Saudi Arabia is home to less than half a percent of the world's population -- and fully 16 percent of the world's proven oil reserves. Nonetheless, Citigroup projects that the desert nation may become an oil importer in the next 20 years. "If Saudi Arabian oil consumption grows in line with peak power demand, the country could be a net oil importer by 2030," Heidy Rehman wrote in a 150 page report for the bank.
Already Saudi Arabia uses a quarter of its fuel production and all of its natural gas domestically, meaning that its per capita consumption is higher than the United States despite its miniscule industrial base. Demand for electricity, moreover, is expected to grow by as much as 8 percent a year.
The Telegraph has more:
The basic point -- common to other Gulf oil producers -- is that Saudi local consumption is rocketing. Residential use makes up 50 percent of demand, and over two thirds of that is air-conditioning.
The Saudis also consume 250 litres per head per day of water -- the world's third highest (which blows the mind), growing at nine percent a year -- and most of this is provided from energy-guzzling desalination plants.
Analysts including Jeremy Leggett of the UK Industry Taskforce on Peak Oil and Energy Security have suggested that dwindling Saudi Arabian exports could contribute to a global fuel shortage, potentially causing "massive stress to the global economy."
Rehman's report comes less than six months after another Citi report, which predicted an era of oil abundance -- and of reduced American dependence on OPEC:
[T]he US has become the fastest growing oil and natural gas producing area of the world and is now the most important marginal source for oil and gas globally. Add to this steadily growing Canadian production and a comeback in Mexican production and you get to a higher growth rate than all of OPEC can sustain.
Either way, Saudi Arabia's share of global exports is on the wane, so the United States had better stop treating it as a de facto Strategic Petroleum Reserve.
Wish you could have been a part of the SEAL Team 6 raid that killed Osama bin Laden? Now's your chance. Former SEAL Larry Yatch has reconstructed the Abbottabad complex in a 10,000-square-foot studio in New Hope, Minnesota and for $315 a pop you can unload your M16-style paintball gun on a guy dressed like OBL. It's not quite Abottabad, but it should still get your chest thumping.
So far, participants seem pleased with the experience. "This is so cool! My adrenaline is, like, so spiked right now!" reported one role player who spoke to KSTP, the local ESPN affiliate.
But cheap thrills are not the only thing Yatch is peddling. Sealed Mindset Firearms Studio, Yatch's business venture, is devoted primarily to empowering the mild-mannered and the meek. "The biggest thing we're trying to accomplish is giving people a sense of empowerment," Yatch told KSTP.
"It's the people that maybe might be a little intimidated around a gun or don't necessarily feel comfortable having to fight with someone, those are the people who we can make the biggest difference in their lives," he said.
The experience is also available as part of a romantic couples package, so fear not if it's date night and you're jonesing for a targeted killing fix.
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The United States doesn't get a lot of love from the Muslim world. Only eight percent of Pakistanis, for instance, view the U.S. as a partner, according to a Pew opinion poll conducted in June. Fully 74 percent consider the U.S. an enemy -- $30 billion in direct aid pledged since 1948 notwithstanding. Equally discouraging is the recent outpouring of anti-American sentiment in Yemen, where President Barack Obama promised more than $175 million in non-military development and humanitarian aid for this year alone.
It's unfortunate, but there's an easy explanation, right? American values, perceived as antithetical to Islam, coupled with U.S. foreign policy -- think drones and American support for Israel -- have made the U.S. so unpopular in the Muslim world that no amount of aid can rehabilitate its image.
Not so fast. Political scientists Lisa Blaydes and Drew Linzer have a provocative article in the latest issue of the American Political Science Review that challenges the notion that "individuals form their opinions about the United States primarily as a direct reaction to what the United States is or does."
Obviously, grievances of this type are not irrelevant, but Blaydes and Linzer argue that anti-American sentiment is primarily concocted by political elites who try to ideologically "outbid" each other in their quest for votes. They call it "instrumental" anti-Americanism, and their model predicts when it's most likely to occur.
We trace the source of Muslim ant-Americanism to the intensity of domestic political competition between a country's Islamist and secular-national factions...Where the struggle for political control between these two groups escalates, elites of both types have incentives to ramp up anti-American appeals to boost mass support.
This theory helps to explain why anti-American attitudes among Muslims are remarkably stable over time. (You would expect them to shift with major events like the Iraq war if they were formed in response to policy decisions.) It also explains why the most devout Muslim countries -- like Saudi Arabia and other Persian Gulf states -- have more favorable attitudes toward the U.S. than countries that are split between religious and secular constituencies.
Anti-Americanism is much more widespread in countries with higher perceived levels of struggle between secular and Islamist elites, as well as in countries with lower overall levels of religiosity among the Muslim population.
In Turkey, for example, only 36 percent of Muslims consider themselves highly religious, but fully 90 percent reported unfavorable attitudes toward the U.S. In Senegal, by contrast, 83 percent of Muslims consider themselves highly religious, but only 30 percent had negative feelings about the U.S. In Morocco, which splits the difference between Turkey and Senegal on religiosity, 79 percent of respondents reported unfavorable attitudes toward the U.S.
So if you think Islam goes hand in hand with anti-Americanism, think again. And considering that in Pakistan, Egypt, and Jordan -- all among the top ten recipients of U.S. aid -- at least 75 percent of respondents felt negatively about the United States, policy doesn't fully explain anti-Americanism, either.
The first six months of this year have been the hottest on record since 1895. In June alone, we smashed more than 3,000 temperature records across the United States. It was the 328th consecutive month in which the average global temperature exceeded the 20th century mean. As Bill McKibben put it, "the odds of [that] occurring by simple chance were [one in] 3.7 x 10-99, a number considerably larger than the number of stars in the universe."
But if that much is obvious to most people who don't harbor deep suspicions about the value of science, the rate at which global warming is changing life on this planet may still come as a shock. Not only are the 3.7 million Americans living within a few feet of the coastline already experiencing more frequent flooding -- the result of rising sea levels -- but unusual weather patterns are likely to make food more expensive, and fast.
Figures released on Wednesday by the U.S. Department of Agriculture predict substantial increases in food prices as a result of weather patterns in the Midwest -- the worst drought in nearly half a century.
The prices of chicken, beef, dairy, and eggs are all supposed to rise between three and five percentage points this year. Corn futures have already spiked nearly 50 percent over the last month to roughly $8.00 a bushel on fears that crops will be ruined. (The Department of Agriculture estimated that 40 percent of the U.S. corn crop is in poor or very poor condition as a result of the drought.)
And it's not just the U.S. market that will be affected. The U.S. is the world's largest producer of corn -- exporting millions of tons every year to countries like Japan, Egypt, and China. In 2000, for example, Egypt imported 76 percent of its corn from the United States.
In 2011, revolutions erupted across the Arab world at least in part because of rising food prices. Recall that protesters in Tunisia wielded loaves of bread and Egypt suffered a spate of "bread riots" when grain prices spiked between 2007 and 2008. Now, more than a year after the uprisings, many Arab economies are struggling to get back on their feet. Significant increases in global food prices might well plunge them back into chaos.
But bad weather and worse crop yields in the U.S. are not the only forces driving grain prices skyward. Southern Europe, which typically supplies 16 percent of global corn exports, is having its own ecological disaster. Temperatures in the band that runs from eastern Italy to the Black Sea averaged about five degrees higher than normal last month, according to Bloomberg, baking corn crops that are in the critical pollination phase. Cedic Weber, whose company advises about 5,000 farmers in Europe, told Bloomberg, "in Europe we'll need to import a lot of wheat and corn...That's just adding to the problems we've got everywhere."
That doesn't bode well for the Egypts and the Tunisias of the world -- or for any other net importer of food, for that matter. As it happens, that's practically all of the Middle East and Africa, and much of Southeast Asia.
The big news out of Syria this morning is about chemical weapons -- and
whether or not President Bashar al-Assad will use them. But the
headlines, it turns out, are an especially bad place to start if you
want to get to the bottom of it. In fact, you would be forgiven for
concluding that Syria is either ramping up or winding down preparations
to use chemical weapons against either the rebels or an external force.
"Syrian regime makes chemical warfare threat," is the authoritative headline in this morning's Guardian. It is almost the exact opposite of the Australian Broadcasting Corporation's (ABC) headline, which reads: "Syria moves to calm chemical weapon fears."
The New York Times, ever subtle, introduces a critical clause modifier: "Syria Says It Won't Use Chemical Arms to Stop Rebellion." This is the line taken by Businessweek which leads with: "Syria Says it Won't Use Chemical Weapons Against Insurgents."
If not against insurgents, then who? A Reuters headline holds the answer: "Syria says could use chemical arms against foreign intervention." Finally, the pieces are coming together. But what was the news item that headline-writers found so difficult to interpret?
The culprit, it seems, is Syrian Foreign Ministry spokesman Jihad Makdissi who made the following statement on Monday: "The ministry wants to re-affirm the stance of the Syrian Arab Republic that any chemical or bacterial weapon will never be used - and I repeat will never be used - during the crisis in Syria regardless of the developments...These weapons are stored and secured by Syrian military forces and under its direct supervision and will never be used unless Syria faces external aggression."
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy marked the first day of Ramadan today by addressing the nation in the inaugural episode of his new radio series. The program, called "The People Ask and the President Answers," gives the president a new platform to promote his "100-day" plan, which promises to improve security, make subsidized food and fuel widely available, and improve Cairo's notorious traffic problems.
The first 10 episodes have been pre-recorded and feature a "listener" asking Morsy a single question. Each episode runs about 5 minutes long and touches on a different subject, ranging from security, to housing, to unemployment, according to a report by UPI.
This morning, Morsy also addressed worshippers at his mosque, urging them to beat the lassitude that typically settles over Egypt during the holy month.
"Ramadan is a month of fasting and worship... and it is also a month of work and production," said Morsi in the speech which was broadcast on state television.
Morsy, it seems, was being extraordinarily generous. During the holy month, practically nothing gets done. As Vali Nasr put in FP in 2010, "[P]roductivity in the Muslim world plummets during the fast, and government business grinds to a halt."
Perhaps Morsy should take it up with the Egyptian people in the next episode of his radio show.
China signaled its intention to expand ties with Africa today at the Forum on China-Africa Cooperation by promising $20 billion in loans to African countries over the next three years. The pledge, which is double what China offered at the Forum's 2009 meeting in Egypt, includes outlays for training, scholarships, and medical care in Africa, the Los Angeles Times reports.
In recent years, China has left Western competitors behind in its drive to curry favor with African leaders, providing loans and building roads, railways and infrastructure with a no-questions-asked approach.
China's seeming indifference to abuses of human rights has attracted criticism from Western competitors and some rights activists. Many African leaders, however, don't express such concerns.
But China's focus on infrastructure -- designed to facilitate the extraction of oil and other natural resources -- has begun to rally a growing chorus of detractors, and not just in the West. At the Forum today, South African President Jacob Zuma called Africa's trade relationship with China "unsustainable," arguing that "Africa's past economic experience with Europe dictates a need to be cautious when entering into partnerships with other economies."
Africa's approach to Chinese investment in recent decades can hardly be described as cautious, however. Chinese-African trade has tripled in the last three years, totaling $166 billion in 2011. China is now Africa's biggest trading partner, having surpassed the United States in 2009, according to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development. (Interestingly, other emerging market countries have also deepened their economic ties with Africa, with India, Korea, Brazil, and Turkey together accounting for nearly 35 percent of the continent's trade.)
Part of China's appeal seems to stem from its ability to marry authoritarian governance with high levels of economic growth. As the Wall Street Journal put it, "leaders from South Africa to Ethiopia have been touting [China's] model for development -- one that stresses state-led growth, validates tight-fisted political control and offers a powerful counterpoint to the free-market democracy mantra promoted by the U.S."
It's no surprise, then, that China has found willing partners in some of Africa's least democratic states. Zimbabwe and Ethiopia have both attracted substantial Chinese aid and equity investments, for example, as have Angola, Congo, and Sudan, all of which have oil or minerals on offer.
But today's announcement was intended to show another side of China -- and to deflect criticisms about its imperial designs. In addition to increased credit, training, and scholarships, China has taken measures to rebalance trade ties with Africa, including the elimination of tariffs on certain African products. Could this be an indication the China is becoming a more responsible player in the international community?
As today's other major news item on China -- its third consecutive veto of sanctions against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad at the United Nations -- indicates, there doesn't seem to be much danger of that. But China does seem to act responsibly so long as it makes financial sense. And so it was when China voted for UN Security Council Resolution 2046, which threatened sanctions against Sudan, long a client state of Beijing, unless it deescalated its conflict with the South. Oddly enough, with its oil supplies hanging in the balance, China might actually be the best hope for peace in this region.
After six years of being stranded in Bahrain, roughly 100 laborers will be allowed to return home to India, the BBC reports. The workers, who were employed at the Nass Corporation until they quit in 2006, had been legally barred from leaving Bahrain because they terminated their contracts before the agreed upon date.
The company had accused the workers of "absconding from work" in 2006 after many of them left the company complaining of low wages.
The workers' visas were sponsored by the company, a requirement under Bahrain law for anyone leaving the country.
Nearly 400,000 Indians live and work in Bahrain and campaigners say many live in extreme poverty - they are often not paid the wages they are promised and their passports are taken away from them.
In 2009 Bahrain's own labour minister criticised the visa sponsor system, saying it was akin to slavery.
One of the laborers recently committed suicide by hanging himself from a palm tree in a public garden. He was the 26th Indian laborer who has committed suicide in Bahrain this year.
The Nass Corporation has reportedly agreed not to press charges against runaway workers in the future in exchange for being removed from an Indian government blacklist.
The headline in Bahrain's state-run Gulf Daily News was "Goodwill gesture by firm."
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