Cheap Seats 2016
Home - 02/17/16
By Rich Trzupek
Man it’s good to be back. Five weeks is a long time to be in the desert, removed from just about everyone and everything that you are used to in your day to day life. It certainly helps me understand, a tiny bit more, the kind of sacrifice our troops make when they are stationed overseas. It’s difficult, and I didn’t have anybody shooting at me!
What lessons do I bring back from Qatar? There’s a few.
First off, it’s clear that the natural gas boom is going to remain a fact of life, and that includes shale gas. Both will remain true, no matter how successful the modern-day Luddites (google it) are at disrupting the industry in the United States.
Just like whatever America does or doesn’t do about our carbon dioxide emissions will have no discernable impact on world-wide carbon dioxide concentrations going forward, so it is natural gas exploration and production.
There are huge amounts of natural gas in the middle east and they are going to develop those resources to feed growing appetites for energy in Asia – China and India in particular – and Europe.
The Saudis are even getting in on the boom now, starting to develop their massive resources of shale gas, utilizing the horizontal drilling and advanced sensing technologies that made shale gas such a success story in the US. This will mean that the Saudis will stop burning oil for power (which was a huge waste of oil), start burning natural gas instead and thus be free to export even more oil if they choose. This is a win/win for the American consumer and consumers all over the world.
Secondly, I am more and more convinced that the future belongs to China and India. Much of Europe is basically in socialist retirement and we’re headed in that direction. The rapid and massive development of infrastructure in Qatar is largely the result of engineering performed by Chinese and Indian engineers and constructed by laborers imported from those two countries.
Some of that work can be a bit slipshod, when non-critical parts of the economy are involved. Homes are not routinely constructed to American standards for example, but they get the job done.
Planning is often wanting in non-critical areas as well. The parking situation is abysmal for the majority of shops, offices and skyscrapers. I don’t know who does their planning, if anyone, but whoever is responsible for enforcing parking lot standards should have been sacked years ago.
On the critical side however, everything is done first class. Critical items include the many natural gas processing plants, power stations and the rest of the industrial infrastructure needed to get natural gas to market. There are no compromises with those. Everyone recognizes that part of the economy has to run smoothly, without interruption, if the good times are to continue.
Third, if you’re looking for moderation in the Middle East, then the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states – along with Jordan – are the places to start. Among the GCC states, only Saudi Arabia, and to a lesser extent Kuwait, can be viewed as hard-core fundamentalist Islamic states. The rest, Bahrain, Oman, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates, are far more tolerant of the west and western ideas. Indeed, Dubai in the UAE is rapidly establishing a reputation as the Vegas of the middle east.
The GCC nations are far from perfect. The Sunni-Shia tension, for example, isn’t going away anytime soon (considering it has been around for fifteen hundred years), but all in all if there’s hope for long-term peace in this troubled part of the world, it starts with the GCC.
Finally, thank God for Indian food! Much native food in Qatar is not to my taste. Their preferred method of cooking a steak, for example, is to turn it into something closely resembling shoe leather. But, with so many people from India working in Qatar, there is a lot of Indian cuisine to be had and I love me some good, spicy Indian dishes.
That said, it sure was nice to get home and enjoy a good ole Chicago pizza. Some things just can’t be beat.