We must prepare for the global energy changes to come

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

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Bahrain was a rich market for pearl trade. One morning, things changed as the Japanese discovered cheaper and more productive industrial alternatives. The Bahraini main trade collapsed, the fishing boats became deserted, and the Gulf region lost one of its most important financial resources. This same story can happen again with oil, especially since alternatives have been developing which encouraged governments in a number of countries to support electric cars, and plan to end the era of gasoline and diesel cars. Britain, France, Germany, the Netherlands, as well as India and China, have announced their intention to dispose of petroleum fuels for cars. We have already witnessed how cars replaced horses and donkeys. Today history repeats itself.

This is what makes ideas and projects such as Vision 2030 of Saudi Arabia an existential issue, because it is based on finding an alternative income for oil; otherwise we would be in a real danger. The new area will require rationalizing a huge portion of government spending, educating people on how to manage their savings, reforming education and employment, and empowering women. Otherwise, the task will be a lot harder later.

Although the gasoline and diesel cars still have two decades in their lifespan in a number of major world markets, oil revenues are suffering today as prices continue to fluctuate and the alternative oil market such as coal expands. This increases pressure on planners to accelerate the search for faster solutions. The economy cannot survive with these very high rates of foreign employment and local unemployment or with government support for various goods and services. All of which will make the task very difficult for the government and citizens over the next few years. We will see the end of time of servants and drivers, and the difficulty of acquiring a paid or guaranteed government job.

No one is aware of what is happening in the world or even doubts the need to move to a new stage relying less on oil.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed

Strategy makers will need to think deeply how any country can distinguish itself industrially or serviceably. Does it lean more towards religious tourism or expansion of industrial oil products? Should the focus be on sciences from the early stages of education or rather specialization and the declaration of the country in an urgent state of transition?

To be less reliant on oil

No one is aware of what is happening in the world or even doubts the need to move to a new stage relying less on oil. So the inauguration of Vision 2030 came as a conscious and responsible reading before the states change history in the car industry, which will be the major blow to the oil market. We will see a heated race between reducing our reliance on oil resources and reducing dependence on its derivatives of car fuel. Stopping gasoline and diesel cars does not mean the end of the oil age, but it strikes at the most important products and markets which happen to be the source of our main income. Oil will remain for a long time a source of life in other areas. It is fuel for aircraft and ships, operates electricity generators, runs desalination plants, used in the heating sector, used as asphalt and a key component in many industries from iron to shampoo, toothpaste and even artificial hearts.

I have heard skeptics say that the 20-year time limit for gasoline and diesel is unrealistic and oil will continue to be needed, arguing that the proportion of electric cars in Britain is only one per cent today, but we have seen how the world changed in short times and embraced modern techniques. It may be repeated with electric cars, especially that its technology, as well as the electronic car, is moving forward with amazing speed. Hence, we must be optimistic that we are able to challenge and overcome the crisis.

This article is also available in Arabic.

Abdulrahman al-Rashed is the former General Manager of Al Arabiya News Channel. A veteran and internationally acclaimed journalist, he is a former editor-in-chief of the London-based leading Arab daily Asharq al-Awsat, where he still regularly writes a political column. He has also served as the editor of Asharq al-Awsat’s sister publication, al-Majalla. Throughout his career, Rashed has interviewed several world leaders, with his articles garnering worldwide recognition, and he has successfully led Al Arabiya to the highly regarded, thriving and influential position it is in today. He tweets @aalrashed.

Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English's point-of-view.
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