No matter what conservation steps the United States takes, Saudi Arabia is confident that the United States will still be importing over half its oil by 1982, according to an authoritative Saudi source.
Based upon independent analysis and projections by the Saudi Ministry of petroleum and Minerals, by 1982 the United States will import at least 52 per cent of its oil-including 3.5 million barrels a day from Saudi Arabia - even with strict conservation measures and added new oil supplies from Alaska and Mexico.
Oil imports now average 10 million barrels a day, about half of U.S. oil needs. Over the last year, U.S. imports from Arab states in the 13-member Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries have doubled. Saudi Arabi has the largest oil reserves of any country in the free word and is OPEC's largest producer.
"You need us more than we need you," the Saudi source said.
The Saudis would be willng to produce 11 million barrels of oil a day by 1982, the source said. According to knowledgeable industry sources, Saudi Arabia could expand production capacity of 14.5 million or 15 million barrels of oil a day by 1980.
The Saudi oil minister, Sheikh Zaki Yamani, is currently on an unofficial visit to the United States and will meet with members of the Senate Monday morning.
Saudi Arabia has continued to advocate a moderate price position since OPEC quadrupled oil prices in 1973. Over the last months, officials say, Saudi Arabia's position within OPEC has changed from being a "price holder to a price setter."
At the December OPEC meeting in Dhoa, Qatar, Yamani announced that Saudi Arabia would boost its oil production from 8.3 million barrels a day to 10 million. At the meeting, the Saudis and the United Arab Emirates, which together account for one-third of OPEC's oil production, split with the other 11 OPEC members on prices. The Saudis and UAE called for a 5 per cent increase, and the others - led by Iran - opted for a 10 per cent increase, to be followed by an additional 5 per cent increase in July.
Since then, however, the two-tier OPEC pricing system has effectively ramained intact, and industry and administration officials expect it to continue at least through July.
Due to peak winter deamands for oil in Europe and the United States and severe weather conditions at the major Saudi oil port, Ras Tanura, the Iranians and others have not had to bring their prices in line with the Saudis.
The Saudi source indicated that there is opposition within oil-rich Saudi Arabia toward continuing a policy of high oil production. However, Crown Prince Fahd, who is expected to visit Washington to meet with President Carter in May, has continued to guide his country's production policy toward meeting Western needs.