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Ali al-Naimi: The priority is ending energy poverty

His Excellency Ali I. Al-Naimi. Photo courtesy of Ministry of Petroleum and Mineral Resources

To attain true energy security, Saudi Petroleum Minister calls for enabling people in developing countries to access energy reliably

25 October 2012

This commentary appears in the latest issue of IEA Energy: The Journal of the International Energy Agency

By Ali I. Al-Naimi

Saudi Arabia is in the midst of a remarkable journey. The kingdom’s vast natural resources have powered unprecedented economic progress and development over the last 75 years, transforming the country from one of the world’s poorest to, today, a member of the Group of 20. Its infrastructure, medical and educational facilities, and standard of living are unrecognisable from 40 years ago.

The wider world has also benefitted from these great resources, using them to fuel extraordinary improvements for the good of mankind. And as the global population continues to grow, it is this energy that will help further transform the lives of millions.
Of course many energy challenges remain in the world, not least energy poverty and energy security. While some concern themselves with geopolitical tensions highlighted on the 24-hour news channels, for many millions of people in the world, energy security boils down to having enough gas to cook their family a meal or enough physical infrastructure to enable them to turn on a light.

It is clear that the real issue is tackling poverty, to enable people in developing countries to access reliable energy supplies so that they can take advantage of the many things we regard as commonplace. These are day-to-day issues for individuals, but major challenges for societies, and it is incumbent on all nations and policy makers to work together to continue to boost economic growth. Great progress has been made, but there is much work to do.

For its part, Saudi Arabia has been, and remains, a stable supplier of oil to the world – and this security of supply brings reassurance to world markets. Time and time again the kingdom has stepped up to offset any losses: during the Iraq war, post-Hurricane Katrina and more recently as a result of the revolution in Libya. This year it boosted production to levels not seen for 30 years, and it remains poised to supply the market whenever called upon.

Let me be clear: Saudi Arabia is not happy with a high price for oil, particularly one which does not reflect market fundamentals, and in this regard, we have worked hard in recent months to do what we can to moderate prices. We highlighted how the market was, and is, fundamentally well-supplied and balanced, and backed up our rhetoric by meeting all customer requests for additional barrels. Saudi Arabia understands the vital role oil plays in economic growth and knows the value and progress which can be derived from energy resources – but the price must be reasonable.

The future of energy will be a future characterised by an increasing mix. It is clear that oil and gas will remain pre-eminent but that other sources will be increasingly utilised, particularly wind and solar. Whatever the source, whatever the technology, the priority must be to provide reliable energy worldwide, especially to developing countries – to help improve the lives of men, women and children around the world.

I am pleased that consuming and producing nations are increasingly working together, realising that their interests are aligned more often than not. This is exemplified by the increasingly important role of the International Energy Forum and other inter-governmental organisations, but it can also be seen in Saudi Arabia’s ever-expanding and deepening bilateral ties. It is vital that we continue to develop relationships, cooperation and trust.

His Excellency Ali Ibrahim Al-Naimi has been Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia since 1995. He is a member of the Cabinet of the Council of Ministers, the Supreme Petroleum Committee and the Supreme Economic Council. Previously he was chairman of the national oil company, Saudi Aramco, as well as chairman of the Saudi Geological Society and of the King Abdullah University of Science and Technology.

The International Energy Agency (IEA) produces IEA Energy, but all analysis and views contained in the journal are those of individual authors and not necessarily those of the IEA Secretariat or IEA member countries, and are not to be construed as advice on any specific issue or situation.

Home page photo by Matt McGee via flickr.

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