A new frontier for clean power: the Middle East

It’s got dry, sunny climate and an addiction to fossil fuels, and it’s set to become a hot spot for renewable energy development, especially solar. It’s the Middle East, where countries such as Saudi Arabia subsidize electricity generation by using their own oil and where natural gas is the main source of power for United Arab Emirates.

Today in Cleantech

“Twilight in the Desert” isn’t just for conspiracy theorists anymore. This week’s big Wikileaks revelation concerns Saudi Arabia, where diplomats and oil engineers have apparently been warning for years that the world’s top oil producer is far closer to “peak oil” — the moment when oil extraction reaches its peak before beginning an irreversible decline — than it tells the world at large. One 2007 U.S. diplomatic cable relayed warnings from top Aramco official Sadad al-Husseini that the national oil company’s reserves were overstated by as much as 40 percent, and that it would reach its peak oil production capacity of 64 billion barrels in about 17 years, or by 2020. That’s much less than the century or so of capacity Aramco officially claims. All in all, the Wikileaks cables seem to back up the argument made by oil analyst Matt Simmons in his 2006 book “Twilight in the Desert,” which warned that Saudi Arabia’s oil fields were under far greater strain and decline than officials were admitting. Why does this matter for green technology? Well, it makes a transition to renewable fuels, energy and infrastructure more critical than ever — and it also speeds up the clock for how quickly the world must make the switch.