Man Who Moved Everything Now Interested in Solar

Man Who Moved Everything Now Interested in SolarMan Who Moved Everything Now Interested in Solar

For more than two decades, the oil market hung to Ali al-Naimi’s every word -- whether he was taking a characteristic stroll at dawn in Vienna, hurrying through a hotel lobby after a conference, or dodging throngs of reporters at an OPEC meeting.

Now that he is done with his near 21-year stint as Saudi Arabia’s oil minister, during which his utterances could move everything from crude to currencies and stocks worldwide, al-Naimi says he does not want to talk about the market anymore, Bloomberg reported.

“As far as oil prices and oil, I have left that behind,” he said at an event in Singapore to launch his book ‘Out of the Desert: My Journey From Nomadic Bedouin to the Heart of Global Oil’.

Al-Naimi was the architect of the 2014 strategy by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to continue pumping amid a global glut to squeeze out higher-cost producers including US shale drillers.

After becoming oil minister in 1995, he steered the world’s largest crude exporter through wild price swings, regional wars, technological progress and the rise of climate change as a key policy concern. He stepped down from the role last year.

He is not easing up and relaxing into retirement though. Instead, he is looking up to the sun after years of musing about what is pumped from under the ground.

“Now I’m much more interested in solar energy, making solar panels,” he said. “If you could help me there, good.”

Saudi Arabia is embarking on a $50 billion renewable-resources push to meeting growing energy demand while tempering domestic oil use. Starting this year, the OPEC’s biggest crude producer plans to develop almost 10 gigawatts of renewable energy such as solar and wind power by 2023.

Al-Naimi’s focus on solar energy is his way of staying young. “Otherwise you’ll die. You need to keep the brain going,” said the 81-year-old, who still goes running and mountain climbing to stay fit.

Al-Naimi’s successor, Khalid al-Falih, has marshaled a different oil-market strategy.

OPEC and some other producers including Russia started cutting output last month as part of a deal aimed at easing bloated global inventories, with Saudi Arabia making significant curbs to its production.

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