DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The unexpected rift between Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates within OPEC in early July came as a shock to many in the Gulf region and those watching from abroad.
The dispute over oil production levels temporarily froze the group’s ability to lay out their plans for the markets, sending crude prices upward. But it wasn’t the first appearance of tension between the Arab neighbors and longtime close allies, and likely will not be the last, experts who’ve long been watching the region say.
“What is happening here is these are the two biggest economies in the region, in the Arab world,” Abdulkhaleq Abdulla, a political science professor in the UAE, told CNBC. “And as Saudi Arabia wants to reform its economy, privatize, etc, there is bound to be competition between them.”
“Competition between the two biggest Arab economies is, I think, just starting,” Abdulla said. “And it is bound to intensify in the days to come.”
The strategic alignment between Riyadh and Abu Dhabi, both of which have become increasingly active on the world stage, is evident in many areas. And it’s often associated with what is said to be a close relationship — some have even called it a “bromance” — between Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and his Emirati counterpart Mohammed bin Zayed.
But conflicting interests have cropped up in recent months that preceded the OPEC rift. In February, Saudi Arabia announced that its government would cease doing business with any international companies whose regional headquarters were not based within the kingdom by 2024. The move was widely seen as targeting Dubai, the Middle East’s current headquarters hub.
DUBAI, United Arab Emirates — The UAE last year announced a normalization deal with Israel, becoming the first Gulf country to do so, while Saudi Arabia has so far publicly refused to do the same. Saudi Arabia meanwhile has been working on a tentative rapprochement with rival Sunni power Turkey, with which the UAE has significant tensions as Ankara supports an Islamist ideology that Emirati leaders see as a threat.
And the two Gulf powers had some diverging interests in the war in Yemen, despite being on the same side, with the Saudis supporting an Islamist party distrusted by the UAE and Abu Dhabi supporting separatist tribes that did not align with Riyadh’s goals. The UAE drew down its military activity in Yemen in 2019, while Riyadh remains embroiled in the conflict.
“It has been a common assumption that the UAE and Saudi Arabia have effectively indistinguishable worldviews and interests — that the UAE is sort of an appendage or dependency of Saudi Arabia,” Hussein Ibish, a senior resident scholar at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, wrote in a blog post in July. “That has never been the case.”
In early July, Saudi Arabia upped the ante by ending preferential tariffs for goods made in free zones or affiliated with Israeli manufacturers, also seen as a direct shot at the UAE, which is the free zone hub of the region. The move was followed by waves of patriotic Saudis launching a campaign via Twitter to boycott Emirati goods.
This came despite the fact that the UAE is Saudi Arabia’s second-largest trading partner after China by import value.
“The idea once was to create a GCC market, but now there’s the realization that the priorities of Saudi Arabia and the UAE are very different,” Amir Khan, senior economist at Saudi National Bank, told Reuters in July. “This regulation is putting flesh on the bone of these political divergences,” Khan said.
So, where do things go from here?
An OPEC deal was reached in mid-July, and the Saudi and Emirati energy ministers praised each other and the work of the group of oil producers. Still, economic competition — at a time where returns for oil-producing nations are extremely volatile — isn’t set to go away anytime soon.
“We’re coming out of this pandemic where every country in the world needs to figure out a way to economically recover,” Tobias Borck, a research fellow specializing in Gulf affairs at the Royal United Services Institute in London, told CNBC. “But for the Gulf monarchies, especially for Abu Dhabi and Saudi Arabia, that is compounded by the fact that they are also under pressure to figure out a way to transform their economies and get away from relying on oil.”
“In that environment, quite frankly, everyone is going to look after number one,” Borck continued. “And for all the genuine friendship and continued pragmatic alignment, when it comes to economic matters, at some point that friendship ends and it becomes about looking after yourself.”
A ‘collision course’
For the Emirati professor Abdulla, “rivalry is too strong of a term” to describe what’s going on between the two countries.
“It could be a controlled, managed, friendly competition,” he told CNBC. “Or it could get out of hand, and we will see it intensify in the months and years to come. We are still in the first five minutes of the competition. We don’t know how it is going to evolve — and it might have some impact on the political issues that bind the two countries together, some political spillover.”
“There are clearly multiple areas where they are on a collision course in the economic sphere,” Borck said. “You’ve now sort of put your position out, and at the moment, those positions are on a collision course. Whether they’re going to remain so? We’ll see.”
Elon Musk says Tesla has a ‘performance Cybertruck’
Elon Musk reveals that Tesla has a ‘performance Cybertruck’ – indicating that it could be one of the first versions of the electric pickup truck.
Tesla is on the verge of delivering the first Cybertruck.
Despite the automaker having produced likely hundreds of trucks and being about to start deliveries, there’s still a lot we don’t know about the electric pickup truck.
Tesla first unveiled the Cybertruck in 2019 and announced specs and pricing at the time, but the automaker is known to update its vehicles significantly from prototype to production. On top of it, the auto market has changed a lot since then, and that is expected to completely change the prices that Tesla announced for the Cybertruck.
Those expected changes have led to speculation about which Cybertruck models are going to be available, when, and at what prices.
We have recently seen evidence that at least some of Tesla’s Cybertruck release candidates are dual-motor powertrain trucks, which is leading people to believe that it might likely be the first
Now CEO Elon Musk is now adding some information into the mix by saying on X that he recently drove a “performance Cybertruck”:
I just drove the performance Cybertruck today and it kicks ass next-level.
This means that Tesla currently has a “performance” version of the Cybertruck, which could mean it could be amongst the first versions to come to market.
Tesla has previously announced a tri-motor version of the Cybertruck with the following specs:
- Tri Motor AWD with 500+ miles of range, 0-60 mph in 2.9 seconds, top speed of 130 mph, and starting price of $69,900
That could certainly qualify as a “performance version”, but there have also been rumors of Tesla offering a potential quad-motor version of the Cybertruck, which could have even higher performance.
Tesla is expected to announce all the details of the Cybertruck at a delivery event, which could come within the next few weeks.
This 100 MPH ‘street legal’ 2-seater electric race car from China looks pretty legit
Most of the fun and funky vehicles I manage to dredge up for the Awesomely Weird Alibaba Electric Vehicle of the Week are big on weirdness but short on power. This time that seems to be reversed, as this electric race car is more wild than weird and comes with some seriously impressive performance.
This isn’t some slow crawling electric battle tank or ice-cream truck shaped like a VW bus. Those are more typical of this series on odd Chinese EVs, but this time we’re going all-in for extreme performance.
That means you’d better be ready to buckle in for speeds of up to 160 km/h (100 mph)! And based on some of these product photos, I wouldn’t mind buckling into the passenger seat for the first few rides.
Powering this little racer’s rear wheels is a 10 kW (13.5 hp) electric motor, which might not sound that powerful, but remember just how potent the low end torque from an electric motor is for rocketing off the line.
And since the entire vehicle only weighs 650 kg (1,433 lb), not to mention an extra 45 kg (100 lb) of cover girl model, there just isn’t that much mass here to be accelerated.
Plus the Chinese tend to rate motors with continuous power, not peak power. So there’s probably more kilowatts under the hood than we’re expecting. There’s no information on what kind of controller is powering that motor, but I’d wager that the peak power could be closer to 20 kW (27 hp).
There’s also a surprisingly large battery in this little racer, to the tune of 14.4 kWh. It’s a 96V pack built from LG lithium-ion cells and would give several American electric motorcycles a run for their money.
According to the vendor, it should be enough for 150 km (96 miles) of range per charge, though there’s no mention if that’s on a city street track or the Indianapolis Motor Speedway.
Speaking of city streets, the company says that the vehicle is ECE certified and “can be legally driven on European streets”. I guess we’ll just have to take their word on that, unless someone wants to buy one of these and try it out themselves.
There’s no word on DOT-certification and so it’s likely not street legal in the US. But that might not stop someone from going full-‘Murica doing donuts in the local Krogers parking lot with their bald eagle riding shotgun.
If you want to get some skin in the game (eagle not included), it’s going to cost you a cool US $28,000. Or at least that would be the first payment. There’s no telling how much you’d have to fork over afterwards for ocean freight, import charges, taxes, and other add-on charges along the way.
But for anyone hoping to try their luck with the local European cops, it’s at least comforting to see that these vehicles seem to actually be in real production.
The vendor shared several images of what look like a sea of frames alongside several partially assembled race cars.
I’m not recommending anyone actually try to buy one of these from Alibaba. In fact, I’d probably recommend the opposite. Let’s just treat this as a fun window-shopping exercise.
But for the person who inevitably ignores my warnings (as many of my readers have been known to do) and plunks down some serious cash for one of these, let me know if and when it arrives. I will be there in a second to go for a ride with you!
This EV fast charging station tells you when its power is at its cheapest and greenest
This DC fast charging station tells EV drivers when renewable energy is at its peak in the grid – and thus when charging prices are cheapest.
The “Better Energy Charge” station in Sønderborg, Denmark, is owned by renewable energy company Better Energy. (It sits next to the company’s R&D solar park.)
What makes this charging station unique is its dynamic pricing model. It differs from traditional fixed pricing schemes because it incentivizes EV drivers with lower charging prices when renewable energy is at its peak on the grid.
The charging price, which is available the day before, follows the Danish energy spot prices. Similar to a gas station’s pricing signs, the EV charging station’s price board is visible from the road. (Why don’t all EV charging stations do this?)
“We want to encourage people to charge their cars when there is a lot of renewable electricity in the grid by making it cheaper when the sun is shining and the wind is blowing,” said Peter Munck Søe-Jensen, EVP of power solutions at Better Energy.
The Danish company feels its model helps drivers plan in advance to charge their EVs when energy is at its cheapest. And by charging EVs when solar and wind energy production is high, consumers can also increase the probability that it’s renewable, not fossil fuel-powered, energy.
What do you think of this model? Have you seen anything similar? Let us know in the comments below.
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