Two wealthy new Saudi research institutions focused on the kingdom’s energy future are on a hiring spree in the United States, luring away the president of Cal Tech and signing up advisors that include two influential energy market analysts, the CEO of one of Washington’s biggest think tanks and even MIT professor Ernest Moniz, President Obama’s nominee for energy secretary.
Moniz, a nuclear physicist, was named to the seven member board of trustees at King Abdullah Petroleum Studies and Research Center last fall, serving under board chairman Ali I. Al-Naimi, the Saudi oil minister. Speculation about Moniz’s possible selection as energy secretary spurred a lobbying campaign directed at the White House by some environmental groups. They contend Moniz is too wedded to fossil fuels and object to his support for hydraulic fracking of shale gas.
Persian Gulf oil interests for the first time face declining demand for their product as the United States looks toward producing much more oil and natural gas, and continues to develop wind, solar and other renewables. The royal family has ramped spending to develop energy from water and the sun and ways to lengthen the life of Saudi oil resources. In a major coup for the Saudis last week, Caltech president Jean-Lou Chameau announced will resign to go lead a second new Saudi university, King Abdullah University of Science and Technology, known as KAUST.
Chosen excerpts by Job Market Monitor