Would you believe me if I told you that solar panels are being tested in a zero-carbon city on the outskirts of Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates? Yes, I also found it amazing that countries historically associated with Big Oil are actually considering the limitations of fossil fuels and planning for the future of solar energy.
In the UAE, gasoline sells for a mere 45 cents per gallon. That doesn’t give citizens much incentive to think about alternative energy. Not too surprisingly, residents don’t ride mass transit or recycle. What is a bit shocking is the fact that the area’s leaders appreciate the fact that oil reserves are not unlimited. How ironic that we could take a renewable energy lesson from the Persian Gulf region?
Qatar and Saudi Arabia join the UAE in pouring the billions earned from selling oil into green technologies. The hope is that they become the “Silicon Valley” of alternative energy. The director of Masdar, a zero-carbon city just outside Abu Dhabi stated:
“Abu Dhabi is an oil-exporting country, and we want to become an energy-exporting county, and to do that, we need to excel at the newer forms of energy.”
Regardless of the recent drop in oil prices and the foundering economy, the gulf states are making long-term investments in renewable energy. These include funding research projects and setting up clean-technology investment funds.
Do these countries believe in going green? Are they worried about global warming?
The answer is probably more the fact that the Arab states want to keep their status as the world’s premier energy supplier. They are already racing to obtain patents for new green technologies, to get in ahead of other industrialized countries.
With the recent push for the United States to become energy independent, some are saying that its already too late:
“The leadership in these breakthrough technologies is a title the U.S. can lose easily. Here we have low taxes, a young population, accessibility to the world, abundant natural resources and willingness to invest in the seed capital.”
One startling fact: the crown prince of Abu Dhabi announced last year that he would invest $15 billion in renewable energy in that state alone. That is equivalent to the amount President Obama has proposed to invest throughout the entire United States in order to “catalyze private sector efforts to build a clean energy future.”
We have waited far too long to push solar and other renewable energy resources forward. We’ve idly relied on the oil reserves of the gulf region, and now even those countries are recognizing the limitations of those resources.
Its a bittersweet pill to hear that Arab states are investing in solar energy. While its good for the globe, its also potentially devastating to individual countries that wish to break free from the long history of energy-related politics, but may still have to rely on clean, green imports from the Gulf Region.