Friday, August 28, 2020

Dan Rabinowitz's "The Power of Deserts"

Dan Rabinowitz, Professor of Sociology and Anthropology at Tel Aviv University, is Chairman of the Association for Environmental Justice in Israel. He was Head of TAU's Porter School of Environmental Studies and Chairman of Greenpeace Mediterranean. He received the Pratt Prize for Environmental Journalism (2012) and the Green Globe Award for Environmental Leadership (2016).

Rabinowitz applied the “Page 99 Test” to his new book, The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East, and the Promise of a Post-Oil Era, and reported the following:
When I wrote The Power of Deserts: Climate Change, the Middle East and the Promise of a Post-oil Era, I did not know about The Page 99 Test. Now that I do I can proclaim: even if my sole intention in writing the book had been to do well in this fun trial, I would not have changed The Power of Deserts one bit. Uncannily, of the 174 pages of the book, page 99 is the best single page to introduce a browser to my main argument.

The Power of Deserts begins by sketching how climate change could soon render parts of the Middle East uninhabitable. It then goes on to illustrate how the imminent demise of oil, attributable primarily to the declining costs of renewable energy, could spell ruin for major oil producers in the region. Hot, arid and utterly dependent economically on selling oil, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrein, United Arab Emirates and Oman, aka the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) Six, are particularly vulnerable to the double bind of Global Warming and the Post-oil era. There is however a silver lining: the region's huge solar potential. After decades of procrastination, all of the GCC Six have now in fact consolidated plans to have solar energy eclipse fossil fuels in electricity production and in transportation.

Then, at the bottom of page 99:
The fate of the excess oil and gas that will emerge when the six kingdoms by the Gulf decide to switch their energy and transportation sectors to solar energy is indeed intriguing. It leads, however, to a bigger question with truly global consequences. Are the GCC six likely to trigger an eclipse of fossil fuel not only in their own backyard but also internationally? Could they deem the global energy transition financially beneficial and politically prudent enough to conclude that rather than resist the eclipse, their own best interests demand embracing it? The concluding chapter raises thoughts on how this might eventually happen.
Page 99 thus sets the stage for the book's counterintuitive argument. To secure their own prosperity, the GCC Six could soon decide to (a) accelerate the transition of their energy and transportation sectors to solar; (b) invest heavily in renewable technologies and capacity abroad; then (c) dramatically reduce their oil and gas production. Accounting for 30 percent of global oil supply, this cut could nudge the price of oil just high enough to crown renewables as the only economically viable source of energy, and put the age of oil to rest. Making good on their earlier investment in renewables, the GCC Six will have elegantly substituted their dinosaurian dominance in the old oil trade for poll position in the energy market of the future. While they are at it, they could become key players in the global quest to curb climate change and carve themselves a place of honor in human history.
Learn more about The Power of Deserts at the Stanford University Press website and visit Dan Rabinowitz's website.

--Marshal Zeringue