Don't cry for Saudi Arabia

The Kingdom's petroleum minister claims that efforts to rein in the demand for oil are unfair to his country. But maybe the world has bigger problems?

Published September 27, 2007 9:50PM (EDT)

These are troubled days in the Gulf. It's not enough that $80 a barrel oil is channeling untold billions of dollars to the oil-producing states of the Middle East. It seems that there's a little thing called climate change, and it's screwing with the oil sheiks.

Specifically, Saudi Arabia's oil minister, Ali bin Ibrahim al-Naimi, is upset at unnamed nations who are unfairly taxing petroleum products in their efforts to combat climate change. Because if this sort of nefarious behavior catches on, not only would it empty the coffers of the Kingdom, but it might encourage greater consumption of coal and nuclear power!

Speaking at the United Nations in New York on Monday, in his capacity as representative of the Custodian of the Two Holy Mosques, King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz, al-Naimi, reports the Saudi Press Agency, "expressed Saudi Arabia's concern to the method of selective policies that was adopted by some of the industrialized nations to confront climate change." (Thanks to the Oil Drum for the link.)

Those industrialized nations are imposing more high taxes which are ... providing direct and indirect aid for the industries of coal and nuclear energy which are the most polluting sources of climate and the global environment ... This affects growth rates in the world for demanding oil in the coming period and contributes to a negative impact on the march of development in our country...

"The call for moving away from fossil fuel consumption as a way to address climate change is not a viable alternative," said al-Naimi. "I can assure you that through the use of technology solutions that the world can continue to rely on oil."

This is not the first time that al-Naimi has made this plea. In late 2006, at a U.N. conference on climate change in Kenya, he told the audience that:

It is not a viable solution for the international community to reduce energy consumption using artificial methods, such as imposing taxes ... those are acts that will handicap and hinder the economic growth process..."

Statements like these could almost make one believe that the Saudis really are sitting on top of an inexhaustible ocean of oil, and that peak oil is a myth. Because if there is one problem the world isn't facing right now, it is a precipitous decline in the global demand for oil, tax policies notwithstanding. If only it were so.

By Andrew Leonard

Andrew Leonard is a staff writer at Salon. On Twitter, @koxinga21.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Environment Global Warming Globalization How The World Works Middle East Peak Oil United Nations