes well for the future of the industry.

This leads to one other key point from the event.

The 5th OPEC International Seminar did not end when the formal proceedings finished early on Thursday afternoon, June 14, 2012. In a sense, it was only just beginning. As was noted in the closing remarks, it was now up to all those present in the conference hall to think carefully about what they had heard over the previous day-and-a-half, as they returned to their places of work. If this, with the passage of time, helped the industry perform a little better than it would otherwise have done, then the Seminar could be adjudged a big success.

OPEC Bulletin June-July 2012

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