Saudi Arabia holding firm in the Middle East for now: Platts TV
Washington (Platts)--27Feb2011/858 am EST/1358 GMT
The wave of unrest in the Middle East and North Africa is not expected to
touch Saudi Arabia, the world's biggest oil exporting nation, despite the
spread of popular revolt in the region, guests on the Platts Energy Week
television program said Sunday.
"I don't look for Saudi Arabia to be engulfed by this wave sweeping the
Middle East," said former US Senator Bennett Johnston, a Democrat from
Louisiana. He first entered the Senate during the oil crisis of the 1970s, and
served as chairman of the Energy Committee. He left Congress in 1997 and now
works as a lobbyist in Washington for the oil industry.
Libya is the latest Arab state to be gripped by an anti-government
protest that has led to the near collapse of Libyan leader Muammar Qadhafi
following mass revolts in Tunisia and Egypt that ousted the leaders of the two
North African states and touched off similar anti-government unrest in Yemen,
Bahrain, Jordan and more recently in Algeria and Oman.
There have been no significant protests in Saudi Arabia, where King
Abdullah last week ordered a generous social spending package.
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Saudi Arabia is "moving forward with a series of programs that are
likely to sustain stability there," said Lou Pugliaresi, president of the
Energy Policy Research Foundation and a former official with several
government agencies including the US State Department and National Security
Saudi Arabia wants "an evolution, not a revolution," said Randa Hudome,
president of the Fahmy Hudome International consulting firm. A former lobbyist
for Libya in Washington, she said that demands for a more democratic process
in Saudi Arabia will likely come gradually, and the country's leadership seems
willing to make some concessions.
Libya, however, is a different story. Although oil companies rushed to
work there in 2004 after the US lifted several economic sanctions, they may
now reconsider these investments there even in the long term. In the short
term, many oil companies have evacuated workers and reduced output. Protests
there have helped send oil prices above $100/b in the past week.
"But many [oil companies] right now are questioning...this is the
second time they have had to leave Libya in three decades," Hudome said.
Saudi Arabia has said it will make up for any oil supply shortage as a
result of the current crisis in the Middle East but this was likely to
stabilize supply but not, Pugliaresi said.
"An interruption anywhere results in a shift in prices everywhere," he
Other guests called -- again -- for the US to try to avoid being
constantly ensnared in the global turmoil over energy supply.
"We've been talking about being less dependant on unstable sources of
fuel for decades," said Tom Ridge, former Homeland Security Secretary under
President George Bush.
The Middle East is "unstable, [and] it's going to be unstable for the
As an advisor to the Marcellus Shale Coalition and former Pennsylvania
governor, he also pushed for the US to use its natural gas supplies.
"It is a national security issue, but it is also a competitive issue," he
said. "Natural gas is a play that, frankly, needs to be advanced."
But neither he nor former Senator Johnston saw much hope for an
overarching US national energy policy in the near future.
Compared with the 1970s, Johnston said coordinating such a policy would
be even more difficult now.
"It's a much bigger challenge in the sense that Congress is dysfunctional
now," he said. "There seems to be no center."
--Carla Bass, email@example.com
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