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A Dangerous Precedent…The Conflict between Gas and Oil | ASHARQ AL-AWSAT English Archive 2005 -2017
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The general topic of energy continues to serve as a facade for the ongoing war between the ”Gas States ” and ”Oil States”, and in particular between a certain small state and its large neighbor. In this context, comes one of the most important events in Washington this week, namely the discussion of the energy bill in the American Congress, or what we should call &#34the War between Gas States and Oil States.&#34 It could even be renamed &#34The bill to punish OPEC&#34, or even what I call the &#34Cold War&#34 situation between two Middle Eastern Arab countries brought to Congress.

According to more than one source, a small Arab state that happens to be one of the largest gas producers is behind this bill, as it used all strategic methods of pressure to convince a large number of Congressmen of their responsibility to punish the oil states. At the same time, this state dedicated the largest possible quantity of natural gas to be sold to America as an alternative.

It is well known that the United States relies on a number of Arab States, especially Saudi Arabia, for 60% of its oil requisites. The new proposed bill implicitly aims at Saudi Arabia and not all OPEC countries. The small state and its supporters within Congress and in Washington believe that this dependency of the United States on Saudi oil of such an extent is a major shortcoming of American national security. The reason for this belief is the potential danger of terminating the Saudi oil flow to America as a result of the current political tension between the Kingdom and Washington.

This is not the first time that gas states have waged war against oil states and is not the first time that Congress has been used as a battlefield for Arab states. Since the 1990”s, many Arab countries took their arguments to Congress in order to settle the issue there. However, this is the first time that this strategy has successfully been taken to this level of deception, which has almost led to the approval of the bill. On 9 June, Senator Pete Dominci revealed the purpose of the bill saying that it aims to increase the consumption of natural gas. Moreover, he asserted that opening the American coasts for natural gas (imported from the largest gas producer) is a great achievement and key addition for the bill.

Undoubtedly, I cannot reduce the proposed bill to the issue of gas states against oil states only, as it also targeted the energy crisis of America in general. It called for the USA to explore and develop alternative energy sources especially considering the fact that the United States consumes 20.8 million oil barrels every day of which the figure is increasing at such a rate that it may rise by 30% within the next ten years.

Despite this, the issue of the public energy crisis remains an effective façade for the war between gas and oil states, particularly between this specific small state and its larger neighbor. The Minister of Energy of this small state spoke at a number of locations about the settling of the dispute between oil and gas. He discussed this in the city of Houston, Texas last year as well as at the Gas Exporters Conference in Trinidad. On several occasions, the minister said that the aim behind the gas issue was to enable his country to break free from the Saudi control of OPEC. The logic behind this questions how could the largest gas producer remain under the mercy of the largest oil producer, especially when there is political tension or even unofficial animosity, between the two. The Minister called for the establishment of an organization to compete with OPEC that would be called GASPEC.

The statements made by the Minister represent a strategic policy initiated by the small state to encircle its large neighbor internationally. The small state has in fact proven its ability to convince Congress of taking practical steps to punish Saudi Arabia through its Washington network of public relations representatives and lobbies. The new bill is one of these steps.

Several months back, this lobby unsuccessfully tried to push a bill to punish Saudi, which according to a Congress employee failed due to its &#34shamelessness.&#34 The new energy bill however tackles a number of issues such as alternative energy and the possibility of nuclear energy, Hydrogen and Ethanol as such alternatives. However, the main reason behind the bill is the war between the oil and gas Gulf States.

The fact that Arab states disagree with one another is not the problem, however the major issue here is when they take these disputes to the American Congress. Such an example creates chaos within a state as well as fearful alliances between Arabs who claim to be Arab nationalists on one hand, and their enemies (or friends?) in Congress who support Israel on the other hand. A truly dangerous precedent has been set.