Pro-fracking advocates have long argued that energy independence will help America kick its dysfunctional relationship with Saudi Arabia.
A Saudi prince added fodder to the arguments of supporters of the U.S. oil industry this weekend by declaring that the hydraulic fracturing, or fracking, boom is a threat to the dominance of the Kingdom’s petroleum sector.
Prince Alwaleed bin Talal claimed the demand for Saudi oil is declining. He singled out shale oil in the U.S. as a growing threat to his country’s petroleum sales, as 92 percent of the Saudi budget is dependent on oil revenue.
Fracking, which injects a combination of water, chemicals and silica sand deep into the earth to break up and extract hidden oil deposits, is sweeping the U.S. and has dramatically increased domestic oil production. Yet not everyone is pleased with the practice, including residents who worry about the potential for groundwater contamination and the propensity for oil and wastewater spills.
Either way, the industry seems poised to move ahead, with the International Energy Agency estimating that it will lead the U.S. to the top oil-producing slot in the world by 2020, surpassing Saudi Arabia for the first time.
The prince’s comments were made in an open letter dated May 13 to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al Naimi. The comments were then published Sunday on Twitter.
Bin Talal’s suggested response to the problem was to diversify the nation’s energy supplies. In his letter, he encouraged the government to “establish a clear vision for that and start implementing it immediately.” Solar, nuclear and wind power were mentioned as possible avenues of alternative energy production.
Pro-fracking advocates have long argued that energy independence will help America kick its dysfunctional relationship with Saudi Arabia, releasing the United States from its reliance on the Saudis’ 260 billion barrels of oil reserves. According to the International Energy Agency, the U.S. will achieve energy independence by 2030.
The prince’s recent comments are seen as a boost to the pro-fracking industry and those who stand behind it, allowing them to paint opponents of fracking as Saudi sympathizers. Yet those who are emerging as supporters of North American oil production prefer not to mention Saudi Arabia’s involvement in oil refining operations on U.S. land.
In April, The New York Times revealed what it referred to as a “strategic outpost” in the barren land of Texas — an oil refinery jointly owned by Saudi Aramco, owned by the Saudis, and Royal Dutch Shell.
The Motiva oil refinery, which just underwent a $10 billion makeover, is now specially equipped to refine Canadian tar sands. It sits near the end of the proposed Keystone XL pipeline route.