Middle East's Push Toward Renewables

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"With ever-rising oil prices, a green transformation is a distinct possibility for the Arab world."

ClimateWire, Lisa Friedman

There's a revolution sweeping the Middle East that has nothing to do with street uprisings or Twitter protests. It's a clean energy upheaval with international implications that could transform the Arab world from North Africa to the Persian Gulf.

Solar plants are cropping up in Jordan and Morocco. Wind farms are being built in Egypt and Tunisia. Eight Arab nations and the Palestinian territories have a renewable energy target, and at least five more are taking serious steps to promote the domestic use of clean energy. Some of the most surprising movement is happening in oil-rich countries like Saudi Arabia and Qatar.

Perhaps taking a page from Masdar, the famous carbon-zero city in the United Arab Emirates, these countries are spending their petrodollars on a budding number of their own alternative energy projects.

While rising global temperatures threaten to reduce the availability of scarce water and to raise food prices in the Middle East, analysts say that prospect is overshadowed by rising oil prices and growing demand. Thus, there is a new need to diversify.

Indeed, for some oil-producing nations like Saudi Arabia, several experts even compared the growing interest in domestic renewable energy use to a "Don't get high off your own supply" crack-dealer ethic.

Nevertheless, many agreed, as financial possibilities for clean technology development expand, a green transformation is a distinct possibility for the Arab world.

Mohamed El-Ashry, a senior fellow at the U.N., said the threat of sea-level rise in particular made an impression on governments in the region.

A 2009 study produced by the Arab Forum for Environment and Development found that 41,500 square kilometers of coastal land in Egypt, Tunisia, Morocco, Algeria, Kuwait, Bahrain and the UAE could be lost with just a 1-meter sea level rise.

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