A Light on the Water: Alternative Energy in Saudi Arabia

By Lee, Erika | Harvard International Review, Fall 2010 | Go to article overview

A Light on the Water: Alternative Energy in Saudi Arabia


Lee, Erika, Harvard International Review


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia, which already desalinizes 24 million cubic meters of water per day, about half the world's total, is building the largest solar-powered water desalination plant in the world in the city of Al-Khafji on the shores of the Persian Gulf. This recent initiative to increase the country's water desalination capacity using green technology is a smart move because it is strategic and future-oriented.

Until recently, 90 percent of all the water desalination plants in Saudi Arabia ran on oil or natural gas. One cubic meter of water costs between 40 and 90 US cents to produce, depending on the price of fuel; it would be more profitable to simply sell the oil on the open market. The country uses a tremendous amount of energy--1.5 million barrels of oil per day--to provide power to the country's 30 government-operated water desalination plants. As oil prices have risen, the cost of desalinated water has increased as well, making this water production method even more economically unsound.

Since the 1970s, Saudi Arabia has had to dig deeper into its oil reserves to keep up with the demand for water. About 40 years ago, Saudi Arabia started to give massive agricultural subsidies to wheat farmers so that the nation could become self-sufficient in food. In the early 1990s, the country was paying farmers so much for wheat that they produced enough for export. The Saudis have since realized that food security is not worth the resources needed to support the requisite water production. For example, Saudi Arabia exports dairy products produced in some of the biggest dairy farms in the region even though it takes 1,000 liters of water to produce just one liter of milk.

To address this problem, the Saudi government has resolved that the kingdom will rely entirely on imports for food by 2016. Starting in 2008, the government began reducing wheat purchases from local farmers by 12.5 percent a year and plans to eventually discontinue all such subsidies.

Although this total food dependence may sound extreme, it is very rational. Since the introduction of government subsidies, food production has relied almost entirely on "fossil water," deep groundwater extracted from ancient aquifers in an energy-intense process. Using fossil water is bad business for several reasons. First, Saudi Arabia is capable of importing all of its wheat necessities using oil money. As long as food-exporting countries will trade for Saudi oil, the nation has no reason to lose money by growing its own wheat. Second, the kingdom could sell the oil now used to run the water plants to other countries for a profit. Finally, fossil water is nonrenewable, so Saudi Arabia would do well not to entirely deplete its ancient fossil aquifers. According to estimates, about 70 percent of these aquifers, more than what is considered naturally recoverable, have been depleted already from the increased water production of the past decades. Though simply buying water directly with oil money would seem to be an obvious solution, even the oil-rich Saudi Arabia cannot count on its oil reserves forever. This means that reliance on oil for water and food, while convenient, is short-sighted. …

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Default project is now your active project.
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

A Light on the Water: Alternative Energy in Saudi Arabia
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger Reset View mode
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Help
Full screen

matching results for page

    Questia reader help

    How to highlight and cite specific passages

    1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
    2. Click or tap the last word you want to select, and you’ll see everything in between get selected.
    3. You’ll then get a menu of options like creating a highlight or a citation from that passage of text.

    OK, got it!

    Cited passage

    Style
    Citations are available only to our active members.
    Buy instant access to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

    "Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

    1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

    Cited passage

    Thanks for trying Questia!

    Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

    Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

    Buy instant access to save your work.

    Already a member? Log in now.

    Author Advanced search

    Oops!

    An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.