Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s grand plan to ‘hook’ poor countries on oil

Revealed: Saudi Arabia’s grand plan to ‘hook’ poor countries on oil

Saudi Arabia is driving a huge global investment plan to create demand for its oil and gas in developing countries, an undercover investigation has revealed. Critics said the plan was designed to get countries “hooked on its harmful products”.

Little was known about the oil demand sustainability programme (ODSP) but the investigation obtained detailed information on plans to drive up the use of fossil fuel-powered cars, buses and planes in Africa and elsewhere, as rich countries increasingly switch to clean energy.

The ODSP plans to accelerate the development of supersonic air travel, which it notes uses three times more jet fuel than conventional planes, and partner with a carmaker to mass produce a cheap combustion engine vehicle. Further plans promote power ships, which use polluting heavy fuel oil or gas to provide electricity to coastal communities.

The ODSP is overseen by Saudi Arabia’s de facto ruler, the crown prince Mohammed bin Salman, and involves its biggest organisations, such as the $700bn Public Investment Fund, the world’s largest oil company, Aramco, the petrochemicals firm Sabic, and the government’s most important ministries.

In publicly available information, the programme is largely presented as “removing barriers” to energy and transport in poorer countries and “increasing sustainability”, for example by providing gas cooking stoves to replace wood burning.

However, all the planned projects revealed in the investigation by the Centre for Climate Reporting and Channel 4 News involve increasing the use of oil and gas. An official said this was “one of the main objectives”.

Details of the ODSP’s projects were exposed after undercover reporters posed as potential investors and met officials from the Saudi government. This revealed that increasing demand for oil and gas in developing countries was a thread running through the planned projects.

The Saudi Arabian ministry of energy did not respond to a request for comment.