The Business On... Maria van der Hoeven, Executive director, IEA

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The Independent Online

And that stands for?

It's the International Energy Agency, where Ms van der Hoeven took over in the top job from Nobuo Tanaka of Japan yesterday.

Is it a tough gig?

It can be. The IEA's job is to represent the major energy consuming countries of the word, which effectively makes it a counterpoint to Opec, the oil producers' cartel. Energy precious, of course, so the IEA often finds itself in sensitive positions.

Give us an example?

Earlier this summer it intervened directly in the oil market for only the third time in its near 40-year history, with members releasing reserves in an attempt to drive down high prices. It was criticised as a political move, motivated by Barack Obama's desire to appease American voters. And though it did prompt a fall in the oil price, the effect was short-lived.

So tell us about the IEA's new executive director?

Ms van der Hoeven is from Maastricht in the Netherlands and spent the second half of her career in Dutch politics. She served in the Dutch cabinet for eight years, latterly as minister for economic affairs.

And the first half of her career?

She was a teacher. She's taught in both primary and secondary schools, as well as adult education.

Those who can do, those who can't teach?

That's not fair at all. Ms van der Hoeven was well-regarded in Dutch politics and on the European scene, where she was a key player in energy policy negotiations – hence the IEA job.

What are her big challenges?

Well, the oil price remains high, which is affecting the ability of Western economies to bounce back from recession. There's also thematter of climate change: the IEA isn't concerned only with oil.

Go on...

There have been claims that the organisation is too focused on fossil fuels because it is US-dominated. Ms van der Hoeven will have to address those worries.