27 Nov 2023

Undercover filming highlights Saudi plan to artificially raise oil demand

Chief Correspondent

An undercover sting operation has highlighted a Saudi Arabian government plan to artificially raise global oil demand, Channel 4 News can reveal in an investigation released just days before climate crisis talks begin in the UAE.

Officials from Saudi Arabia’s Oil Sustainability Programme (OSP) have admitted the country’s state-backed plan to target Africa and Asia with petrol, oil and diesel products, under a public programme from its Ministry of Energy.

The operation was conducted by the Centre for Climate Reporting, and given exclusively to Channel 4 News, with a team posing as oil investors. In a secretly recorded video call, one official is asked by an undercover reporter: “My impression is that with issues of climate change there’s a risk of declining oil demand and so the OSP has kind of been set up to artificially stimulate that demand in some key markets?”

In response, he says: “Yes. It is one of the aspects that we are trying to do. It’s one of the main objectives that we are trying to accomplish.”

The plan, officials say, is overseen by Saudi ruler Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. It comes as world leaders descend on the global COP28 climate summit in the UAE.

Revealed today, the plans include a fleet of power station ships off the African coast using heavy fuel oil to generate electricity.

The programme has also learnt that the plans range beyond emerging markets, introducing a new global programme of ‘supersonic’ commercial aviation using three times the amount of kerosine than traditional air travel, to leverage the predicted growth in the market size for the commodity.

Expanding on the plan to flood Africa and Asian markets with diesel and petrol vehicles, an official says: ”We’re talking about diesel, gasoline and jet fuel. We also work to increase low-cost internal combustion engine cars there.”

Probing officials on the OSP’s proposals to launch supersonic commercial flights globally, a second official said: “You know, supersonic aviation consumes more energy and the market size is expected to grow significantly.

So our opportunity here is to facilitate growth and development of supersonic technologies.”

Officials say they also plan to counter market incentives and subsidies for electric vehicles globally which are perceived as a threat to the plan to roll out petrol and diesel engine vehicles.

In relation to electric vehicles, a second OSP official says: “EVs are being favoured in terms of subsidies and regulatory advantage especially in regions like Africa so what we are working on is to increase internal combustion engine adoptions.”

Channel 4 News approached Saudi Arabia’s Ministry of Energy, which oversees the OSP. They did not respond to requests for comment.

Responding to the Channel 4 News investigation, Mohammed Adow, Director of Power Shift Africa, which campaigns on climate action in Africa said: “At a time when the rest of the world is cleaning up and weaning itself off dirty and polluting fossil fuels, Saudi is getting desperate for more customers and now turning its sights on Africa.” ——-