Friday, June 17, 2011

US dependence on Saudi Arabia: oil and security

Courtesy of Wikileaks and McClatchy's Kevin Hall in WikiLeaks cables show worry about Saudi oil security McClatchy Newspapers 06/13/2011, we get a glimpse of US dependence on Saudi Arabian oil and therefore on the House of Saud:

When al Qaida suicide bombers tried on Feb. 24, 2006, to blow up Saudi Arabia's Abqaiq oil processing facility, arguably the world's most important petroleum hub, it was taken as a sign of strength that internal security had foiled the attack.

Secret U.S. State Department cables obtained by WikiLeaks and shared with McClatchy and other news organizations show otherwise.

Even though 70 percent of Saudi Arabia's oil exports flow through the Abqaiq facility, Saudi security forces were woefully ill prepared to defend it, investigations into the attack found, according to the cables. Efforts to fix the problems were hampered by bickering between the Saudi state oil company and the country's Ministry of the Interior, the cables indicate.
This is an important piece of news, and one that Wikileaks was able to overcome one more piece of secrecy and concealment from the Cheney-Bush Administration, even if it's five years later. With the Obama Administration pursuing even more stringent secrecy policies, it's more important than ever to have news organization like Wikileaks at work.

The precarious security of Saudi oil fields ought to be a central part of the public discussion on US Middle East policy. Partisans of the House of Saud like the Bush family would presumably use it as a reason to pursue an even closer alliance with the repressive, conservative monarachy. But it also should be an argument for aggressive development of renewable energy sources and a reminder of the urgency of drastically reducing US dependency on oil as an energy source.

US oil companies, of course, like to make the argument about reducing US dependence on foreign oil. It's a perpetual pitch of theirs against environmental and other regulatory restrictions.

But, as Hall reports, the Saudi monarchy currently looms very large in the American oil picture:

Saudi Arabia, with 12 percent of the world's oil supply, remains the key to the West's ability to influence oil prices. Last week, when members of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries failed to increase production in a move that Western officials had hoped would help curb rising crude oil prices, Saudi Arabia announced it would unilaterally pump more oil. Crude prices immediately dropped.

A successful terrorist attack on Saudi oil facilities would wreak havoc on the kingdom's ability to take a similar step in the future.
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