Overview of Chapter Y: A man with a long-term game plan, Yamani was Saudi Arabia’s influential oil minister from 1962 to 1986. He consistently pushed Western oil companies to acknowledge the Kingdom’s right to control its own resources, but did so while hoping to preserve profitable relationships with these companies. It was a strategy many OPEC members opposed, but Yamani skillfully managed the delicate balancing act for two and a half decades. The chapter also examines Wahhabism, the rise of the al-Saud dynasty, Venezuela’s oil minister Juan Pablo Pérez Alfonzo, and Arab nationalism.
1. Yamani seemed perfectly at ease in both the Western and Arab worlds. What qualities does a person have to have to be this comfortable? Can you think of figures today who have these characteristics?
2. How do Yamani and the oil embargo of 1973-74 relate to concepts of nationalism?
3. Oil is a commodity that is prone to boom and bust cycles. Why is this so? Are there other commodities with similar pressures?
1. The first time oil was struck in Saudi Arabia was on March 4, 1938 at a depth of 4,724 feet. Measure this distance from your school or home. How long it take for you to walk it? How does that change your perception of 4,724 feet?
2. Determine how an oil derrick works and then investigate, perhaps in conjunction with a physics class, how pressure affects underwater oil drilling. Are there limits to how deep companies can drill? If, so what are they?
3. Compare gasoline prices at five different stations near your home. What accounts for the price differentials?
•When Yamani died on February 23, 2021, numerous obituaries appeared. Here is one of the better ones: https://www.wsj.com/articles/sheikh-yamani-who-led-saudi-arabias-rise-to-oil-supremacy-dies-at-90-11614066753
• "Does Geopolitical Risk Strengthen or Depress Oil Prices and Financial Liquidity? Evidence from Saudi Arabia," This 2019 study affirms the correlation between oil prices and changing geopolitical considerations and events. This was true when Yamani was petroleum minster as well.
• The third chapter of the Handbook of OPEC and the Global Energy Order: Past, Present and Future, (Routledge, 2020) presents a chapter by Majid Al-Moneef entitled, " Saudi Arabia's Role in OPEC's Evolution: OPEC and the Global Order from Its Origins to the Present Time." Al-Moneef details the relationship between Norway and Saudi Arabia in some detail and includes a discussion of an important meeting between Yamani and Norway's petroleum minister Arne Øien in Venice in 1986. https://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=NTDLDwAAQBAJ&oi=fnd&pg=PT47&dq=yamani+saudi+arabia+oil&ots=YMNR4jpRYa&sig=Ancd7KnxqAx_m8lfchxahlVo0lI#v=onepage&q&f=false
Map for Chapter Y: This map by the author is in the print edition of the book and shows key places mentioned in the chapter.
Dammam No. 7, the first commercial oil well in Saudi Arabia, struck oil on March 4, 1938. Photograph by unknown photographer, courtesy of Wikimedia Commons,
Gas lines in Texas, 1970s. © NBC 5/KXAS, courtesy of Photograph Collection, University of North Texas Special Collections, and Digital Public Library of America, (AR0847),
"Gas Shortage 06/1973," photograph by David Falconer in Portland, Oregon, U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-5686.
"Gasoline Shortage 06/1973," photograph by David Falconer in Portland, Oregon, U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-5562.
"Closed Service Station 06/1973," photograph in Portland, Oregon by David Falconer, U.S. National Archives’ Local Identifier: 412-DA-5560.