Former Dutch minister to head IEA

March 11, 2011 at 12:36 PM
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PARIS, March 11 (UPI) -- Former Dutch Economy Minister Maria van der Hoeven will become the new head of the International Energy Agency, the group said Friday.

Van der Hoeven, 61, will take over from Nobuo Tanaka when Tanaka steps down at the end of August. The IEA, which has headquarters in Paris, advises 28 industrialized countries on energy security -- just as the issue is taking up steam again.

After a soothing period of stability between Europe and Russia on energy issues, the turmoil in North Africa and the Middle East has led to a surge in oil prices and heightened insecurity over future developments.

The IEA said it was monitoring the situation in the region but stopped short of calling for a release of national oil reserves into the market, which it said is able to cushion the effects of the crisis in Libya.

In a statement Thursday, the IEA said it "stands ready to act if the disruption of supplies proves acute and ongoing, and if suitable replacement supplies cannot be made readily available by other producers."

Van der Hoeven said the IEA won't intervene hastily with the use of strategic oil stocks.

"Those stocks are meant for emergencies," she was quoted as saying by Dutch news agency ANP.

A former schoolteacher turned center-right politician, van der Hoeven as Dutch economy minister traveled the world in a bid to turn the Netherlands into a European natural gas hub, visiting potential suppliers Russia, Qatar, Norway and Algeria.

"Our private companies need the support of their government to open doors for them," she told the European Energy Review in a 2009 interview.

Van der Hoeven's critics say, however, that she did little to boost renewables in the Netherlands.

Jan van Diepen, her former spokesman in the Dutch Economy Ministry, said her nomination as the new head of the IEA makes sense given her wealth of political and policy-making experience.

"International energy relations and energy security have been and are very important to her," he told United Press International in a telephone interview Friday. "She has had lots of contacts in the international energy field, and has had bilaterals with leaders from Russia, Saudi-Arabia and Qatar."

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