Peak Oil: Perspectives for Saudi Arabia

PeakOil-SaudiArabiaThe term ‘peak oil’ is ominous to the Middle East, as most of the countries in the region are heavily dependent on oil and natural gas for industrial, economic and social development. Petroleum is considered one of the world’s most important sources of energy generation, after uranium, of course. Many other substances have been tested in order to be used as alternatives to petroleum, but none have hitherto been successful. Scientific research illustrates how the world is facing catastrophe if it doesn’t find an alternative to oil, as it is currently impossible for the global economy to grow without sufficient amounts of energy which are adapted to the demands of this growth. There is more discussion now than ever before about how the world is definitely starting to approach a stage of peak oil.

What is Peak Oil

Peak oil is a termed coined by the renowned American geologist King Hubbert in the fifties. He managed to predict an oil peak in several regions in America which would occur in the seventies; and exactly what this scientist predicted did in fact happen. For when oil extraction reaches extreme levels it begins to decline and gradually ends. Oil is considered a finite resource, or one which isn’t renewed as it is used up.

This theory confirms that global oil production has reached its peak today and has started declining inexorably now that 50% of the world’s oil reserves have been consumed. This proves that oil could be on the brink of depletion if clear and serious plans are not put in place to guide consumption and therefore encourage using provisional reserves in the best way. However, this theory is not accepted by many or by those who continue to focus on how large the earth’s oil reserves are, and how they only need investment so that they can be drilled.

Peak Oil Scenario for Saudi Arabia

Saudi Arabia is considered one of the largest global oil exporters and the only one able to regulate and stabilise the global oil market, thanks to its reserve stocks. These reserves are calculated to be at 265.4 billion barrels, or what is enough to last, at the current level of production, for more than 72 years. According to ARAMCO reports, there are around a trillion barrels that will be discovered in the future and will satisfy global demands, despite current consumption, for one whole century.

 Saudi Arabia is currently focussing its efforts on drilling and extracting natural gas, as it doesn’t import it but depends on domestic production. Alongside this, the Saudi Kingdom is currently making huge investments in nuclear energy and solar power.

But can natural gas and renewable energy be relied upon as alternatives to oil in order to satisfy Saudi Arabia’s domestic needs, which are rapidly growing each day? According to a recent report by America’s Energy Information Administration (EIA), Saudi Arabia is the largest oil-consuming nation in the Middle East. Saudi Arabia consumed 2.9 million barrels per day of oil in 2013, almost double the consumption in 2000, because of strong industrial growth and subsidised prices. One important contributor to Saudi oil demand is the direct crude oil burn for power generation. There is not just enough fuel oil and natural gas to meet the demand and hence the resorting to crude oil.

Has peak oil really arrived? If not today, then when? And how will it look, especially for countries totally dependent on oil? Will its consequences be different for both developed and under-developed nations?  Given that global demand for oil will only grow to exceed 100 million barrels a day after 2020, according to the most extreme estimates, I believe that the time may have come for the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia to start planning for what follows the oil era.

Despite looming threat of peak oil, power generation capacity in KSA is expected to rise from current level of 58GW to 120GW by 2032, however Saudi Arabia cannot afford to burn rising crude oil volumes for power generation. In spite of the fifth largest natural gas reserves in the world, it does not produce sufficient gas for power generation and for its vast petrochemical industry. The only solution at this point of time is transition to low-carbon economy whereby Saudi Arabia make use of its massive solar energy potential, implement effective measures for improving energy efficiency in the industrial sector and remove huge energy subsidies for industrial and domestic users.

 

Note: The article has been translated from Arabic by Katie Holland who graduated from Durham University in 2015 with a degree in Arabic and French, having also studied Persian. Currently working in London, she hopes to develop a career that uses her knowledge of Arabic and the Middle East, alongside pursuing her various interests in the arts. 

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Environmental Sustainability in Qatar: Perspectives

qatar-ghg-emissionsIn recent years, the concept of environmental sustainability is slowly, but steadily, getting prominence, both in the public and private sectors in Qatar. Mounting environmental pressure has led to the development of new initiatives in several state-owned and private companies. As a major fossil exporter and one of the wealthiest countries, Qatar should do its fair share in reducing domestic greenhouse gas emissions and developing strong climate adaptation plans.

Many companies are investing heavily in replacing old turbines, boilers, and furnaces, minimizing GHG and non-GHG emissions, and wastewater discharge. The new companies that were set up in last decade are adopting the best available technologies, and they are on a par of excellence with the global environmental standards. Because of national targets to minimize flaring emissions, all of the oil and gas companies have been marshaled under the national initiative by setting goals, allocating investment and monitoring the yearly changes. So far, this initiative has been remarkably successful. For example, the direct benefit of flaring reduction resulted in savings of natural gas and emissions.

The government should hasten its steps in developing a comprehensive climate policy framework addressing all sectors, with a special focus on energy-intensive industries. The industrial sector is the major contributor to country’s economy and will continue to retain this status for the next several decades. Therefore, the government and the industrial sector must prepare a comprehensive roadmap and strategic framework under the broader climate policy framework, such as “Industrial Decarbonisation Strategy”. The strategy must assess all possibilities of decarbonising the industry and set ambitious goals to minimize GHG emissions for the short and long-term.

In addition, the framework should focus on potential structural changes in the global market, technological dynamics or deployment of disruptive technologies, domestic institutional reforms, and relevant policies that can support decarbonization. The policy should foster the development and implementation of wide-ranging innovative low-carbon technologies, processes, standards, norms and legislations that enable decarbonisation of the sector by 2050. The legislative instruments should include emission caps, internalizing social and environmental costs and taxation on emissions for the industrial sector. This is also echoed in the first Natural Resource Management Strategy.

The government should press ahead with this proposition; expediting the creation of new regulations, developing a strong support system for large and small/medium sized industries and ensuring transparency and accountability. Methane is the second major source of emission from natural gas production and processing facilities. Many companies fail to measure/monitor methane emissions from their facilities. I suggest that the Ministry of Environment undertake a Methane Monitoring Initiative to measure methane emissions from extraction to delivery and also to prepare a standardization method for estimating and reporting emissions from different sources.

The Ministry must create an effective, well-functioning, transparent and less bureaucratic support mechanism for companies (medium/small scale industries or SMEs) that lack technical and financial capacity. There are several piecemeal initiatives started by different companies that are already helping in this direction. However, they are fragmented, lack coherence, monitoring, and reporting. It is important to compile all of the initiatives and develop key performance indicators and analyse the trend. So far, there is only one project accredited under the Clean Development Mechanism (Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project, started in 2007). The government should exploit all possible opportunities with regard to reducing emissions and increasing economic savings. These are remarkable achievements and these companies must be recognized for their activities. Likewise, policymakers should capitalize on these efforts and raise the bar and set definitive goals and strict timelines for implementation.

Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project is the sole CDM project in Qatar

Al Shaheen Oil Field Gas Recovery and Utilization Project is the sole CDM project in Qatar

According to the Resolution of the Council of Ministers No. 15 of 2011, the respective agencies must propose policies and action plans to reduce GHG emissions and set up a database within the requirements of the UNFCCC convention and Kyoto protocol. Unfortunately, there was no tangible response to this Resolution. So far, Qatar has published only one national communication. Under the initiative of Qatar Petroleum HSE, many companies started to publish their emission data in their annual sustainability report, however, some companies continue to withhold the data. Since it is a voluntary process, there is no incentive for companies to report.

It is strongly recommended that the Ministry of Municipality and Environment (MME) and Ministry of Energy and Industry (MoEI) issue a joint decree for a mandatory GHG and non-GHG pollution monitoring and disclosure framework. The disclosure framework must include a well-designed surveillance system to ensure transparency and accountability. Additionally, the disclosure framework will be useful in documenting the trend of overall emissions and how the new policies, regulations and technological replacements are shifting the trend. As a result of documenting emission trends, one can notice the effectiveness of energy management initiatives, which provides opportunities and encourage other companies to learn from best practices. Companies that emit more than 25,000 tonnes CO2eq should quantify, verify and publish in a single-window system that can be accessed by other ministries and the public alike.

Energy Efficiency Perspectives for MENA

MENA countries are facing an increasing challenge in reducing greenhouse gas emissions from the energy sector. Qatar, Kuwait, UAE, Bahrain and Saudi Arabia figure among the world’s top-10 per capita carbon emitters. In case of business-as-usual scenario, GHGs emissions from the energy sector will continue to rise throughout the region. According to a recent report by International Energy Agency (IEA), energy intensity demand in MENA is mainly driven by population and economic growth and reliance of heavy industries on generous energy subsidy. It is projected that primary energy demand in the region will be doubled by 2030 and the region’s share in global oil production will increase from 35% now to 44% in 2030. MENA countries together have 840 billion barrels of proven crude oil reserves (57% of world’s oil) and 80 trillion cubic meters of proven gas reserves (41% of world’s natural gas). Population growth and economic expansion have increased energy demand significantly over the past decade; between 2000 and 2011, domestic consumption almost doubled in Oman and tripled in Qatar. 

Growth in energy demand is driven across the end-use sectors: in the residential sector through increased use of air conditioning and cooling units; in the transportation sector through rising vehicle ownership; and in the industrial sector from greater industrial activity, hydrocarbon production and refining, and energy-intensive desalination plants. One of the central reasons for increased GHG emissions from MENA energy sector is the low efficiency of energy resource consumption. The energy intensity (energy use per unit of GDP) is very high which drives up atmospheric GHG emissions. However it is important to highlight the difference among MENA countries regarding carbon intensity levels where GCC nations are rank higher compared to energy-importing MENA nations like Jordan, Egypt, Lebanon etc. All these facts stress the urgent need to increase energy efficiency in order to precipitate decline in energy intensity and thus reduce GHG emissions.

There is a wide array of measures on both supply side and demand side, to boost MENA energy efficiency levels by promoting stringent environmental, energy saving policies to combat climate change.  Formal energy efficiency programs and voluntary measures combined will help the region to maintain its economic strength. Energy conservation programs in residential, commercial and industrial sectors can significantly reduce carbon emissions and augment energy supply in the MENA region. A robust regulatory and institutionalized framework can help to achieve a reduction in GHG emissions through a bundle of non-market based and market-based instruments.

Also known as command and control instruments (CAC), these regulations focus on preventing environmental externalities which is achieved through auditing and monitoring/inspection program and performance-oriented regulations to limit air pollutants. Here are some examples of command and control instruments:

  • Awareness and information campaigns
  • Labeling & training programs to engage end-users to reduce their emissions voluntarily.
  • Information-based programs to spread awareness and encourage efficient consumption patterns.
  • Establishing minimum energy performance standards for appliances, equipment and vehicles as a complement to labelling methods.
  • Building codes and insulation to save the energy loss.
  • Smart reductions such as smart meters, energy audit, energy saving plans etc.
  • Phasing out of inefficient lighting like incandescent bulbs and CFLs.

Market-based instruments are defined as a policy instrument that use market, price to provide incentives for polluters to reduce or eliminate their emissions (negative environmental externality). Building regional cap, carbon trading platform and grants/rebates/tax exemption/rewards to encourage efficiency measures are good examples of market-based incentive program that may be implemented in the Middle East.

Conclusion

On account of its huge fossil fuel reserves, MENA has a great role to play in the international efforts towards green economy and sustainable development. Recently, the GCC has embarked on ambitious policies and projects across different sectors which may, explicitly or implicitly, mitigate impacts of GHG on their economies and development priorities. 

Adoption of energy efficiency-based energy policies in commercial, industrial and domestic sectors is integral to climate change mitigation in the MENA region. It is imperative on MENA governments to create an environment that rewards energy-efficient choices and encourages innovation for all kinds of energy users. The Middle East electricity market is growing at a rapid pace due to higher consumption rates in the domestic, commercial and industrial sectors which underlines the need for a successful implementation strategy that can bridge the gap between the current supply and increasing demand.

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Women Entrepreneurship in MENA: An Analysis

Women entrepreneurship is an important unexploited source of economic growth in almost all parts of the world. Unfortunately women in MENA have the lowest rates of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) at merely 4% of the population. The highest rates, globally, are in sub-Saharan Africa, at 27%. Latin American and Caribbean economies also show high levels (15 percent). In just seven economies (Panama, Thailand, Ghana, Ecuador, Nigeria, Mexico, and Uganda), women had equal or slightly higher levels of entrepreneurship than men. For the rest, women represented a smaller share of the entrepreneur population.

Current Situation

The recent interest in women entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa region has spurred a number of studies that aim to explain MENA’s very low female participation in the workforce and political life, at  both the inter-regional and the intra-regional scales and  to identify the challenges facing women entrepreneurs. The comparative data shows that the MENA region has made strong gains in human development: Literacy increased to 69 percent, average schooling (for those above 15)  rose  to  5.2  years,  child mortality  rates  plunged  to  around  46  per  thousand  births,  and  life  expectancy  has climbed to  reach  68  years.”. However the level of unemployment among women remains high throughout the region. Of course, there is enough evidence to show that culture and social norms — not religion since countries with the same religion clearly show different rates — have a great deal to do with it.

The MENA region, more than other regions, faces specific barriers for women to interact in the public sphere and to access vital resources. This poses constraints that need to be addressed with specific measure in access to technology, financing and access to information which is a necessity in a globalized world. Some of the main barriers and constraints identified in hampering women entrepreneurs from entering the economic mainstream are as follows:

  • Gender specific barriers: Despite the fact that MENA nations have made considerable efforts to narrow the gender gap, much remains to be done to raise the social welfare of women in the region.
  • Cultural norms.
  • Civil law: Prevalent laws tend to enforce certain customs and social norms and, in doing so, institutionalize and legitimize certain behaviors.
  • Access to financial services and resources.
  • Barriers in the business environment.
  • Lack of research and data to inform an effective advocacy strategy.

Inter-regional Disparities in MENA

The difference of Total Entrepreneurial Activity (TEA) rates among countries in the MENA region is well explained by the heterogeneity and diversity of their historical development, social makeup and system of governance as well as  the  key  indicators  of  human  development  such  as health, education and living  standards.  It is quite difficult to make generalizations across the MENA region as the region  includes super-rich oil economies, a relatively small population and a large expat population such as Kuwait, Libya, Oman, Qatar, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE; mixed oil economies such as Algeria, Iran, Egypt, Tunisia, Yemen and  Syria  and non-oil economies  like  Jordan, Morocco, Palestine, Malta and Cyprus. This further complicates attempts to explain variations in the character and gender aspects of employment and entrepreneurship.

Thus, each country in the Arab world is confronting constraints and barriers to women entrepreneurship in different contexts. The profile of barriers for each nation is shaped by inter-connectedness of intrinsic and extrinsic factors specific to each country. Some studies have attributed MENA’s low rates of female labor force participation in oil-exporting countries of MENA (the Islamic Republic of Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, and the United Arab Emirates) to oil. It has been argued that the economic structure, social norms, and institutional characteristics of oil-rich economies discourage women from formal sector work. Ross (2008) argues that oil production “reduces the number of women in the labor force, which in turn reduces their political influence.” Oil-rich countries tend to have undiversified private sectors characterized by male-dominated employment and large public sectors. Consequently, employment opportunities for women often are highly concentrated in the public sector

Oil is a significant source of income for some MENA countries, especially GCC nations, and has definitely limited the growth of non-oil sectors. Nevertheless, it is notable that many countries in the region are net oil importers but still have rates of female labor force participation as low as those of oil-rich MENA countries. In contrast, oil producers outside MENA such as Norway and the Russian Federation have higher rates of female labor force participation.

Ways to Enhance Female Entrepreneurship

Targeted, coordinated efforts are needed on multiple fronts to increase women’s participation in the economic and political spheres, and these efforts must be specific to country context. These efforts include changes in policies to secure women’s equality under the law, to bridge the remaining gender gaps in health and education, to redress the skills mismatch in the job market, and to promote women’s civic and political participation, and changes in economic policies by adoption of more nuanced labor taxation systems, more targeted social welfare benefits, tax credits, public financed parental leave schemes and promotion, better flex-work arrangements, enhanced access to finance and training for female entrepreneurs.

All these policy options and more can narrow the gap between men and women in economic life, and can trigger a momentum of growth and job creation that can support much higher rates of GDP and ensure prosperity for all.

Furthermore, the economic and political environment arising from the Arab Spring has created an unprecedented window of opportunity for change. Given the growing labor, demographic, and fiscal constraints, and the changing aspirations in the Middle East and North Africa region, policy reforms are urgently needed to boost job creation for all.

 

References:

  • Donna J. Kelley, Candida G. Brush, Patricia G. Greene, Yana Litovsky, GEM 2012 Women's Report
  • Ebba Augustin, Ruby Assad & Dalila Jaziri, 2012, Women Empowerment for Improved Research in Agricultural Development, Innovation and Knowledge Transfer in the West Asia/ North Africa Region, AARINENA Association of Agricultural Research Institutions in the Near East and North Africa 
  • Leyla Sarfaraz, Nezameddin Faghih and Armaghan Asadi Majd 2014, The relationship between women entrepreneurship and gender equality, The Journal of Global Entrepreneurship Research (JGER)
  • Michael L. Ross, 2008, “Oil, Islam, and Women.” American Political Science Review 
  • OECD-MENA Investment Programme, 2013, Gender inequality and entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa : A statistical portrait
  • World Bank, 2007, The Environment for Women’s Entrepreneurship in the Middle East and North Africa Region

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Energy and the Climate: Perspectives for Middle East

Since energy is an absolute necessity for life on Earth, we have utilized many sources of energy to maintain and improve the lives of people around the globe. The ultimate source of energy is the Sun of course, since all living things on Earth such as plants, trees, animals and humans need the Sun’s energy. In addition to the Sun, we have utilized other sources of energy such as oil, coal and nuclear fission.  However, energy has many different forms and we use different forms of energy for different applications. For example, nuclear energy is mostly used to generate electricity, while oil is used to fuel our cars.

Having established the absolute necessity of energy to maintain life on Earth, it is equally critical to understand that energy is also capable of extinguishing life on Earth if misused. For example, the use of oil and coal to generate energy, produces different gases, mostly carbon monoxide, that have negative impact on the environment. Such a negative impact has been identified by scientists as global warming. It has been established that global warming is directly related to the increased level of carbon monoxide in our atmosphere.  As the temperature on Earth continues to rise, the entire climate will start to change as a result of the higher temperature on the surface of Earth. Moreover, any changes in the climate will have a direct impact on life. For example, many plants, trees and even animals may not be able to survive in hotter climate in a specific region of Earth, yet the impact of such change will be felt all over the world.

Energy and Climate Change

Energy has a direct impact on the climate and as a result has direct impact on all living creatures on Earth. It is the responsibility of all people on Earth to preserve our current climate by using clean sources of energy, such as solar and wind, and moving away from oil and coal. Climate has direct impact not only on the food we eat, but on our ability to survive in certain regions of the planet.

Since most people in developing countries do not completely understand the direct relationship between the energy they use and the climate change as a result, while others in the more developed countries put economical gain ahead of the environment, additional laws with larger penalties may be needed to be enforced around the world. In addition, all governments must focus on the research and development of clean energy sources and slowly move away from oil and coal as both sources are considered to be the ultimate sources of pollution to the environment, which may result in permanent change to the climate on Earth. Meanwhile, and until the clean energy sources are fully developed and utilized around the world, maintaining current trees and planting new ones will definitely help offset the effects caused by the release of Carbone Monoxide into the air.  

Difference between China and the Middle East

It has been known for some time now that China has been one of the largest contributors to air pollution due to its significant economic growth which mostly depends on oil, and its large population; however, the Middle East is also on top of the list of countries and regions that heavily depend on cheap oil prices to power the engine of their economies. The main difference however, between China and the rich-oil countries in the Middle East is that in recent years, China has signed several international agreements to reduce air pollution by different means. The Chinese people in addition, have come a long way to better understand the global impact due to air pollution.

The oil-rich countries in the Middle East on the other hand, are still behind very much the rest of the world in this area, mainly due to the lack of education on many of the environmental issues, as well as the lack of any alternative energy sources. However, time has come for all these countries to start looking into other alternative energy sources before it is too late

Pressure on Industrialized Countries

As more and more people on this planet become aware of the deadly consequences of using oil as a source of energy, the internal and external pressure keeps mounting on the industrialized countries to look for alternative energy sources. In fact, it is only a matter of time before these industrialized countries develop alternative energy sources on mass scale, which may eventually cause the death of the oil industry completely. For example, the use of cold fusion as an energy source would make the price of one barrel of oil less than $1.

Most, if not all of the oil-rich countries today believe that there is no need to make the transition to clean energy because the world needs their oil, or at least, they can continue to power their economies using oil instead of clean energy. But the sad truth is that once an alternative clean energy sources have been identified, these oil rich nations would have no choice but to abandon their oil fields and move into the alternatives. One simple fact these nations need to consider is that in the foreseeable future, developed countries would boycott all products and services created and maintained using oil-powered factories instead of clean energy.

Currently, there are many clean energy sources that have been developed, tested and used around the world. Some of these sources include solar energy, wind energy, water energy, geothermal energy, ocean energy, biomass and of course, nuclear (fission and fusion) energies. The use of any of those alternative energy sources doesn’t release any Carbon Dioxide into the atmosphere and will maintain the level of Carbon Dioxide in the atmosphere at acceptable ratio.

Transition to Clean Energy

For the rich-oil countries in the Middle East, the transition from oil-dependent economies to clean energy dependent economies requires three vital ingredients:

  1. Education: people in the Middle East need to first be educated on all environmental issues and why the transition from oil to clean energy source is a necessity at this time. As long as the average man on the Arab street doesn’t understand the imminent danger of climate change and how it is related to the use of oil, then the transition will be difficult, slow and costly. Educating people is the starting point.
  2. Investment: the transition to clean energy will initially require a huge investment in a new infrastructure especially for clean energy. Such infrastructure may not be cheap to build from the ground up, but the return on investment (ROI) will be quit high at the end.
  3. Time: phasing out the oil-dependent economies completely takes time. The transition to clean energy will take many years before reaching the ultimate goal. However, a well-thought out plan to make such a transition is possible provided that these countries are serious, willing and able to make such a move. Starting with one step at a time will definitely lead to the end goal, but someone has to take the first step

Finally, as energy consumption is directly related to climate change, energy conservation is also directly related to environmental issues. Though physics laws show the energy is conserved, yet the form of energy we use is not. Therefore, people around the world, especially in the Middle Eastern countries, need to be made aware of the importance of energy conservation. The Middle East countries in general, and GCC countries in particular, must start educating their citizens on energy, climate change and environmental issues.

Energy Answers for the Middle East

The economy of Middle East is practically synonymous with crude oil for the average Western observer, but what most people aren’t aware of is the Middle East hasn’t been doing so well out of its crude oil reserves in recent years. So much so, that it may be the first time in history that we can justifiably declare an imminent state of Peak Oil in these regions.

It is an understandably bold statement, and one that will come as a surprise to many… especially those who have been blindsided by the more general, global statistics. Besides a slight dip over the course of 2013, it appears that crude oil production around the world is in on an upward trend, and peak oil doesn’t seem to be on this side of the horizon.

But there’s a reason why production looks so healthy, and it isn’t anything to do with the Middle East region. If we exclude North America from the statistics, we’re left with a much bleaker picture.It is clear that it is only the U.S. and Canada who are bolstering production figures for the rest of the world. Everywhere else is seeing a sharp decline – and likely prolonged – decline.

Worse, even North America seems to be suffering once you dig into the details; their own upswing rests solely upon shale reserves, a sub-set of oil production that is becoming increasingly hard to recover in way that is economically viable. This is why less than 30% of shale operations take place outside of America and Canada, since they have almost exclusive access to the specialized rigs required to obtain shale oil.

Flow Reversal

Last month, BP were given the all-clear to commence drilling for shale gas in Oman (which set them back a startling $16 billion dollars for the contract). Other than this, however, most of the fossil fuel action now seems to be flowing out of America rather than towards it, and it’s highly likely that the U.S. and Canada will begin to export its excess oil to regions that, historically, used to produce it themselves. The shale boom has already crippled the European refineries, and West African suppliers are suffering a similar fate.

Given that the Middle East region is also in the firing line, what can be done to mitigate this, or at least lessen the dependency on crude oil?

United Arab Emirates is arguably just as famous for its oil as it is as pioneers of green technology. Cities such as Abu Dhabi (and Masdar City in particular) are well known for their greenery, advanced architecture, eco initiatives and focus on carbon-neutral municipal planning.

Great advances have been made already in these ‘green cities of the future’, and further innovations would be welcome. Improved water recycling or an increase in roof gardens are all areas which could drive things ever forward.

Dubai Wasn’t Built in a Day

As well as focusing on how to reduce waste and better use the resources we do have, it should also be remembered that many countries in the Middle East weren’t exclusively built on oil.

For instance, it’s a common misconception that Dubai’s great wealth came from the black gold; while the towering metropolis of today is markedly different from the settlement that has stood their since antiquity, it has blossomed for thousands of years as a prime location for trade. While oil has undeniably played its part, less than 7% of the emirate’s revenues actually come from oil and gas.

Dubai is a good example in that it has recognized the need for diversification in recent years. It remains a global hub for trade – accounting for 16% of its revenue – and has recently established itself as a huge market for real estate, construction and tourism. A good move on Dubai’s part, really, since its oil is expected to run out in the near future.

Ultimately, the answer seems to fall somewhere between Abu Dhabi’s focus on alternative energies and Dubai’s focus on different revenue streams. What is clear, however, is that focusing solely on chasing down the last barrel of oil is not a foolish move economically, but one which is will short-change our environment in the process.