In January, Saudi Minister of Petroleum and Mineral Resources Ali I. Al-Naimi had said the Saudis would not be boosting oil production for Washington. Photo by Mark Silva
by Mark Silva
With gasoline pushing $4 a gallon and oil already topping $100 per barrel, the only word of relief today coming out of Vice President Dick Cheney’s meetings with King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia is an agreement that “longer-term’’ solutions are necessary.
Solutions such as drilling for oil in the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge.
Abdullah, who had made commitments of new Saudi investment in oil production as crown prince a few years back when he visited President Bush at his Texas ranch and also met with Cheney in Dallas, told the vice president that they are following through on those investments, according to an account after their dinner at Janadria Farm.
(The Web-site for Janadria Farm is sort of like the oil discussion itself -- "Please return soon for updates.'')
President Bush had visited and dined with the king earlier this year as well, and the Saudis publicly and firmly rejected the idea of any immediate increase in oil production as a means of satisfying the demand that has helped drive prices higher..
A senior administration official said no breakthroughs on short-term relief for tight energy markets had come out of Cheney’s meetings with Abdullah.
“There was a lot of commonality in their assessment about the structural problems confronted by the global energy market now, and some discussion of probably the way forward, how we work together to try and stabilize the market and what can be done, what could be done shorter term," the official said, "but probably more about what's necessary to do over the medium to longer term."
Those longer-term solutions include more investment in new oil production,, as Saudi Arabia has been doing. Asked about the longer-term solutions, the official said: “I’m sure they mentioned the kinds of commitments the king made” when he met with the vice president in Dallas in 2005.
Then, the Saudis had laid out a five to six program near fulfillment, the official said, including “billions of dollars in Saudi investment into increasing capacity.”
“The U.S. believes there ought to be a lot more investment in our own production capabilities,’’ this official said – pointing to places such as the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge, as well as offshore along the east, west and Gulf coasts.
To be precise, however, this official allowed that he didn’t have a lot of detail about the VP’s one-on-one discussions with the king. Cheney, who has made surprise stops in Iraq and Afghanistan during this trip, was headed to Israel and the West Bank for meetings with leaders about peace talks there.
With thanks to John McKinnon of the Wall Street Journal for his print pool reporting of the vice president's trip through the Middle East.