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Saudi oil minister: Oil remains essential for future energy needs

Oil remains essential to meet expanding energy needs in the foreseeable future, unchallenged by alternatives which are getting popular amid record high oil prices, Saudi Oil Minister Ali Naimi said.

“Oil will continue to be an essential part of global energy mix for many years to come,” Naimi told delegates who were wrapping up a five-day World Petroleum Congress.

The biggest gathering of the world petroleum industry in every three years ended as the international oil prices touched a new record high around $146 per barrel Thursday, which compelled many countries to resort to alternative energies, including biofuels.

“Currently petroleum is unrivaled in its ability to provide safe, efficient and cost-effective transportation to the world's people and I see little to change this in the foreseeable future,” Naimi said.

Naimi said the beginning of the 21st century has been a tumultuous time for petroleum and energy markets.

“Oil markets have witnessed surging demand, political instability, severe weather, infrastructure mishaps, fears of a global climate, catastrophe, changing specifications in international product market, the flow of speculative funds into oil futures and pessimism about the availability of petroleum resources to meet future needs,” he said.

World energy demand was expected to increase fast over the next20 to 30 years due to population growth and the demands of people in both the developed and developing countries for increased prosperity and greater personal mobility.

Naimi pointed out the task of meeting this rising energy demand was complicated by mounting concerns that the use of carbon-based fuels is contributing to global climate change.

Dubbed as “the Olympics of the oil and gas industry,” the congress held discussions under the motto “A world in transition: delivering energy for sustainable growth.”

Naimi said although he welcomes supplementary energy sources like biofuels, which were considered as more clean, they were not replacements at scale for petroleum and they would have drawbacks and challenges.

“A common theme we hear these days is that we need to look pastpetroleum for the solutions to our future energy challenges,” he said. “Such statements create the false impression that jettisoning oil is a requisite for progress in meeting our energy and environmental goals.”

The minister, who is in charge of the world's largest national oil reserve, said carbon-based fossil fuels are still the cheapest, most efficient and most reliable energy sources for our mobile societies, despite the fact that the international oil prices are running high.

In face of soaring oil prices, the congress became another place for exchange of blames between oil producers and consumers after a crucial summit in Saudi Arabia's Red Sea city of Jeddah two weeks ago, with oil producing countries generally saying the price hike has resulted from insufficient supply.

Naimi, who repeatedly rebuffed the claim, said the limits to future petroleum supplies have more to do with politics than with geology and resource availability.

Naimi urged the oil industry to invest heavily in technology and human capital to meet future challenges.

“Technology can empower us to transform our energy system to ensure continued prosperity while producing a cleaner environment,’ he said.

“We also understand that we must expand and nurture both knowledge and our human capital if we are to meet the significant energy and environmental challenges facing mankind,” he added. (Xinhua)