February 12, 2013

Why Are Our Universities Helping the Saudis?

Concerned about their rapidly dwindling oil reserves, the Saudi Arabian government is now showering American universities with hundreds of millions of dollars in scientific research grants. The government wants elite schools such as Cornell, Stanford, and CalTech to dream up new methods for efficient oil extraction and reserve discovery.

Of course, this is not the first time that the Saudi Royal family has donated to elite institutions of higher learning. In 2005, both Harvard and Georgetown received $20 million from Prince Alwaleed bin Talal bin Abdulaziz al-Saud to strengthen their Islamic studies programs. However, this donation is the more nakedly political of the two. As most everyone knows, Saudi Arabia's global prestige is dependent on their continued dominance of the oil export market. Unfortunately for them, the United States is on track to overtake their oil production by 2020. Their decision to fund this research at American universities is an unmistakable sign of desperation.

Luckily for them, our universities are perfectly willing to help them maintain their grip on American foreign policy. This, despite the fact that Saudi Arabia has one of the worst records on free speech and women's rights, two issues our universities claim to champion. This, despite the fact that helping Saudi Arabia improve their oil production completely contradicts these universities' pious paeans to "sustainable energy." It's hard to think of a better example of our universities' duplicity. Though they pay lip service to patriotism, human rights, and environmentalism, their lodestar, fundamentally, is money. 

Comments (1)


Oh, come on. Caltech et al. may have an interest in the environment, but that hardly means as institutions that they are against the burning of fossil fuels, even fuels from the Middle East. American corporations have invested or sold hundreds of billions in Middle Eastern oil technologies. Saudi Arabia is officially an ally of the United States, which also has spent hundreds of billions for the protection of the Saudi and other Middle East oil resources. Bush I took us to war to protect the Saudi oil fields and free Kuwait, remember?

The universities were behind much of the research that made possible to rejuvenation of the American oil fields. Why shouldn't they be involved in developing similar technology for the aging Middle Eastern oil fields.

I might not like it that much of the world's oil supply is located there, and I might not especially like the regimes that control those resources. But that doesn't mean I'm going to pretend that American universities are somehow uniquely evil in participating in that part of the world economy.

Their lodestar is money? Maybe, maybe not. But if so, that makes them as American as apple pie, no?

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