Debate with Claude Mandil – Energy policy: how to decide it in times of uncertainty?

Claude Mandil, who was the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency from 2003 to 2007, is one of the greatest European specialists in energy issues.

He accepted the invitation of the IFP School Alumni Association to participate in a conference-debate chaired by JB Renard, 2PR Consulting CEO, President of the association and former President of BP Group for Europe. The topic was “Energy policy: how to decide it in times of uncertainty?”

Around fifty of the alumni and students of the School had the opportunity to follow this impassioned debate on a subject widely considered to be of great political, social and economic importance. Claude Mandil shared his observations and gave his analysis of the subject for 35 minutes, and without wishing to trivialise such a rich presentation, several fundamental points emerged:
- If uncertainty is high and still growing, there are a number of trends that should guide the thoughts of those who make energy policy. For example: energy prices are on the rise, the division of fossil fuels will be permanently important, adaptation is a fundamental project in the context of poorly engaged CO2 emissions reduction, while the eradication of fuel poverty is similarly poorly engaged, etc
- Governments, unlike businesses, have poorly integrated cost into their considerations. The examples are numerous and overwhelming.
- Governments have three clear and sustainable actions with which to engage.
o First; to promote efficacy and “energy sobriety”
o Second; to help with R&D
o Third; to educate their electorate about these complex topics, instead of making them believe in the possibility of clean, cheap and abundant energy.

Claude Mandil then invited JB Renard to discuss the topic from the point of view of the Oil & Gas industry. On the one hand the industry, by definition, has totally integrated the cost aspect into its decisions. In addition, unlike politicians – who often make decisions based on the next election (in general, a period less than 5 years) – the decisions reached by the industry are calculated over the long-term – between 10 and 20 years into the future. On the other hand, however, the industry still has a long way to go to assure the public that they operate in a responsible manner. In addition, they have a responsibility to participate in educating the public about these complex questions.
The debate which then took place was so animated, and the questions and comments so numerous, that even the prospect of a friendly drink and buffet could scarcely entice the participants from the room!