A Pleasant Surprise

It was surprising to read last week that the United States is vying with Saudi Arabia to lead the world in oil production. Surprising but also a reflection of our insatiable thirst for oil and other fossil fuels and our blind determination to do whatever it takes to extract oil, gas,  and coal from the earth. But after attempting to digest that news, it was even more surprising to read the delightful news that Saudi Arabia plans to focus its attention at home on renewable energy — clean energy (if we allow that nuclear is “clean.”) A recent story begins as follows:

Earlier this week, Prince Turki Al Faisal Al Saud, a top spokesperson for Saudi Arabia, said that Saudi Arabia intends to generate 100 percent of its power from renewable sources, such as nuclear, solar, and low-carbon energies.

“Oil is more precious for us underground than as a fuel source,” said the prince, whose country holds approximately 20 percent of the world’s oil reserves, according to the International Energy Agency. “If we can get to the point where we can replace fossil fuels and use oil to produce other products that are useful, that would be very good for the world.”

Nuclear energy is certainly not “renewable” by any stretch of the term. And one could argue that it is not “clean” either; despite the fact that it produces little in the way of greenhouse gasses it nonetheless produces highly toxic waste that we do not seem to be able to hide anywhere (a situation that recently led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to order the cessation of licensing of new generating plants until further notice). And there is always the danger of a nuclear accident, as we saw recently in Japan.

But putting that aside, we must applaud a nation that sets an example for a world that is currently busy making that nation very wealthy. Given that many in our Congress are reluctant to even admit that global warming is a reality, one might hope that this example from one of our Middle-Eastern friends will have a positive effect on even the thickest skull in Washington. Further, one might dare hope that the oil and gas companies in this country will now read the handwriting on the wall and get on the renewable energy bandwagon and invest some of their huge profits and their considerable political influence in Washington (which is directly tied to their huge profits, of course) to the cause of clean energy. It is the wave of the future, whether or not they admit it.

There are small clean energy steps being taken by various state legislatures around the country and bold investors such as Warren Buffet and T. Boone Pickens. But the Congress has yet to get solidly behind the clean energy movement despite the studies showing that jobs can be created and a weak economy boosted by investing in alternative energy — and there is money to be made, as Al Gore has learned. Fossil fuels, to state the obvious, are a finite resource and at some point we will be forced to “go green.” Better sooner than later for the planet’s sake.

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11 thoughts on “A Pleasant Surprise

  1. Now there’s an irony for us. The Saudi’s, world’s largest producer of oil for decades, is cutting back in favor of clean energy, while our congress, bought and paid for by the US oil industry, is pushing for even more oil exploitation in this country. Wow! And who’s the backward country, now???

  2. I don’t know Hugh. The Maya, Anasazi & Easter Islanders never went “green”. All “The Kingdom” of SA is doing is acknowledging that keeping their oil in the ground makes better economic sense than pumping it out and selling it now. What ELSE are they going to do with the gazillion dollars they have in hand but invest it in cutting edge technology, and that would be renewable energy?

    It’s really an acknowledgement of their recognition of our weakness. They pump less…. the price on the world market goes up and Americans pay more at the pump. They are demonstrating to us that we are no longer in a position to tell them what to do. Whether they invest in renewable energy or build marshmallow factories… they don’t need the money and their oil will be worth more tomorrow than today.

    • I really don’t care why the Saudis are keeping their oil in the ground. You miss my point entirely. I am delighted that they are going green and thus setting an example for the rest of the world. I sometimes think you and I operate on separate wavelengths entirely — or I am a lousy writer.

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      • I’m sure we operate on separate wavelengths, but, I still don’t see the Saudis doing anything but playing with their excess cash. “Setting an example for the rest of the world” in what? How to run a cash rich, family owned, dictatorship where no citizen ever has to work if they choose not to?

        Somehow I think nobody can, or, will be following this example.

      • You are probably right. But at some point the Republicans in Congress will wake up and smell the coffee — perhaps right after it burns them!

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  3. This is ironic and interesting. With Europe developing a solar site in Morocco to power 20% of its use, my guess is Saudi Arabia could power a lot with solar. Thanks for publishing. BTG

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