Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Saudi oil minister calls global warming “humanity’s most pressing concern”

Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi
I don’t know what to make of a speech by Saudi Arabia’s Oil Minister Ali Al-Naimi. But I think it's worth reporting.

It was given on Monday at the Middle East and North Africa energy conference in London.

I understand that Al-Naimi once called renewable energy a “nightmare”. But on Monday he hailed energy efficiency and solar as important investments, global warming “real” and “pressing,” and explained that drilling for oil “does not create many jobs.”

“We know that pumping oil out of the ground does not create many jobs. It does not foster an entrepreneurial spirit, nor does it sharpen critical faculties.”

While Al-Naimi said he believes that oil production “will continue to play a major role in the overall energy mix for many decades,” he also made some very explicit statements about carbon emissions:

“Greenhouse gas emissions and global warming are among humanity’s most pressing concerns. Societal expectations on climate change are real, and our industry is expected to take a leadership role.”

I'm at a loss to know what that “leadership role” is — except to pump out more oil and gas.

Although, Al-Naimi did give a plug to efficiency and renewables as increasingly important part of the country’s energy strategy:

“The efficient use of energy is as much an issue for Saudi Arabia, with its huge natural resources, as it is for all countries. Increased efficiency makes sense environmentally, but also economically.”

“We are striving, also, to raise awareness among the public, and specifically addressing children and schools about the tangible benefits of energy efficiency. And we are investing manpower, and brainpower, in efforts to develop new thinking when it comes to energy efficiency.”

A Saudi oil field
“I see renewable energy sources as supplementing existing sources, helping to prolong our continued export of crude oil. And this is why we are investing in solar energy, which we also have in abundance. The Kingdom experiences roughly 3,000 hours of sunshine per year, emitting about 7,000 watts of energy per square metre. Saudi Arabia also features empty stretches of desert that can host solar arrays and it is blessed with deposits of quartz that can be used in the manufacture of silicon photovoltaic cells.”

Saudi Arabia is considering a renewable energy law that would help promote a modest increase in solar photovoltaics, solar thermal, biogas and waste-heat-to-energy. However, if the strategy is seen only as a way to “prolong continued export of crude,” it doesn’t really match Al-Naimi’s statement that carbon-based resources are “among humanity’s most pressing concerns.”

But it’s surprising nonetheless to see concern about greenhouse gas emissions and global warming from this quarter.

And just think: if I'm confused, how confused must Mitt and Newt be with their rabid anti-environmentalism.  If they can't count on a Saudi oil minister whom can they count on?

My source is the Climate progress blog. This is, I believe, a blog you can trust. I recommend it.

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