Saudi Arabia: an oil importer by 2030?

Saudi Arabia is home to less than half a percent of the world's population -- and fully 16 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. Nonetheless, Citigroup projects that the desert nation may become an oil importer in the next 20 years. "If Saudi Arabian oil consumption grows in line with peak power demand, the country could be a net oil importer by 2030," Heidy Rehman wrote in a 150 page report for the bank.

Already Saudi Arabia uses a quarter of its fuel production and all of its natural gas domestically, meaning that its per capita consumption is higher than the United States despite its miniscule industrial base. Demand for electricity, moreover, is expected to grow by as much as 8 percent a year.

The Telegraph has more:

The basic point -- common to other Gulf oil producers -- is that Saudi local consumption is rocketing. Residential use makes up 50 percent of demand, and over two thirds of that is air-conditioning.

The Saudis also consume 250 litres per head per day of water -- the world's third highest (which blows the mind), growing at nine percent a year -- and most of this is provided from energy-guzzling desalination plants.

Analysts including Jeremy Leggett of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security have suggested that dwindling Saudi Arabian exports could contribute to a global fuel shortage, potentially causing "massive stress to the global economy."

Rehman's report comes less than six months after another Citi report, which predicted an era of oil abundance -- and of reduced American dependence on OPEC:

[T]he US has become the fastest growing oil and natural gas producing area of the world and is now the most important marginal source for oil and gas globally. Add to this steadily growing Canadian production and a comeback in Mexican production and you get to a higher growth rate than all of OPEC can sustain.

Either way, Saudi Arabia's share of global exports is on the wane, so the United States had better stop treating it as a de facto Strategic Petroleum Reserve.

AFP/Getty Images


Both parties agree: George Bush deserves credit for AIDS relief

Former President Bill Clinton barely mentioned foreign policy in his spirited defense of President Obama's record on Wednesday night, though he did praise his wife for helping "build a world with more partners and fewer enemies."

But one line in particular caught my eye. In a section on the contributions Republican presidents have made to the country, here's what he had to say about former President George W. Bush:

I have to be grateful, and you should be too, that President George W. Bush supported PEPFAR. It saved the lives of millions of people in poor countries.

Clinton was alluding to the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief, which Bush established in 2003 and which now supports antiretroviral treatment for 4.5 million people around the world. But what's particularly notable about the reference is that, during a convention season designed to draw sharp distinctions between Republicans and Democrats, the two parties have found common ground on at least one point: the success of Bush's efforts to fight AIDS.

The Democratic platform, which condemns Bush's war on terror, focus on Iraq, and attitude toward the United Nations, praises the former president's global health record. "Building on the strong foundation created during the previous administration," the document notes, "the President's Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR) has expanded its prevention, care, and treatment programming." OK, so the Democrats don't mention Bush by name. But still.

The Republican platform only mentions Bush twice -- in the context of tax cuts and AIDS relief:

PEPFAR, President George W. Bush's Plan for AIDS Relief, is one of the most successful global health programs in history. It has saved literally millions of lives. Along with the Global Fund to fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria, another initiative of President Bush, it represents America's humanitarian commitment to the peoples of Africa, though these are only one aspect of our assistance to the nations of that continent.

Bush himself certainly recognized the importance of PEPFAR. In his memoir Decision Points, he cites preventing another terrorist attack on U.S. soil after 9/11 as his greatest achievement. But he also writes about his AIDS initiatives at length, explaining that he hoped PEPFAR "would serve as a medical version of the Marshall Plan." 

PEPFAR, of course, has attracted its share of criticism over the years for focusing on abstinence and consuming a disproportionate amount of U.S. global health funding, among other issues. But for now at least, it's just about the only Bush initiative that Republicans aren't evading and Democrats aren't denouncing.