Are we just pawns in a global ‘shell’ game?

Fossil fuel, says the Oxford dictionary, is “a natural fuel such as coal or gas, formed in the geological past from the remains of living organisms,” while renewable energy is, “energy from a source that is not depleted when used, such as wind or solar power,” making them significantly different.

Currently there is a greater awareness of the commercial appeal of renewables, given technological advances that can maximise the management and storage of the ‘harvest’ from renewable sources, and the prospect of greater emphasis on solar and wind energy generation within the Sultanate has been clearly signposted with the recent rebranding of Petroleum Development Oman as Energy Development Oman.

Interestingly, the Australian Business Group is hosting a webinar this week on “Bringing Renewable Energy to Oman,” with some ‘big-hitters’ on the local business scene, Brian Wood, Gilein Steensma and Ayman al Shukaili featuring on their panel of experts. It will be interesting perhaps to understand how the energy sector genuinely sees the renewables. Do they see them as replacing, or complementing, oil and gas over the next fifty to a hundred years?

From my perspective there are key questions yet to be answered, and not aimed at any specific people, but maybe points to ponder, is a more accurate description?

If the initial influence on oil prices was Russia’s unwillingness to let America’s increased production, and Saudi Arabia’s cheaper production costs influence the world markets, is there any prospect of a revival in the price through negotiation? If not, why not?

If shale oil production, and increased ‘fracking,’ are at the heart of America’s oil production resurgence, why do the environmentalists not appear to care? They have certainly been, shall we say, ‘restrained’ in their opposition.

Much of the world is still not significantly ‘developed’, in terms of infrastructure and environmental responsibility, looking at Asia, South East Asia, much of South America and Africa. Surely, as they continue to develop, there will still be a market for Oman’s oil?

And just to finish, it all sounds like a bit of a ‘shell game’ (no pun intended) where the unsuspecting dupe can never win. Coronavirus arrived, magnifying the effect of the global oil crisis, with China, as Oman’s most ardent customer, also the greatest beneficiary of plummeting prices. Whether it is the ultimate irony, or coincidence, a cynical view is that we will never know…