Petroleum Minister predicts future of clean, abundant fossil fuels

March 16, 2009

Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali Al-Naimi declared at the Energy Pact Conference in Geneva that fossil fuels will continue to meet the world’s energy needs for decades to come. Furthermore, he predicted that technological advances will make them more environmentally friendly.

 

During his speech, entitled "Energy, the Environment and Development: The Ultimate Human Agenda," Minister Al-Naimi challenged the assertion that fossil fuel resources are dwindling. He noted that Saudi Arabia’s proven reserves alone are conservatively estimated to last for 80 years. When the rest of the world is included, along with non-conventional fuels such as natural gas liquids and shale, the world has a supply equivalent to 7 or 8 trillion barrels of oil. Those numbers, Minister Al-Naimi stated, "tell us that while the days of easy oil may be over, the days of oil as a primary fuel source for the people of the world are far from over."

Addressing environmental concerns, Minister Al-Naimi insisted that the oil industry is committed to improving the efficiency and environmental friendliness of petroleum. He highlighted Saudi Aramco’s pioneering role in developing technologies that will not only optimize oil recovery, but will make fossil fuels burn more cleanly.

Minister Al-Naimi warned against calling for a premature shift from fossil fuels to "slowly evolving alternatives." He expressed concern that such demands could lower investment in the critically important supply of fossil fuels, while leading to market speculation that has caused crude prices to reach unsustainable highs and lows.

While stressing the fact that alternative energies are not yet developed enough to replace fossil fuels, Minister Al-Naimi insisted that they should be included in the energy mix. In fact, he said, "Many international oil companies are beginning to position themselves less specifically as oil companies, and more as energy providers, with a new concentration on areas such as wind power and biofuels."

In Saudi Arabia, he noted, "We are investing in another natural, renewable resource plentiful in our part of the world – sunlight." Touting the cutting edge research being done at Saudi facilities, including the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) and the King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center, Minister Al-Naimi declared that Saudi Arabia "aims to be a leader in renewable energy production – specifically as the world’s largest exporter of clean electric energy produced from our abundant sunlight."