Last week, the U.S. Secretary of Energy Steven Chu undertook what I would characterize as an energy diplomacy tour of the Middle East, spending the first two days of his four day trip in Saudi Arabia, followed by a visit to Abu Dhabi in the UAE, and finally Qatar. While it was certainly exciting to me the trip as a whole didn't get too much coverage, so to save you the hassle of rifling through the annals of Google, I've provided you with a short recap of each day.
Day One (Riyadh, Saudi Arabia):
Secretary Chu kept a tight schedule, meeting with multiple officials. The day began with a discussion with King Abdullah and Saudi Petroleum and Resource Minister Ali Al Naimi. Topics of their talk included climate change, energy security, and the future role of alternative resources. Chu brought these topics together for the public during a speech at the International Energy Forum Secretariat, which hit on some solid natural security points. Chu also outlined the added stress that climate change could add to the Middle East, especially Saudi Arabia, by increasing levels of water scarcity – a problem already endemic in areas such as Yemen, whose instability has already been a thorn in the Kingdom's side.
Day Two (Thuwal, Saudi Arabia):
The Secretary spent the day visiting King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST), one of two Saudi Universities that Chu specifically mentioned as the future of a Saudi knowledge-based economy in his speech on Monday. With finite resources comprising the lifeblood of the Saudi economy today, an energy-knowledge-based economy may allow for Saudi Arabia to solidify itself as a center for energy in the world well into the future.
Day Three (Abu Dhabi, UAE):
While in Abu Dhabi, Dr. Sultan Al Jaber, CEO of future energy corporation Masdar, hosted the secretary. There Chu delivered a speech outlining the common bonds and need for action between the United States and the United Arab Emirates on future energy initiatives in the face of climate change. Earlier in the day, Chu had spoken with government officials on America's commitment to clean energy, and signed an Implementing Agreement with the UAE on nuclear energy and nonproliferation.
Day Four (Doha, Qatar):
Wrapping up his energy diplomacy tour of the Middle East, Secretary Chu began the day by signing a memorandum of understanding to advance Qatari initiatives in clean and alternative energy technologies. Later in the day, Chu discussed issues of renewable energy, biofuels, and the impending effects of climate change at theQatar Science & Technology Park.
The event seemed to be as much about uniting America's individual interests in the region, as it was about uniting the region under their shared concerns, in an energy intensive economy. Secretary Chu says it best, stating, “Qatar, along with Saudi Arabia and the UAE, are all looking at how to diversify (their resources). Yes, they have a lot of oil and gas but no one knows when it is going to run out.”
The Week Ahead
Today, the Center for American Progress will be hosting The Global Implications of Climate Migration, beginning at 11:00am. Later today, check out SAIS forChina's International Petroleum Policy at 5:30pm. Wednesday morning at 9:00am, the House Committee on Foreign Affairs will hold a hearing on U.S. Policies and Programs for Global Development: USAID and the FY2010 Budget Request. Later that day, the Senate Committee on Armed Services Subcommittee on Strategic Forces will be holding a hearing on the protective forces in the Department of Energy at 3:30pm.