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Cheap cars, supersonic jets and power plants: How Saudi Arabia is keeping the world 'hooked' on oil


The article reveals Saudi Arabia's undisclosed Oil Demand Sustainability Programme, involving global investments and tactics to increase oil and gas usage in developing countries, while also exposing the nation's lobbying against international climate policies.

Cheap cars, supersonic jets and power plants: How Saudi Arabia is keeping the world 'hooked' on oil snt
First Published Nov 29, 2023, 9:36 AM IST

Saudi Arabia is leading a significant global investment initiative aimed at increasing demand for its oil and gas in developing countries, according to an undercover investigation by the Centre for Climate Reporting. The initiative, known as the Oil Demand Sustainability Programme (ODSP), was previously undisclosed and is designed to make countries "hooked on its harmful products."

Directed by Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the ODSP involves major Saudi organizations, including the $700 billion Public Investment Fund, Aramco, Sabic, and key government ministries. Publicly, the program is presented as an effort to improve energy and transport accessibility in poorer countries, with a sustainability focus such as providing gas cooking stoves. However, the investigation reveals that all disclosed projects within the ODSP contribute to an escalation in oil and gas usage.

The ODSP specifically targets regions like Africa and others where there is anticipated growth in demand for fossil fuel-powered vehicles and aircraft, especially as wealthier nations transition to clean energy sources. The involvement of key entities in the Saudi Arabian economic landscape raises questions about the true intentions behind the program's stated goals of promoting sustainability and accessibility.

The findings of the undercover investigation, led by a journalist who successfully infiltrated key meetings and engaged with insiders, reveal a troubling perspective on Saudi Arabia's stance regarding the global move away from fossil fuels. Rather than aligning with international efforts to combat climate change, Saudi Arabia appears to be actively working to undermine initiatives aimed at addressing environmental concerns.

This approach is exemplified by a statement attributed to a high-ranking Saudi official, who asserted, "We see no reason to transition away from oil. It has been the lifeblood of our economy and will continue to be so." This statement reflects the kingdom's overarching strategy to persist in maintaining an economy heavily reliant on oil.

The report outlines a range of tactics employed by Saudi Arabia to sustain its oil industry. These strategies include:

  1. Distribution Scheme: Saudi Arabia has implemented a complex scheme involving the distribution of fleets of gasoline and diesel-powered vehicles in Asia and Africa. This tactic is designed to capitalize on the growing demand for these fuels, ultimately benefiting the Saudi Arabian oil industry.

  2. Automobile Partnership: Initiatives have been taken to collaborate with an undisclosed major automobile manufacturer to create and market an affordable car tailored for emerging economies. The objective is to stimulate oil consumption in these regions, thereby supporting Saudi Arabia's oil industry.

  3. Supersonic Aviation Development: Saudi Arabia is actively working to expedite the development of commercial supersonic aviation. This strategic move is motivated by the significantly higher jet fuel consumption of supersonic aircraft compared to standard planes, aligning with the kingdom's goal of boosting overall oil consumption.

  4. Opposition to Electric Vehicles Incentives: The kingdom is strategically opposing government incentives for electric vehicles in various countries globally. This tactic aims to deter the shift towards cleaner energy alternatives, preserving the demand for traditional oil-based transportation.

  5. Heavy Fuel Oil Promotion: Saudi Arabia has proposed initiatives to promote the use of hazardous heavy fuel oil for power generation in specific regions of Africa and South Asia. This not only raises environmental concerns but also serves the broader objective of sustaining demand for oil in these energy-consuming sectors.

Saudi Arabia is utilizing its influence to lobby against international climate policies aimed at limiting oil usage, safeguarding its economic interests. Despite professing commitment to the climate goals outlined in the Paris Agreement, which call for a rapid decline in fossil fuel emissions and the preservation of most oil and gas reserves, the oil-rich nation perceives climate policies supporting electric vehicles as a significant threat to its revenue.

As the upcoming UN’s Cop28 climate summit approaches, it will address the critical issue of whether countries can fulfill their commitment to reduce or eliminate fossil fuels. This year, the climate crisis has resulted in record-breaking temperatures and extreme weather events globally, leading to loss of life and livelihoods.

Mohamed Adow, director of Power Shift Africa, criticized the actions of the Saudi government, likening them to a drug dealer attempting to get Africa addicted to harmful products. Adow argued that Africa should not replicate the polluting path taken by other nations but should instead leverage its vast renewable energy potential for a genuine energy transition. UN Secretary-General António Guterres has also called for international support to facilitate developing countries' transition to clean, sustainable energy pathways.

Also read: Decoding 'killer robots': The unsettling future of warfare and global struggle for regulation

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