Sustainable energy: wherever you stand on the climate change debate (whether it is natural, driven by human activity, or even if it is happening at all) one thing is certain: fossil fuels will not last forever. Any economy that is based on a finite resource must plan for a future without it. And even the most hard-headed oil baron has to concede that, one day, his wells will run dry.

Author:Seymour, Richard
Position:SPECIAL FOCUS
 
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And that is not all that will run dry. According to the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), computer modelling has predicted that the Middle East and North African region will suffer increasingly from water shortages due to higher temperatures and reduced precipitation.

Already a regularly drought-hit area, it is estimated that up to a hundred million extra people will come under 'water stress' by 2025, with many displaced by rising sea levels and depleted agriculture, which will take more money out of the economy than oil exports can put back in.

The current reduced demand for oil is temporary. While many economies around the world are contracting, China's and India's are still expanding. And when the global recession eases, as it already is, and demand for oil rises, pressure on this finite commodity, coupled with the unpredictability of political change, war and environmental disasters makes reliance on oil less and less attractive.

Even Saudi Arabia, with its vast oil reserves, recognises the need for new sources of energy. CEO of Saudi Electricity Company (SEC), Ali Al Barrak, recently announced his company's plans to work with French and Japanese countries to build wind and solar farms.

There is still much money to be made from oil and gas for those Middle Eastern states lucky enough to have such reserves. And, given that the infrastructure to exploit these reserves is already in place, the move toward sustainable energy has understandably been be a slow one. And it is not all about money; where there is oil there is power, and a political influence that extends around the globe.

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There is a deep irony built in to the Middle East's energy industry. Wealth from oil and gas drives the expansion of an economy, increasing demand for energy that the industry struggles to meet, while also satisfying the energy needs of much of the rest of the world. If it continues, this trend will see less oil exported and more kept back, stunting the economic growth that generated the demand in the first place.

This pressure on supply has already made itself felt.

The Gulf Cooperation Council Interconnection Authority (GCCIA) is a company created by the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) states of the UAE, Kuwait, Oman, Saudi Arabia, Qatar and Bahrain. The GCCIA's aim was to meet the challenges facing the region's energy supply by means of coordinated action.

Phase one of the...

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