Now here is a refreshing bit of news: top officials in Saudi Arabia are beginning to worry about America's increasing self-reliance when it comes to oil production.

You read that right. The world's biggest oil exporters -- who have leveraged enormous oil deposits into vast economic and political power -- are actually worrying that the U.S. might someday stop depending so much on their oil.

Aw gee, now wouldn't that be a shame.

Prince Alwaleed bin Talal, a royal family member and a billionaire himself, has warned top Saudi officials that the boom in U.S. shale oil and gas very likely will reduce demand for crude oil peddled by members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. And that would be extremely bad for the oil-rich kingdom's bottom line.

King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia delivers a speech to the Saudi Shura Council, or advisory assembly, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011.  (AP
King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia delivers a speech to the Saudi Shura Council, or advisory assembly, in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Sunday, Sept. 25, 2011. (AP Photo)

We can certainly understand the concern. After all, 92 percent of Saudi Arabia's budget comes from oil dollars. Apparently the Saudis did not ever receive the counsel against putting all of their eggs in one basket or have chosen to ignore it.

The prince's warning is contrary to the party line of the Saudi government. Leaders there have heretofore been dismissive of such notions, but the prince sent a May 13 letter to Saudi Oil Minister Ali al-Naimi, among others, detailing his concerns.

The letter was made public over the weekend on the prince's Twitter account. There has been no immediate response from the government, but shortly after news of the prince's warning became public OPEC announced that its oil export revenue in 2012 hit a record $1.26 trillion. Yes, trillion. But the report openly questioned the sustainability of such earnings.

Despite the 2012 numbers, some OPEC members already are taking hits. For example, Algeria's oil exports dropped by 6 percent and its exports to the U.S. fell even more sharply. Unlike the Saudi government, Algerian government officials confirm that they fear increasing competition from U.S. shale production.

Then, of course, there is Iran. It's petroleum exports fell about 8 percent in 2012, but Iran is a special case because it has been hammered by Western sanctions over the nuclear arms issue.

Meanwhile, the International Energy Agency agrees that demand for OPEC crude will decline at least over the next two years.

It is important to understand that Prince Alwaleed is not just some loopy Saudi contrarian. He is a nephew of Saudi King Abdullah and a major player in the investment world with significant financial stakes in the likes of Apple, Citigroup and Twitter, among others.

He is confident of his position and says in the letter " ... that rising North American shale gas production is an inevitable threat."

We hope he is right. While shale production has its challenges, we would dearly love for our government to become far less dependent on OPEC for anything.