As climate change moves up the political agenda, with even rumours that President Bush is going to make an a massive U-turn on the subject, another bastion of sceptics is starting to worry about the subject – OPEC.At a recent OPEC conference in Vienna,

Claude Mandil, executive director of the International Energy Agency told OPEC delegates: “The main long term challenge is definitely the necessity to reconcile oil with environmental demands”. Mandil also said the 11 Middle Eastern, African and Asian nations in OPEC could not afford to ignore concerns about climate change.

Andris Kenteris, top adviser to EU Energy Commissioner Andris Piebalgs, told OPEC that climate change was “one of the main hooks on which to hang our energy policy.” Kenteris said that twenty per cent of savings was viable by 2020.

That kind of message irritates the world’s top oil producer, Saudi Arabia. “Without a doubt, the world still needs contributions from a wide range of energy sources and regions to meet the growing energy demand of a rising world population in the future,” said Saudi Arabian Oil Minister Ali al-Nuami.

“However, impractical energy policies, unrealistic timeframes to bring some alternatives on stream, or the inefficiencies that come with inputting more energy to produce some of these alternatives… do nothing to secure the world’s energy future,” he added.

Oil remains “the leading fuel in the global energy mix for the foreseeable future,” said OPEC acting Secretary General Mohammed Barkindo.

Yes, but for how much longer?