Oil Change: New Energy Security Strategy in Saudi Arabia
Berkowitz, Anna, Kennedy School Review
"Energy security" usually refers to preventing the potentially catastrophic intersection of increasing global energy consumption and the inevitable decline in petroleum production. However, the energy sector faces another "natural resource" shortage that is rarely discussed but equally important: trained personnel. According to energy sector experts, the shortage of specially trained personnel severely threatens future innovation and growth in all areas of energy production.
A recent report by Cambridge Energy Research Associates (CERA) states that, compared with demand for engineers, there will be a 10 to 15 percent "people deficit" by 2010. Furthermore, CERA predicts that more than 50 percent of today's engineers, with an average age of 50, will retire by 2015 and will not be replaced by an adequate number of new engineering professionals. Although the numbers are troubling, the bigger concern is the enormous loss of experience and knowledge.
A potential solution to this pressing concern is currently under construction in the most unlikely of places: Saudi Arabia. Located on the Red Sea north of Jeddah, and boasting a multibillion-dollar endowment, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology (KAUST) boasts that it will be "an international, graduate-level research university dedicated to inspiring a new age of scientific achievement in the Kingdom that will also benefit the region and the world."
In January 2008, while traveling with then Secretary of Energy Samuel Bodman and his delegation to Saudi Arabia, I listened to Saudi officials discuss their aspirations for KAUST. At the time, the university was nothing more than blueprints, barren desert, and a vision.
When KAUST opens its (sustainable) doors in September 2009, it will offer students four strategic research options: resources, energy and environment; biosciences and bioengineering; materials science and engineering; and applied mathematics and computational science. …