ENERGY AND THE ENVIRONMENT IN THE MIDDLE EAST

PROF. M. SOKOLOV AND MR. I. DROR

Tel-Aviv University

The Middle East and North Africa comprise 5% of the world’s population and are responsible for 4.1% of world economic activity measured by volume. The region consumes 3.4% of the world’s commercial primary energy supply.

In the coming years a considerable increase is expected both in terms of population growth and economic activity in the area. Together with sub-Saharan Africa, the region has the highest population growth of any region in the world. According to the WEC forecasts, the estimated population for the region in the year 2020 will be over half a billion inhabitants, compared to 270 million in 1990. Concurrently, the average GDP per capita is expected to rise by 60%.

Although the region is known to contain some 70% of the world’s proven oil reserves and 35% of the world’s proven natural gas reserves, the consumption of energy in the Middle East is significantly less efficient than in other regions. Data on energy intensity indicates that in most areas of the world there is an increasing efficiency in energy consumption, whereas in the Middle East the opposite is true.

The very abundance of renewable sources may account for the Middle East’s lagging far behind in efficient utilization. As in other instances, often abundance leads to waste and a delay in the awareness for lower cleaner consumption.