Deniers Chase Oil Mirage, Saudis look to Renewable Future
February 21, 2017
Saudi Arabia is kicking off its $50 billion renewable-energy push as the world’s top crude exporter turns to solar and wind power to temper domestic oil use in meeting growing energy demand.
Bidders seeking to qualify to build 700 megawatts of wind and solar power plants should submit documents by March 20, and those selected will be announced by April 10, Saudi Arabia’s energy ministry said Monday in an e-mailed statement. Qualified bidders will be able to present their offers for the projects starting on April 17 through July.
“This marks the starting point of a long and sustained program of renewable energy deployment in Saudi Arabia that will not only diversify our power mix but also catalyze economic development,” Khalid Al-Falih, the energy minister, said in the statement. The ministry’s Renewable Energy Project Development Office intends to set up “the most attractive, competitive and well executed government renewable energy investment programs in the world,” he said.
Middle Eastern countries like Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Jordan and Morocco are developing renewable energy to either curb their fuel imports or conserve more valuable oil that could otherwise be exported. Saudi Arabia plans to develop almost 10 gigawatts of renewable energy by 2023, requiring investment of $30 billion to $50 billion, Al-Falih said last month in Abu Dhabi.
MIDLAND, Tex. — In the land where oil jobs were once a guaranteed road to security for blue-collar workers, Eustasio Velazquez’s career has been upended by technology.
For 10 years, he laid cables for service companies doing seismic testing in the search for the next big gusher. Then, powerful computer hardware and software replaced cables with wireless data collection, and he lost his job. He found new work connecting pipes on rigs, but lost that job, too, when plunging oil prices in 2015 forced the driller he worked for to replace rig hands with cheaper, more reliable automated tools.
“I don’t see a future,” Mr. Velazquez, 44, said on a recent afternoon as he stooped over his shopping cart at a local grocery store. “Pretty soon every rig will have one worker and a robot.”
Oil and gas workers have traditionally had some of the highest-paying blue-collar jobs — just the type that President Trump has vowed to preserve and bring back. But the West Texas oil fields, where activity is gearing back up as prices rebound, illustrate how difficult it will be to meet that goal. As in other industries, automation is creating a new demand for high-tech workers — sometimes hundreds of miles away in a control center — but their numbers don’t offset the ranks of field hands no longer required to sling chains and lift iron.
Roughly 163,000 oil jobs were lost nationally from the 2014 peak, or about 30 percent of the total, while oil prices plummeted, at one point by as much as 70 percent. The job losses just in Texas, the most productive oil-producing state, totaled 98,000.
Several thousand workers have come back to work in recent months as the price of oil has begun to rise again, but energy experts say that between a third and a half of the workers who lost their jobs are not returning. Many have migrated to construction or even jobs in renewable energy, like wind power.
“People have left the industry, and they are not coming back,” said Michael Dynan, vice president for portfolio and strategic development at Schramm, a Pennsylvania manufacturer of drilling rigs. “If it’s a repetitive task, it can be automated, and I don’t need someone to do that. I can get a computer to do that.”
Finally, Trump willing to destroy US credibility, by declaring as truth what US enemies have said all along – US Middle Eastern policy was always all about the Oil.
“The old expression, ‘to the victor belong the spoils’—you remember. I always used to say, keep the oil. I wasn’t a fan of Iraq. I didn’t want to go into Iraq. But I will tell you, when we were in, we got out wrong…we should have kept the oil.”
Those were President Trump’s comments at the CIA the day after his inauguration in January. President Donald Trump has repeatedly said that the U.S. should have “taken Iraq’s oil,” an argument that he revisited as recently as last week. “We’ve spent $6 trillion…in the Middle East,” President Trump said during a meeting with airline executives at the White House on February 9. “We’ve got nothing. We’ve got nothing. We never even kept a small, even a tiny oil well. Not one little oil well. I said, ‘Keep the oil.’”
The notion that the U.S. military should have taken Iraq’s oil, it should be said at the outset, is flatly illegal. “What Trump seems to be advocating here would be a fundamental violation of international law embodied in numerous international agreements and in recognized principles of customary international law,” Anthony Clark Arend, a Georgetown University professor of government and foreign service, told PolitiFact last year.
It would also stretch the imagination to envision how such a strategy would play out in reality. Iraq’s oil sector is made up of a mix of state-owned interests and private ones. Most of the investment going into Iraq’s enormous southern oil fields come from international companies, such as BP, ExxonMobil, Royal Dutch Shell, Statoil, CNPC and Lukoil. Kurdish oil fields in the north are also run mostly by international companies. It is not clear what “taking” the oil really looks like.
“I’ve always thought that was beyond stupid. In other words, I don’t even know what it means,”John McLaughlin, former Deputy Director of the CIA under the Clinton and Bush administrations, told the New Yorker Radio Hour last week. “Try and operationalize that. Does that mean sending troops to surround oil wells while you pump it out, then transport it out of the country? Or does it mean something else? I have no idea what he’s talking about. So I assume it won’t happen. So I’m not worried about it.”
The Iraqi public and Iraqi members of parliament are pressuring Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to scale back its cooperation with the U.S. government and military, which could jeopardize the long-term presence of American troops in Iraq. This is potentially an enormous and underreported development given that it is a top priority of the U.S. government to fight ISIS in Iraq and Syria. In fact, U.S. troops have been cooperating with Iraqi forces for months on a major campaign to retake Mosul, a mission that is set to ramp up again in the near future to take the western portion of the city.
“Trump embarrassed al-Abadi,” Saad al-Mutalabi, a lawmaker and ally of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, told the AP. “There will be a general consensus that Americans should not stay in Iraq after Mosul, after the statements and the executive order from Trump,” he said. “We believed that we had a strategic agreement with the U.S.”
A narrowing of the U.S. presence in Iraq would serve to benefit Iran, dealing another blow to the Trump administration. And speaking of Iran, Shiite militias inside Iraq told the AP that they would target U.S. interests if the U.S. went after Iran, their benefactor.
President Trump’s reckless comments about “taking Iraq’s oil,” in other words, are undermining multiple U.S. strategic goals all at once. In the minds of a lot of Iraqis, they also confirm the worst: that the 2003 U.S. invasion was all about access to Iraq’s oil, something top American officials have always denied.