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- In light of the continuing fluctuations witnessed in the energy field in the world, the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency, Fatih Birol, stressed the importance of resorting to nuclear energy as an alternative to fossil fuels, indicating that it is an important step that Arab countries must benefit from.

In an exclusive interview with Al Jazeera Net from the agency's headquarters in Paris, Birol believes that developing and poor countries will be the first to be affected by the current unrest in the Red Sea, not ruling out the possibility of higher prices due to the long routes taken by oil tankers.

The Turkish economist and energy expert has been the Executive Director of the International Energy Agency since September 2015. Under his supervision, the agency has moved to the forefront of global efforts to achieve international climate goals, protect energy security and manage the social and economic impacts of clean energy transitions.

  • How do you see the future of the natural gas industry as clean energy in the world in general, and in the Arabian Gulf region in particular?

Today, natural gas is an important component of the energy system, especially for electricity generation and its use in the industrial sector. It helps reduce emissions that contribute to climate change, but at the same time it contains a lower percentage of carbon.

For this reason, I expect that demand for it will decrease in the future.

Which means that countries whose economies depend on natural gas - such as the Gulf states - must be prepared to gradually abandon this industry.

  • What about the prospects for using nuclear energy for peaceful purposes in the Arab region?

Countries of the world today are remarkably accepting of nuclear energy.

Such as: Japan, South Korea, and China, which have become leaders in this field, as well as European countries, the United States, and even African countries.

The reason for this interest is due to nuclear electricity, which can easily generate electricity from power plants, and does not depend on nature for its production, such as: solar energy and wind energy.

Since the Middle East and Gulf countries will need more electricity in the coming years, it would be advisable to seriously consider the peaceful employment of nuclear energy.

  • Today we are witnessing major tensions in the Red Sea. What impact will they have on the world’s oil and energy supplies?

What is currently happening in the Bab al-Mandab Strait overlooking the Red Sea will have some impact on the oil markets.

Because a large portion of oil shipments coming from the Middle East towards global markets pass through this waterway.

To avoid any attack on ships, some of them are forced to use much longer routes to reach markets, but I believe that the impact on prices will remain limited, as there is no direct impact on oil production.

Which means that we will not witness significant increases in prices as long as one or more of the major producing countries in the region is not directly involved in the conflict.

I am concerned about poor developing countries that have to import oil. If the price of oil is currently around $80 per barrel, for example - which is a high price - European countries will not find it very expensive.

But on the other hand, countries with weaker economies will not bear this cost.

Because their local currencies are weaker than the euro and the US dollar.

  • How does the International Energy Agency view the future of fossil energy in light of the divergence of interests between those calling for reducing dependence on it for environmental reasons and the oil-producing countries, for which this energy constitutes a major source of revenue for their treasuries?

First of all, energy gives life to the economy and nothing can function without it.

The proof of this is that about 80% of our energy in the world today is based on fossil fuels, including oil, natural gas, and coal.

This is considered positive, but these elements represent the main causes of climate change.

Because it produces large amounts of carbon dioxide emissions.

Therefore, if we want to survive in a world free of climate impacts - such as: drought, floods and forest fires - we must reduce our dependence on fossil energy, especially coal.

We expect the use of coal and oil to reach its peak before it begins to decline due to the emergence of new technologies, as is the case today for China, which is a leader in the field of clean energy.

As for countries whose economies depend on oil and gas, especially Middle Eastern countries, it would be better for them to diversify their treasury revenues so that they are not later surprised by the decline in the prices of the energy sources they possess.

Source: Al Jazeera