Saudi Arabia may raise U.S. oil investments: energy minister

DUBAI (Reuters) - Saudi Arabia may increase its oil investments in the United States due to a more fossil fuel-oriented energy policy by the U.S. administration of President Donald Trump, the kingdom’s energy minister said.

Saudi energy minister Khalid al-Falih gestures during the 2017 budget news conference in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia December 22, 2016. REUTERS/Faisal Al Nasser

Trump had campaigned on a promise that Washington should boost U.S. energy independence from oil cartels such as OPEC, of which Saudi Arabia is its de facto leader and by far the group’s biggest producer.

But Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Energy, Industry and Mineral Resources, Khalid al-Falih, told the BBC that “there are huge areas of alignment” in interests between the two traditional allies.

“President Trump has policies which are good for the oil industries and I think we have to acknowledge it ... He has steered away from excessively anti-fossil fuels, unrealistic policies,” Falih told the BBC in an interview broadcast on Wednesday.

“I think he wants a mixed energy portfolio that includes oil, gas, renewables, and make sure that the American economy is competitive. We want the same in Saudi Arabia.”

Last year Saudi Arabia unveiled sweeping plans aiming to end the kingdom’s “addiction” to oil and transform it into a global investment power through a broad reform plan dubbed Vision 2030.

Asked whether there is a worry about Trump’s promise to pursue energy independence and block crude imports from Saudi Arabia, Falih said: “We have no problem with the growth of American indigenous oil supply. I have said repeatedly, as long as they grow in line with global energy demand, we welcome them.

“We had billions of dollars invested in refining and distribution in the United States and we may be increasing that investment on the back of pro-industry, pro-oil and gas policies of the Trump administration.”

Falih added that he is looking forward to coordinating energy policies with the nominee for U.S. Energy Secretary, former Texas Governor Rick Perry.

Trump and Saudi Arabia’s King Salman spoke by telephone on Sunday, agreeing to step up counter-terrorism and military cooperation and enhance economic relations, a senior Saudi source told Reuters.

“The relationship between (the U.S. and) Saudi Arabia is very, very strong,” Falih said in Wednesday’s broadcast.

“Saudi Arabia and the United States cannot afford not to work together... to confront the challenges that are facing the world.”

Reporting by Rania El Gamal; Editing by Jason Neely and David Goodman