Unveiled: The ambitious scheme of Saudi Arabia to entice underdeveloped nations with oil.
An undercover investigation has uncovered Saudi Arabia’s efforts to implement a large-scale global investment strategy aimed at increasing demand for its oil and gas in developing nations. Detractors have accused the plan of intentionally creating dependency on their detrimental products.
Limited knowledge existed regarding the sustainability of the oil demand programme (ODSP), however, after conducting an investigation, comprehensive details were uncovered regarding efforts to promote the use of fossil fuel-based vehicles, buses, and planes in Africa and other regions. This is occurring as wealthy nations are shifting towards renewable energy sources.
The ODSP intends to expedite the progress of supersonic air transportation, acknowledging that it consumes three times the amount of jet fuel compared to traditional planes. Along with this, they plan to collaborate with a car company to produce a low-cost combustion engine vehicle on a large scale. Other initiatives involve supporting power ships, which utilize environmentally harmful heavy fuel oil or gas to supply electricity to coastal areas.
The ODSP is managed by the crown prince of Saudi Arabia, Mohammed bin Salman, and includes prominent entities such as the $700 billion Public Investment Fund, the largest oil company in the world, Aramco, the petrochemical company Sabic, and the government’s key ministries.
The program is commonly advertised as removing obstacles to energy and transportation in impoverished nations and promoting sustainability. An example of this is providing gas stoves for cooking instead of burning wood.
Nevertheless, the investigations conducted by the Centre for Climate Reporting and Channel 4 News have uncovered that all proposed projects aim to boost the consumption of oil and gas. A spokesperson stated that this is a top priority.
The CEO of the World Bank recently stated that wealthier nations and corporations must assist developing countries in bypassing the reliance on fossil fuels for economic growth and instead implement sustainable energy sources. According to Ajay Banga, failure to do so would make it impossible to meet the goal of reducing carbon emissions by 2050, a crucial step in preventing a climate crisis as repeatedly emphasized by scientists globally.
The country of Saudi Arabia has pledged to uphold the climate objectives set by the Paris agreement, which aim to limit global warming to less than 2 degrees Celsius and ideally to 1.5 degrees Celsius. This will require a substantial decrease in fossil fuel emissions and the preservation of most oil and gas reserves, which poses a major risk to the country’s revenue due to policies promoting electric vehicles and other climate initiatives.
One of the main concerns at the upcoming UN Cop28 climate summit is whether nations will follow through on their promise to reduce or eliminate the use of fossil fuels. This year, the climate emergency has resulted in record-breaking temperatures and devastating weather events that have caused loss of life and damage to communities worldwide.
According to Mohamed Adow, the leader of Power Shift Africa, the Saudi government is akin to a drug pusher attempting to get Africa addicted to its dangerous merchandise.
Other countries are moving away from using harmful fossil fuels, but Saudi Arabia is struggling to find new customers and is now targeting Africa. This is unacceptable.
Africa cannot keep up with the rest of the world by simply following in the footsteps of polluting nations. This would result in missing out on the potential benefits of modern energy solutions, despite Africa’s vast renewable energy resources. However, Africa does have an advantage as a latecomer, which allows for the opportunity to make a significant leap towards a truly sustainable energy transition.
In 2021, António Guterres, the secretary general of the United Nations, emphasized the importance of providing sufficient international aid to African and other developing nations in order for their economies to bypass harmful development practices and shift towards a cleaner and more sustainable energy future.
The energy ministry of Saudi Arabia did not provide a response to a comment request.
The website for the programme provides a short description, referring to it as the oil sustainability programme in English, but in Arabic it is referred to as the oil demand sustainability programme.
According to the Arabic website, their main goal is to maintain and enhance the need for hydrocarbons as a cost-effective energy source, while also increasing its economic and environmental effectiveness. This is all done with the aim of ensuring a sustainable energy transition for Saudi Arabia.
A notice released in June to the stock exchange of Saudi Arabia regarding a memorandum of understanding between ODSP and the Saudi Industrial Export Company initially mentioned that it would facilitate “operations related to meeting the demand for oil.” However, a correction issued the next day substituted this statement with facilitating “operations aimed at increasing access to energy.”
The ODSP’s projects were revealed when undercover reporters pretended to be investors and met with officials from the Saudi government. It was discovered that the planned projects were driven by a growing need for oil and gas in developing nations.
The officials’ presentation stated that the goal was to increase demand in developing markets by eliminating obstacles to energy access through investments in infrastructure.
When questioned by journalists about the goal of artificially boosting demand in certain important markets, a representative stated, “Yes, it’s one of our primary objectives that we are striving to achieve.”
It is unlikely that developing countries can bypass the use of fossil fuels, as a functional infrastructure is necessary to fully implement electric vehicles.
Many nations in Africa currently lack sufficient access to electricity to sustain their daily needs. It is our belief that they should have the opportunity to obtain the necessary energy for their growth and progress. In time, they can strive to upgrade or switch to more effective forms of energy.
According to officials, the ODSP’s 46 projects were chosen based on their potential for “incremental demand” and the programme was responsible for providing the necessary financing for these projects.
The projects are divided into three groups: transportation, utilities, and materials. The third group focuses on replacing cement, steel, and wood commonly used in construction with plastics derived from oil.
According to an official, the goal of the transportation industry is to promote the long-term sustainability of fuel used for transportation, such as diesel, gasoline, and jet fuel. As part of this plan, funding for road projects is being considered.
Our goal is to increase the speed and improve the effectiveness and acceptance of internal combustion engine [ICE] technology and optimization.
“We also have the potential to increase the accessibility and usage of affordable vehicles, particularly in developing markets. Currently, only 3% of the population in Africa owns a car.”
Based on the presentation, the goal is to collaborate with a car company to create and manufacture a cost-effective vehicle that will benefit the country’s oil industry.
According to the presentation, the ODSP is also focusing on bus, ride-sharing, and delivery services with the aim of promoting the use of ICE fleets in developing countries to meet the growing demand for gasoline and diesel.
In the world of aviation, the ODSP aims to boost the number of flights by aiding in the establishment or launch of a budget-friendly airline. Officials have announced efforts to expedite the development of commercial supersonic travel, despite its higher energy consumption of three times that of traditional subsonic aircraft per seat-kilometer.
According to an official, the proposed electricity production plans involve implementing “oil-powered mini grids” that utilize diesel or heavy fuel oil. Additionally, there are plans to invest in ships that can function as “floating power plants” powered by heavy fuel oil or gas.
In November, Saudi Arabia entered into agreements with Rwanda to increase the demand for hydrocarbon resources, with Nigeria to enhance collaboration and strengthen their partnership in the oil and gas industry, and with Ethiopia to cooperate on oil supply.
Adow stated that the reason for African countries being vulnerable to this deception is due to the failure of developed countries to fulfill their promises of providing climate financing.
We require funding from wealthy nations who tout themselves as leaders in addressing climate change. Otherwise, we may encounter more questionable agreements like this one, which not only puts Africans at risk, but also undermines the global initiative to secure a safe and prosperous climate for everyone.