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Democracy and the Electric Car Can Save Us

Ranan R. Lurie, a senior adjunct fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington, D.C., is a syndicated columnist and political cartoonist

At the time the Soviet Union collapsed, you could find in international libraries more than 900 books describing the world and how it would look when it turned communist. There was not one book describing the opposite: how the communist world would look if and when it turned capitalist.

We are facing the same magnitude of economic revolution with the forthcoming demise of the oil industry. We’ll feel the beginning of its impact in less than 12 years, and the consequences will not only deliver much cleaner air and a great battery-powered car in your garage but also major economic and geopolitical effects.

A short time ago I met with the upper echelon of a major Asian automobile conglomerate. In four years, according to them, their company will corner the market with cars that will run at full power on batteries that need to be recharged only every 48 hours. And the three big U.S. car manufacturers have announced that they plan to launch a battery-operated car four years from now.

The Middle East Arab countries, because of a sense of denial or helplessness, prefer to ignore the forthcoming mammoth problem. The Israelis, who are concentrated on the beaches of the eastern Mediterranean, will lead an international project to chart the Mediterranean waters’ rise because of global warming--a development that is accelerated as result of fuel burning. There have been predictions that until the year 2030 the sea levels will rise by more than 7 inches and, by the end of the 21st century, levels will rise 20 inches, resulting in a horrifying mass flooding worldwide. Romania, Croatia, Malta, Morocco, Israel, Italy and France already are collaborating to measure the calamity.

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Two factors--suicidal oil pollution and the tremendous progress of its antidote, the electric car--will synergize and make sure that the battery-powered vehicles will overcome all of the technological, political and economic obstacles that they have confronted until now.

At the moment, oil is the only major product sold in the leading world markets by the Arab states. This product is in such demand today, and they have so much of it to sell, that the Middle East countries see no reason to develop any other source of revenue. Once oil loses its economic prowess because of the forthcoming change in energy usage, the Arab Middle East, hit by the double whammy of having its main revenue from oil suffocated and no alternative income to compensate for the loss, will look like the Titanic after the Hindenburg crashed into it.

A recent study by the Center for Stratigic and International Studies found that the Middle East, while enjoying the highest proportions of oil-glut revenue, suffers in some parts from the highest rate of population explosion and the lowest rates of student space in its schools.

Even now, when oil prices are at their temporary peak, the unemployment rate in the Middle East is one of the highest in the world. The region’s leaders, none of them elected, did not put their 70 good years of rich oil revenue into developing their countries’ educational, economic and technological infrastructures. With the exception of the tiny percentage of the ruling families, dictators and strongmen, the average Middle Easterner is still treading in the Dark Ages. What will happen when the oil refineries have to stop pumping and the drilling towers collapse because of rust?

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I believe that the world should start planning right now, together with the few still-rich countries of that area, a giant Marshall Plan to save the offspring of those who invented algebra, who will very soon find themselves sucked into quicksand. The intelligent and capable Arab masses will not tolerate an economy growing worse by leaps and bounds for long. They will turn upon their ruthless strongmen and put an end to 5,000 years of self-imposed moral and economic slavery. Proud Arab people will achieve democracy--probably by force--and take over the shabby, so-called “economies” of their countries.

Then they will remember which countries helped oppress them by legitimizing their dictatorial, selfish regimes with bribes, forgiveness and looking the other way. Anyone who collaborates today with a Libyan-like regime will be called to account the same way that almost everyone who collaborated with Nazi Germany, Fascist Italy or former dictatorial Chile and Argentina had to pay the price.

Middle East regimes led by dictators and/or by oil should be considered deadwood that will burn any hand that tries to support them.

Democracy and the electric car are at the gate, waiting to transport the oil empires of the few to the backwaters of history.

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