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Saudi Arabia’s energy minister has said President Donald Trump’s election will be good for the oil industry, playing down concerns over the impact of his “America First” policies for the export-reliant kingdom.
Khalid al-Falih said Saudi Arabia is considering increasing its investment in the US encouraged by the new White House administration’s pro-industry and pro-oil and gas stance.
The energy minister, a former head of Saudi’s state oil company Aramco, said in an interview with BBC, the Trump administration looked like adopting policies “which are good for the oil industry” while steering “away from excessively anti fossil fuel, unrealistic policies by some well intentioned environment proponents”.
He dismissed as over exaggerated the worries Mr Trump’s policy statements during the campaign and “America First” claims would hurt Saudi Arabia’s export reliant energy-based economy.
But Mr al-Falih said what the US wanted was a “mixed energy portfolio that includes oil, gas, renewables and make sure that the American economy is competitive. We want the same in Saudi Arabia”.
He said there were “huge areas of alignment in our interests” pointing out the US was the biggest energy market and the biggest petroleum market in the world.
He said he had “no problem” with the push to develop domestic alternative energy supplies such as shale gas, which has sharply reduced US imports from the Middle East in recent years.
“We have no problem with the growth of American indigenous oil supplies. I’ve said it repeatedly – as long as they grow in line with global energy demand we welcome them. We have billions of dollars invested in refining and distribution in the US and we may be increasing that investment on the back of pro-industry, pro-oil and gas policies of the Trump administration in the US.”
He said as a leading member of Opec, Saudi Arabia would have a healthy dialogue with the administration. “I think people are recognising that Opec is a force for good”.
He also sounded upbeat about Mr Trump’s choice of both energy secretary and secretary of state.
On Governor Rick Perry, who is seeking confirmation as energy secretary, the Saudi minister said he was a “great person, pro oil and gas” adding they were both “Aggies” or alumni of Texas A&M university.
Mr al-Falih was even more effusive about Rex Tillerson, who expects to be confirmed as secretary of state describing him as “one of the highest qualified executives I have ever dealt with”.
He said he was a “statesman by nature and I have watched him with admiration as he has led Exxon Mobil to become the most respected oil and gas company in the world and I am sure he will take his experience and wisdom to his new position as secretary of state.”
Describing bilateral US-Saudi relations as “very strong”, the Saudi oil minister acknowledged the Kingdom had friends in the administration. But he said the US and Saudi Arabia “cannot afford not to work together in concert to confront the challenges that are facing the world”.