In Texas recently there was a grand opening for what is now the largest refinery in the U.S. Shell and Saudi Arabia's national oil company, Saudi Aramco, have more than doubled the capacity of their Port Arthur refinery.
The refinery business has been going through a tough period in recent years. Americans are buying less gasoline and other petroleum products — about 10 percent less than in 2005, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.
The shock waves of the Arab Spring continue to reshape countries like Egypt and Syria. But the kingdom of Saudi Arabia remains largely unaffected. King Abdullah and the Saudi ruling family are in firm control of the country's massive oil wealth and Islam's two holiest sites — Mecca and Medina.
When Fahad A. Alhomoudi was studying for his doctorate in Islamic studies at Canada's McGill University in 2000, he discovered something that bothered him.
"There is, in almost every American and European university, a center for Middle Eastern or Islamic or Arab studies," the Saudi professor recalled in a recent interview in his office in the Saudi capital, Riyadh. "But there was not a single center with a focus on the West in the Middle East."