Leaders Seek to Dispel Fears of Global Oil Disruption

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"Other nations in the region are not dominoes ready to fall, speakers assert."

While political turmoil in the Middle East and North Africa will bring new challenges to oil companies operating there and is driving oil prices higher, it's inaccurate to view other nations in the region as dominoes ready to fall, speakers said Tuesday at a global energy conference.

Economic factors behind the upheaval may be similar, but cultural and political differences among nations in the region could affect how far the unrest spreads.

"You can't generalize the Middle East; it would be like saying all the Americas are the same," said Daniel Yergin, chairman of IHS-Cambridge Energy Research Associates.

IHS CERA hosts the annual CERAWeek conference that kicked off in Houston Tuesday.

But Sara Akbar, CEO of Kuwait Energy Co., said the forces of change at play in the region today are unlikely to stop at country borders.

"This bug that is growing in the air is very contagious, and everyone is getting it," said Akbar, noting that even in politically stable nations like Kuwait, the call for reforms is growing louder.

The future of the Middle East and North Africa, home to 40% of the world's oil production, quickly emerged as a central theme on the first day of CERAWeek 2011, a renowned energy event that has drawn more than 2,000 industry leaders, politicians and energy experts to the Hilton Americas-Houston downtown.

But a number of speakers sought to dispel fears of a widespread disruption to oil production in the region.

"The price of oil is rising because of uncertainty, because of demand growing, not because there is no oil coming from the Middle East to cover the lack of oil coming from Libya," said Christophe de Margerie, CEO of French energy giant Total.

"I pass this message strongly: there is no lack of oil on the markets."

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