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Executive: Speculation driving oil prices

Feb. 21, 2012 at 6:15 AM

LONDON, Feb. 21 (UPI) -- Fretting over the saber rattling with Iran, rather than an actual issue in the oil market, is what is driving energy prices up, an executive from Total said.

The European Union said last month it would place an embargo on Iranian crude oil starting July 1, prompting Iranian lawmakers to consider legislation to pre-empt the Europeans. Prior to that, Iran threatened to close key oil-shipping lanes in the Strait of Hormuz in retaliation to increased sanctions pressure.

Christophe de Margerie, the top executive at French supermajor Total, was quoted by the Platts news service as saying speculators were driving oil prices up.

"All the noise on whether (the ban) will affect the price is what is affecting the price," he said.

Tehran this week said it was halting crude oil deliveries to Great Britain and France, a largely symbolic move that pushed oil prices to 9-month highs nonetheless. De Margerie said Iran's exports to European markets were relatively small and something Tehran would have no problem replacing.

"Can they find customers for this? I think they can," he was quoted as saying. "Is it hurting their traditional routes? Yes, but I don't see why this should trigger any additional price for crude oil."

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