Saudi oil is back in the news at the moment following the murder of Jamal Ahmad Khashoggi by the Saudis. Larry Elliot wrote an article arguing we are less dependent on Saudi oil and any bust up over the murder which involved Saudi Arabia cutting of the taps would be ineffective.
But is this true? Its certainly true that every time there is an oil crisis it boosts the alternatives. In the 1970’s two oil crisis’s helped spur an interest in peak oil and renewable energy (mine and many others). Unfortunately President Carter’s huge solar panel programme was cut by Ronald Reagan. Electric cars came onto the market and were killed off by big oil. Nevertheless you can see the roots of where we are in now in what happened then.
However a glance at the BP Statistical review of World energy shows that the US is using almost 20mbd of oil (still lower than 2007 incidentally) and produces about 13mbd (despite all the fracking hype). This is about 4mbd up from its low point in the conventional oils decline. (Of course people forget that conventional oil fields are still declining in the US and fracked oil has to make for this as well as meet any increase in demand.) If (and its a big if) the Saudis turned off the taps then there would be huge increase in the oil price which as few people has noticed been creeping up. However if they did that they would be harming mainly themselves. The alternatives would be very economically viable and the West would really concentrate on curbing its addiction to oil. However the oil price increase would hit Western economies very hard and probably give us another global banking crisis and crash. For this reason and and also due to arms sales the West will not confront the Saudis. Its strange isn’t that the terrible murder of one man leads to a huge row but what they are doing in Yemen has no effect on our relations.