- By Ty McCormickTy McCormick is an associate editor at Foreign Policy. Previously he was a freelance correspondent in Egypt, where he wrote about everything from military trials to revolutionary rap music. A 2011 Pulitzer Center grantee, he has written for Newsweek, the New Republic, the International Herald Tribune, and the Los Angeles Times, among others. He has also appeared as a commentator on Fox News and American Public Media’s Marketplace Tech. He holds a bachelor’s degree from Stanford University, and a master’s from the University of Oxford, where he was a Clarendon Scholar.
Saudi Arabia is home to less than half a percent of the world’s population — and fully 16 percent of the world’s proven oil reserves. Nonetheless, Citigroup projects that the desert nation may become an oil importer in the next 20 years. "If Saudi Arabian oil consumption grows in line with peak power demand, the country could be a net oil importer by 2030," Heidy Rehman wrote in a 150 page report for the bank.
Already Saudi Arabia uses a quarter of its fuel production and all of its natural gas domestically, meaning that its per capita consumption is higher than the United States despite its miniscule industrial base. Demand for electricity, moreover, is expected to grow by as much as 8 percent a year.
The Telegraph has more:
The basic point — common to other Gulf oil producers — is that Saudi local consumption is rocketing. Residential use makes up 50 percent of demand, and over two thirds of that is air-conditioning.
The Saudis also consume 250 litres per head per day of water — the world’s third highest (which blows the mind), growing at nine percent a year — and most of this is provided from energy-guzzling desalination plants.
Analysts including Jeremy Leggett of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security have suggested that dwindling Saudi Arabian exports could contribute to a global fuel shortage, potentially causing "massive stress to the global economy."
Rehman’s report comes less than six months after another Citi report, which predicted an era of oil abundance — and of reduced American dependence on OPEC:
[T]he US has become the fastest growing oil and natural gas producing area of the world and is now the most important marginal source for oil and gas globally. Add to this steadily growing Canadian production and a comeback in Mexican production and you get to a higher growth rate than all of OPEC can sustain.
Either way, Saudi Arabia’s share of global exports is on the wane, so the United States had better stop treating it as a de facto Strategic Petroleum Reserve.