Andrew F. Ensor, 90; Expert on Oil Policy In the Middle East

While at Mobil Oil, Andrew F. Ensor negotiated international oil prices.
While at Mobil Oil, Andrew F. Ensor negotiated international oil prices. (Family Photo)
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By Matt Schudel
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, March 9, 2008

Andrew Fisher Ensor, 90, a onetime State Department official who was an authority on Middle Eastern oil policy and negotiated worldwide petroleum prices, died March 4 of heart disease at his home at the Ingleside at Rock Creek retirement community in Washington.

During the Kennedy and Johnson administrations, the British-born Mr. Ensor was named director of a State Department office of fuel and energy. He managed State Department policies on coal, peat and other energy sources, but his primary focus was on the international petroleum business, which often led to sensitive dealings in the Middle East.

While based in London as Middle East director of Mobil Oil from 1966 to 1978, Mr. Ensor negotiated international oil prices on behalf of the world's seven largest oil companies. At the time, petroleum cost a little more than $3 a barrel.

Mr. Ensor's role at the highest levels of oil diplomacy was portrayed in Anthony Sampson's 1975 book, "The Seven Sisters," in which Mr. Ensor was described as a "patient ex-diplomat with a long experience of oil policies."

The tension and occasional humor surrounding the negotiations were captured by Sampson, who gained access to the transcript of a secret U.S. intelligence recording made in 1971. Mr. Ensor sat across from Abdul Salaam Jalloud, a top lieutenant of Libyan leader Moammar Gaddafi. Jalloud kept a pistol on the table in front of him.

During their discussions, the two men reached a point at which they differed by only 2 cents -- Mr. Ensor was willing to pay $3.28 a barrel, but the Libyan minister would accept nothing less than $3.30.

"It's most frustrating to be only 2 cents apart," Mr. Ensor said. "If you can here and now split the difference at $3.29, we will. I can only get fired once."

"I appreciate your offer, but I cannot accept it," Jalloud replied. "I would be killed."

Mr. Ensor recognized Jalloud's protestations as "pure theater," but he knew he would get nowhere by insulting his Libyan counterpart.

"To go lower would be prison, at least, for me," Jalloud insisted.

Ultimately, they settled on $3.30 a barrel, which later dropped to $3.28, allowing both sides to claim victory.

Mr. Ensor was born Jan. 30, 1918, in High Wycombe, England. He was the son of Sir Robert Ensor, a newspaper publisher and Oxford University historian who wrote the acclaimed "Oxford History of England." Along with playwright George Bernard Shaw and other notables, the elder Ensor founded the socialist Fabian Society and helped launch the British Labor Party.

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