this may take a bit.. some ranting on my part over recent events and the price at the gas pump lately... earlier this month, al-Quaeda carried out a deadly attack on the US Embassy in Jeddah..I think we all should be giving that some serious thought..The record high cost of gas is nothing when balanced against the possibility of an unstable Saudi Arabia...let's face it.. the relationship with the Saudis is based on the stability of the regime and the output of their oil fields..both of which are now questionable.So, what is the West's response?.. Throw oodles of money their way so the House of Saud can buy off the peasants? start planning a possible military intervention -what's the worst case scenario? Oil sucking nations assume that the supply will be sufficient to meet their needs at acceptable price levels..Saudi Arabia is a swing producer, since it has the largest output and the greatest flexibility, therefore, any adverse development there would affect the international oil market and all the countries that participate in the world economy... Think on this: 1] King Fahd is ailing and not running the country..Crown Prince Abdallah, is.. but, he's over 80..other key leaders are geriatrics as well -Interior minister Nayaf is over 70...There are rivalries and divisions among the royals over the future of the kingdom that is based on Wahhabism -the puritanical version of Islam..the outcome of a fight over succession and the country's direction as a result will be neither smooth nor democratic. 2] Internal terrorism is a highly destabilizing force. Osama Bin Laden's stated objective is to topple the present regime. Should the radicals gain popular support the rulers would be in peril..as we've seen in Iraq.. terror attacks against foreign workers will chase them out of the place, and threaten the oil industry..but getting the Saudi authorities to act against the terrorists is a toughie since, it is common knowledge that the regime supports extremist Islamic movements elsewhere..[ possiblity that it will come back to bite them on the bum ...] 3] some experts are starting to doubt the Saudi's claim about reserves..generally estimated at 260 billion barrels to almost 400 billion..with that kind of backlog.. the thinking is they can ramp up production way beyond the current 9 million barrels a day..some of the backroom boys are thinking there's only 108 billion barrels left and then production will slow down. When you put lower amounts with succession issues you got to plan for some contingencies..in any case long term thinking has to change about a petroleum based economy..there are no short term options because energy policy can't be turned around overnight. got to start thinking about reduced or interrupted Saudi oil production..rationally, any group controlling Saudi Arabia would want to sell its oil on the market, but internal fighting could damage the fields or infrastructure and a really radical group in power could withold oil to punish the 'infidel ' politically, if Iraq continues to slide downhill, Iran will make headway with the Shiites and might try to extend its influence down the gulf into Arabia where the folks are also Shiite..Now Dubya and Friends went to war in '91 to check the extension of Iraqi influence..but Iranian control would be just as bad. . Got to consider military action to prevent world economic decline..Doubt that the US will think of going it alone on this after the Iraq ' quagmire ' but, if things get really screwed it may have to. before the war there was a real divide between the US and the EU..but, faced with a Saudi mess, both America and Europe's interests would converge, paving the way for a new ' coalition '..And, the situation would be different than Iraq where ties among Russia, Germany and France [ or their oil industires ] and Saddam suppressed European intervention with America.. One positive spinoff may be that an unstable Saudi Arabia would increase efforts to stabilize Iraq as an alternative source of fossil fuels [ see. it is/will be all about the oil ].. Might not have to fight, though.. we could subvert from within..There is a growing and influential middle and professional class in Saudi Arabia that could run the oil and provide democratic rule..replacing the dysfunctional autocrats, problematically supported by the US now for 7 decades [ shades of Saddam ] of course, to switch to democracy would need lots of external pressure and generate intense resistance among the few thousand princes who are living high under the present system.. the tree hugging lefties and the ' right-thinking' moderates will tell us that we need to reduce oil dependency through alternative energy sources.. all too true.. but, so far.. those options aren't popular nor are they quick and easy..we all promised to conserve and change after the last oil crisis way back in 1970!.. That crisis may well come back with a vengeance.. so, bottom line.. Saudi's are ready for a fall.. are we ready to pick up the pieces? given the state of things and who's in charge.. I don't think so.. Stock up on candles and tinned beans.. gonna need 'em..