Knapp gives keynote at World Bank conference

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The World Bank’s managing director said soaring oil prices makes purchasing food a greater financial burden for poor families in developing nations at an energy conference held at GW this week.

“The cruel irony is that rising energy and rising food prices are connected to global poverty and food security,” Graeme Wheeler said, noting that the developing nations have the greatest challenge investing in energy efficiency.

The conference, cosponsored by the GW Center for International Business Education and Research and the World Bank, was organized specifically to address the recent significant increases in oil prices.

“Higher energy prices have led to a 75 percent increase in the price of food staples. The price of rice is at a 20 year high . The opportunity of globalization has a cost in human suffering,” Wheeler said.

He also spoke about the need to create incentives for energy efficiency and the forces that shape the supply and demand curve.

“On the demand side for energy, there is intensity for efficiency and alternative energy,” Wheeler said. “On the supply side, there is limited excess capability and lack of net investment. The supply constraints are costly and have political consequences.”

The G7 has called on the International Monetary Fund and the World Bank to develop a transparent code of conduct for the operation of sovereign wealth assets for governments that are risk-averse to investing in alternative energy.

Rising oil prices have hit the “most vulnerable” members of society the hardest, he said, causing people in developing nations to have to choose between paying for food and paying for school

The audience for the conference included policymakers, chief financial officers, executives from financial institutions and researchers from the development community. It cost $1,200 to attend. A few free registrations were offered to GW doctoral students.

“This conference represents the kind of dialogue we want to be having with leading scholars and researchers,” University President Steven Knapp said in his address at the event. “This issue is of the utmost importance and urgency and part of a larger discussion about the dramatic jump of costs of oil.”

The conference workshops included discussions about the implications of high and volatile oil prices, the future of oil prices, coping with oil price risks, and how to financially deal with the risk of rising oil costs.

Knapp said, “I look forward to continuing active dialogue about the energy issues . It is critical to train a new generation to engage in addressing these issues.”

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