April 25, 2012

Saudi Arabia vs. America: Who’s More Progressive?

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On January 30, the Saudi Arabian minister of petroleum Ali Al-Naimi delivered a speech at the Middle East and North Africa Energy 2012 conference that would give Sarah Palin nightmares, and though some time has passed since I’ve heard this speech, it’s message continues to resonate with me.

He admitted that climate change is real, and that their industry needs to “take on a leadership role.” More shockingly, he goes on to say that “pumping oil out of the ground does not create many jobs. It does not foster an entrepreneurial spirit, nor does it sharpen critical faculties.”

Meanwhile, in America, people are looking to tar sands and hydrofracking as the beacon of hope that will save our economy.  Think of all the jobs… ONE MILLION jobs, according to Rick Perry. But a study done at Cornell shows that the Keystone XL pipeline would have actually killed as many jobs as it created. In reality, the excavation of tar sands and oil and natural gas could threaten the potential for a clean energy economy in the States.

Al-Naimi is purporting economic development in Saudi Arabia, but he’s not describing the oil and gas drilling as the focus of economic development. Rather, their prominent energy industry has given them the means for REAL economic development. They are going to invest in the future – in youth, public infrastructure, health care, and education. The energy industry has given them the literal and metaphorical “fuel” needed for prosperity, and now that they’ve achieved it, they can focus on developing a resilient economy.

But we are a full-sized economy. We don’t have a need for physical growth like Saudi Arabia – rather, we consume far too much – if everyone in the world consumed at our rate we would need 5 planets to supply the necessary natural resources. And if hydrofracking is the only thing we have going for us right now, that’s a pretty sad state for the economy.

We have 300 million minds and bodies able to do real progressive work. The fossil fuel industry is NOT the future. If we really want to develop our country, we need to stop developing dirty energy, and start developing our minds, our infrastructure, and the sustainable economy. We need to move forwards.

Denise Robbins is a student in the College of Arts and Sciences. She can be reached at dsr86@cornell.edu. The Missing Link: Policy appears on appears on Thursdays.

Original Author: Denise Robbins