Well, sort of:
Concerns over peak oil — that moment when oil demand exceeds global oil supply — has produced little more than a disdainful eye roll from Saudi Arabia. After all, the largest oil producer in the world has far more pressing problems — like peak demand, for example.
In fact, Saudi leaders are so worried that demand for oil could peak in the next decade they’ve done the unexpected — and slightly ironic — by calling for an economy that includes renewable energy. It’s an interesting reversal coming from a country that has poo-pooed investments in renewable energy in the past.
Let’s not forget Saudi Arabia — along with OPEC, the oil cartel it’s a member of — was a major opponent of greenhouse-gas reduction proposals during the climate summit in Copenhagen last year. At the time, OPEC’s chief said oil-producing countries should be compensated for lost revenues if any agreement coming out of Copenhagen leads to cuts in the use of oil. No, really.
Earlier this month, OPEC producers had the gall to ask the world to give them more clarity and certainty about long-term oil demand in order to justify additional investment in new production capacity, according to the Petroleum Economist. As Robert Rapier over at R-Squared notes, that’s simply not the way the world works. The best any business can do is try and estimate where demand will end up and then make decisions from there.
Now, the renewable energy that so worried Saudi Arabia before has suddenly become a worthy investment. The country is starting its first carbon-capture project and is investing in other industries including aluminum and steel in an effort to diversify its heavily crude-focused economy, according to a Bloomberg report. Mohammad al-Sabban, oil minister adviser and the lead negotiator at the climate talks, said the country is working to become the top exporter of energy, including alternative forms such as solar power.
Saudi Arabia is growing annually at about 4.2%, and needs jobs for the influx of foreign workers (estimated at about 7.5 million currently). They are reaching out to the private sector to provide those jobs, both through alternative energy and tourism.
Oh, the irony that Saudi Arabia is recognizing the need for alternative forms of energy more readily than our Republican Party.