Why Saudi Extremism, Instability is an Argument for EVs, Wind and Solar Energy

By Juan Cole | (Informed Comment) | – –

Saudi Arabia has gotten too big for its britches, and the oil-producing Middle East is turning even more unstable. Not to mention that global warming is getting worse and worse because of burning fossil fuels like petroleum.

And it is your fault. If you are an American, your country imports 1.1 million barrels of petroleum every day from Saudi Arabia. Every time you fill up at the pump, you are enriching the Saudi elite and making the world more unstable.

In the European Union, Statoil and Saudi Arabia account for 20% of imports of petroleum.

The obvious solution to this problem, of instability, extremism and climate change emanating from Riyadh, is electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. They should be adopted as quickly as humanly possible.

Cambridge Econometrics concluded that Europe could make its energy supplies secure by “decarbonization,” that is, getting off gasoline/ petrol, coal and natural gas. Transport & Environment, reporting on the study, added, “A shift to electric vehicles would lead to a 1% increase in EU GDP, create up to 2 million new jobs and reduce emissions from cars and vans 83% by 2050, according to the study.”

This plan is no pie in the sky. It is already happening. Solar and wind are already producing more electricity in the UK than dirty coal. All we have to do is finish of coal and natural gas with renewables, and then plug electric vehicles into the green grid.

Saudi Arabia is denying that it has blockaded Qatar, since it says it is allowing goods and people in and out. How kind. 90 percent of Qatar’s food came overland through Saudi Arabia, so cutting off that lifeline is certainly a blockade. Qatar can fly in or ship in food, but at a premium, and many guest workers may not be able to afford it at those prices. The Saudis are trying to cripple the Qatari civilian economy, which is a war crime.

Now it and its allies are pressuring the United States to close down al-Udeid air base, from which most sorties against ISIL and the Taliban are flown. This is rich, since back in the 1990s when the US leased a Saudi air base to fly sorties over Iraq, radical Saudis like Usama Bin Laden claimed that this lease was a form of American military occupation of the Muslim holy land. Bin Laden gave this US presence as one of the reasons for his strike at New York and Washington on September 11, 2001. So are the Saudis roping us back into this situation? Note that Saudi Arabia has flown almost no sorties against ISIL, and defeating the latter doesn’t seem to have been high on Riyadh’s to-do list. Qatar has been far more helpful in the anti-terror fight than has Saudi Arabia.

In addition, Saudi Arabia has since spring of 2015 conducted a campaign of indiscriminate bombing against Yemen civilians and key civilian infrastructure in Yemen, leaving millions hungry, hundreds of thousands displaced, thousands dead, and tens of thousands sick with cholera. The war is ostensibly against the Houthi militia, but it is in fact being waged against Yemenis, especially the northwestern Zaydi population, in hopes that a war of attrition can bring the whole country to its knees. (This is a war crime; but then the Saudis bought their way onto the UN human rights committee, so as to deflect international condemnation). The Saudi war on little Yemen will add to the refugee crisis, promote instability, and result in more terrorism.

All this is not to mention the sinister role that Saudi Arabia has played in spreading around its militantly fundamentalist version of Wahhabism, which delights in vigilante morals police and discourages friendly relations between Muslims and others. (Qatar is also a Wahhabi society but mostly has relatively liberal emphases). Tolerant, Sufi strains of Islam (which are appreciated by many in Qatar) are hated in the Saudi Wahhabi heartland of Najd. Riyadh has virtually waged war on Sufism in Pakistan and Indonesia, both of which had been much more open and tolerant before they started coming under Saudi influence.

Putting solar panels on our homes, where we own them and can afford to do so, and then running an electric car like a Chevy Bolt or other similar off of these panels, is the single most important thing most of us can do to combat not only catastrophic climate change but also the menace of Saudi bullying and extremism-promotion. Around the world, about 15 percent of the toxic carbon dioxide that causes global warming comes from burning petroleum in cars, trucks and other vehicles. If we solve this one, we only have 85% of the problem to go. (And a lot of the rest comes from burning coal and natural gas, which we should replace with wind and solar so as to run our electric cars and buses cleanly). But, defunding the Saudi hard line version of Wahhabism would make it all worthwhile, just by itself.

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14 Responses

  1. Since the beginnings of the clear evidence of a Trump-Putin bromance, I have thought that the ultimate goal of both parties – and of everybody else in the oil game – is to engineer just one more oil price scare.

    I studied the industry back in the 70’s and the boom/bust cycle was clear. Our future as a global civilization of 7+ billion people is absolutely dependent on ending fossil fuel use. But the short-term interest of the Trumpite American elite, and the Russian and other oil-industry elites, is on one more spike in oil prices. And I recently saw a statistic, is it accurate, that 85% of energy use in America is still based on fossil fuels. We would pay if they could engineer the spike.

  2. Professor, in fact there was only one day over here in the UK when we actually produced as much electricity by solar and wind as by fossil fuels. It was a very rare day indeed when the sun actually appeared and stayed with us throughout the whole day and it was also very warm. Long day light hours means little electricity used for lighting and very warm weather means little electricity used in heating systems. As far as we Brits are concerned that was what we call ‘freak’ weather. Its usually cloudy, overcast or raining. Because of this, few people over here have air cooling conditioning systems so we wouldn’t be using much electricity on this as you do in the states. Hence, the unique day when renewable energy came out on top. I don’t know why countries in equatorial region with massive desert wastelands don’t cover them with solar panels. They could even become exporters of electricity with this limitless natural energy source.

    • Hi, Kim. The statistic referred to coal, not all fossil fuels. And, even having one day of the sort you described is record-breaking and points to the future assuming the Tories don’t sabotage it. Scotland is way ahead of England because the Scots wanted this greening. England can do it if it wants to.

  3. So much is invested in the carbon fuel way of life that there is potential for confrontation between carbon fuel producers and nations headed urgently towards renewable energy. If there is some broad purpose to Trump’s foreign policy manoeuvres it could be a desire to build a powerful US, Russia, Saudi Arabia coalition and coerce or bomb other producers into line. That might explain his sword dance and why he was so eager to mend bridges with Russia. It must be frustrating to be blocked by all these investigations and anti-Russian overkill, particularly as they do Putin no harm locally or internationally, even provide him and Lavrov opportunities to be quizzical and appear super cool.

    • I don’t know about that, but it is fair to say that the solvency of the Saudi and Russian treasuries do require one more oil price scare before they could spend the money needed to make serious reforms in their economies. Though I suspect once they get ahold of the bonanza from the price hike, they’ll just put off any real reforms again.

  4. Some critics of Islam keep parroting that Islam is a totalitarian ideology controlling behavior of Muslims all over the world in all aspects of their life.
    There is no fact in this criticism

    It would be more accurate to say:
    A very small minority of Muslim give an interpretation of Islam that is totalitarian and extremist.

    The actions of a few hundred or even a few thousand people who adhere to a certain religion in a certain way, do not mean that the close to 1.5 Billion other adherents of spiritual and religious systems under that same general heading (Islam) feel at all the same way – That is the error.

    Take the example of Quran burners movement in USA. If I run around calling all Americans as criminals due to the Quran-burners – I am foolishly wrong.

    The exact same is true with generally maligning Islam.

  5. The obvious solution to this problem, of instability, extremism and climate change emanating from Riyadh, is electric vehicles, wind turbines and solar panels. They should be adopted as quickly as humanly possible.

    Unfortunately, there is also an economic factor in that a very sizable portion of the American people can’t afford electric cars and solar panels. If we slashed our war department’s budget in half or more then we could afford to spread more energy efficient systems among the people. Now that would be a very good defensive measure.

    • Bill, I entirely agree with you. Cars normally pass through several hands before they get to the scrap yard, diminishing in value and presumably increasing in pollution potential as they go along. I bought my first car in 1957 and have never bought a new one; you lose money driving them out of the showroom; a fool’s game. Doubtless there are those who could afford an electric car and don’t buy one but that is a different issue altogether. A prohibitive premium levied on the sale of new non-electric vehicles might see electric ones entering the second hand market more swiftly. The whole thing badly needs some imaginative input. As for solar panels, they should be a facility like street lighting, it makes little sense to have individual households installing them when it could be so much more economically and efficiently done by the community.

  6. Saudi-Arabia is an undercover ally of Netanyahu’s Israel, so the Lobby has dictated that Saudi-Arabia is the good guy and Iran is the bad guy. Of course the oil lobby is another big force in this. The two form a powerful force against America’s best interests.

  7. “Riyadh has virtually waged war on Sufism in Pakistan and Indonesia, both of which had been much more open and tolerant before they started coming under Saudi influence.”

    They waged war on the Shia minorities in those respective countries as well, literally running sectarian hate programs, that not only just perpetuated bigoted propaganda but extremist violence as well. In Pakistan’s case it was in the form of target killings and terrorist gun and bomb attacks, and in Indonesia it was in the form of mob violence and implementing policy in some regions to ban Shia Islam.

  8. This isn’t black/white. Saudi Arabian leaders are balancing several macro issues: internal demographics; Israel as the local mighty mite with a big dumb friend; global re-polarization; ‘religious’ monikered destabilization; great gamers; Russia balanced on energy economy; utter chaos in DC with an inept and debilitating leadership apparently rabid about continuing oil dependancy; future fretting by the EU; China’s friendly economic expansion; the increasingly vulnerable (and increasingly touchy) 99.9%; enemy’s enemy’s friends, and so on. It is not as if SA is ignoring energy probabilities in favor of oil. SA appears to understand better than Shell or BP, and certainly better than the donald, that oil is only valuable as a transition to non-oil, and seems to be balancing on the ball better, keeping oil price relatively low to keep Americans carefree, buying big heavy vehicles. The fly needs to be kept alive, cheap oil being the tranquilizer. Thus the SA 2017 announcements of alternate energy investments, easily found by a search, which Dr Cole in other posts has rightly mentioned as laudable. Plant PV’s all across SA and northern Africa and you give many people incomes and secure clean energy as cheap oil or oil transport interdiction slams the door on an oil based past. Oil has been nice but now needs to be used to prime our next energy supply…or we won’t have one.

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