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> Doesn't seem like you can reasonably charge a car in europe/asia from solar panels in the middle east. You'll be dealing with some pretty nasty transmission losses.

First of all, the oil reserves in Saudi-Arabia aren't going to last forever - but they will need massive amounts of energy to maintain their cities, especially for drinking water. Desalination is ridiculously expensive, and water access will be the war driver in the entire Middle East once climate change really hits. Cover the desert with solar plants, the coasts with desalination plants (and don't care about the brine) => control who gets the electricity and/or the water, control the region. Saudi-Arabia is actually already going pretty far in their fight for regional supremacy, that would fit perfectly.

As for transmitting the energy to Europe/Asia, well... there's technology in the works to synthesize gas (both gasoline and, well, gas) using electricity, which can be fed into the existing gas pipeline infrastructure and thus sold to the wide world.




"Desalination is ridiculously expensive" - as long as you are near the ocean, it's pretty cheap. Hyflux[1] on a 25 year DBOO contract will sell you as much water as you want for less than $0.50 per 1000 liters. Combined with even a modicum of water conservation [2], you can get per-capita water use down to around a cost of $0.05/day at a 100 liters of use a day.

[1] https://www.wateronline.com/doc/pub-and-hyflux-sign-water-pu... [2] http://www.waterwise.co.za/export/sites/water-wise/downloads...


> First of all, the oil reserves in Saudi-Arabia aren't going to last forever - but they will need massive amounts of energy to maintain their cities, especially for drinking water. Desalination is ridiculously expensive, and water access will be the war driver in the entire Middle East once climate change really hits.

Somewhat OT, but... there has been enormous progress in energy efficient desalination, to the point that Israel has become a net exporter of water. See DOI 10.1016/j.desal.2017.10.033 for more technical information on recent progress desalination.


Wars about control of water will be centered around areas with fresh water availability. The middle east doesnt have any.

If you have cheap desalinization capability, why would there be wars over water?


> Wars about control of water will be centered around areas with fresh water availability. The middle east doesnt have any.

More likely, they'll be centered around points of availability in areas of relative scarcity.

There is, in fact freshwater in the Middle East, just not a lot. Which makes what is there a potential source of contention.


Fair point. Do climate models have the fidelity to predict desertification? My intuition would be that the entire middle east will be devoid of water at 2 degrees hotter.


As always, the question is 'with how much certainty'? At low enough certainty I could predict what parts of the world will get dryer or wetter on the back of an envelope, but there are a lot of unknowables like human activity that would have to be included to make a quite reliable prediction.


If you have cheap desalinization capability, why would there be wars over water?

"Cheap" desalinization is like "bargain" chip fab. It's still an inherently expensive proposition.


I agree that cheap and expensive need context.

According to the first link I found about large scale desalination, it can be done for a wholesale price of around $0.58/cubic meter.[1]

For comparison, my local water authority (in a part of the US that is not particularly dry) charges about $0.94/cubic meter.

Without knowing exactly what the difference is between wholesale and retail rates, I feel reasonably confident that desalination technology is currently sufficient to avoid civilization collapse and/or war.

[1]https://www.technologyreview.com/s/534996/megascale-desalina...


> Without knowing exactly what the difference is between wholesale and retail rates, I feel reasonably confident that desalination technology is currently sufficient to avoid civilization collapse and/or war.

The problem is you're gonna need energy to operate these plants and you can't scale stuff up infinitely as the brine will kill off marine life and eventually, the water sources will become so salty that they can not be used for desalination any more: https://www.theguardian.com/global-development-professionals...

Which means, once Peak Salt hits, there will be problems. Oh, and desalinating water for drinking purposes is one thing - using it for agricultural demands is a whole different beast. Egypt, for example, already had problems in 2010, and the issue won't get smaller over the decades. http://edition.cnn.com/2010/WORLD/africa/11/09/egypt.water.s...


"eventually, the water sources will become so salty that they can not be used for desalination any more"

Where do you think the water will go? I mean, if it doesn't end up in the ground, or the ocean...


I feel reasonably confident that desalination technology is currently sufficient to avoid civilization collapse and/or war.

Yes. But the experience up until now, is that desalinization is so much more expensive than other water sources, to the point that such plants often get mothballed when the other sources become available again.

https://www.circleofblue.org/2016/asia/water-scarce-regions-...




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