A Saudi Collapse

I expend a great deal of time analyzing the fragilities and pressure points of our industrial system and while there are many possible scenarios impacting on oil supply and production, one of the more likely would be a collapse  and overthrow of the Saudi Royal family. This spring Al Qa’eda suggested that it might be a good time to kidnap Christians and Saudi Princes.  It was probably no accident that last month a Saudi Prince by the name of  Prince Turki bin Abdul Aziz Al Saud, now in exile in Cairo, issued an open letter to his fellow royals, suggested that his fellow princes should consider fleeing the kingdom  lest they lose their heads in a revolution in the streets. Interesting recommendation. This statement impelled me to  google news reports and data about the KSA and I found some disturbing trends which merit revelation of the secretive kingdom. The first is population. In the 1970’s as oil production began to ramp up with the discovery of the world’s largest oil field, the Ghawar. At that time the population of Saudis was about 6 million. As of 2000 it had exploded to 23 million(28.7 million is you count the 5 million + foreign nationals) and projected to rise to 50 million by 2030. In the 1980’s per capita  net income was $28,000 and  that has fallen to $7000 by 2009 as revealed by an article in  July 13 2010 Fortune by Ilan Berman. He contends that the KSA is polarized by wealth and income disparity mirroring many other countries around the world. The CIA Factbook had some stunning statistics: 38% of the population is between the age of  0 and 14 and 60% is between 15 and 64.  There are an estimated 30,000 Saudi princes projected to grow to 60,000 by 2020, many of them drawing huge salaries doing nothing beyond jet setting around the world to destinations like the Four Seasons resort here at Teton Village or secretly contributing to nascent Wahabbist causes around the middle east.
     KSA has no manufacturing base outside of the oil and petrochemical industry and must import most of its food.It makes so little stuff of consequence that it had to use imported box cutters to storm the cockpits of the hapless  9-11aircraft. Despite the fact that the 9-11 terrorists were mostly Saudi citizens, the US government continues to sleep with the devil and the Obama Administration is no different than the equally undistinguished predecessor Bush Administration. KSA supplies the world with about 8.6 million barrels a day of mostly high quality low sulfur oil, just a bit under the current production leader, Russia.We get about 12% of our oil from KSA, behind Canada and Mexico. Saudi Arabia is said to be the only country with spare production capacity but even that boast by Aramco is subject to some doubt. Should a Wahabbist revolution occur in Saudi Arabia with a cessation of oil exports, the shock to the world economy would likely be profound. If a  revolution were to occur similar to what happened to its neighbor to the north(Iran) , the implications to the energy import dependent US economy would be obvious. The US has strong military ties to the kingdom as the recent $60 billion arms and aircraft deal indicates, but F15-16 fighter aircraft would have little value quelling  internal dissent. Despite the fact that the kingdom has the worlds largest petroleum reserves, power blackouts are a common occurrence in Saudi Arabia and an attack upon the electrical grid and communications infrastructure could quickly disable any response by the Royal Family and the military. I was not able to find any articles about the likelihood of internal dissent leading to revolution probably because of the tight control upon the media by the government but the demographic statistics I have cited point to some worrisome trends.

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About cal48koho

I was born in Montana and raised in a dozen Air Force SAC bases. I attended Holy Cross,West Point and UNC in Chapel Hill(MD"71). Army doc in the last years of the Viet Nam fiasco. My wife and I live in a log cabin I built in Jackson Hole in 1975 when we aren't on our Cal 48 yawl. I've done a dozen different jobs and retired from ER and Anesthesia in 2004. I've written magazine articles and am writing a Kunstleresque novel about life in a past Peak Oil world. We are living in a beautiful alpine setting where we hike and ski when we're not thinking about economics and spreading the implications of PO to anyone who will listen.
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