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.”
Battery powered trailer boost range, efficiency — now for $120,000 less
The RA electric trailer from Range Energy promises to turn your diesel truck into a hybrid or extend the range of your electric semi – and now it qualifies for a $120,000 voucher in California.
California’s Clean Off-Road Equipment (CORE) Voucher Project aims to make it easier for commercial fleets to decarbonize. Last July, Range became the first trailer electrification platform to be accepted into CORE with an $80,000 rebate.
This year, Range Energy bumped its largest battery offering to 300 kWh. The state, in turn, showed its confidence in the electric trailer concept by bumping that rebate a full 50%.
“Becoming eligible for CORE proved that trailers truly matter in the transition to electric, and that CARB recognizes the meaningful impact electric-powered trailers can have on reducing the emissions of the commercial trucking sector,” said Ali Javidan, founder and CEO of Range. “Increasing our trailer platform’s incentive value by $40,000 further solidifies that position and makes Range a realistic near-term solution for fleet owners and operators.”
The company claims the Range Energy electric trailers can double a trucks’ fuel economy and slash its NOx emissions by as much as 67%. When we last covered Range, its electric trailer system had just undergone independent testing that found a 36% real-world improvement on a 25-mile urban/high loop at 60 mph top speeds with a 59,000 lb. gross vehicle weight (well below the 80,000 lb. maximum).
It’s great to see concepts like this electric trailer come into play with some government dollars behind them. If they work (and if their weight penalties don’t hurt shippers’ profit margins), they’ll make it real easy for truck fleets to dip their toes into the waters of electrification while hydrogen and batteries battle it out for ultimate supremacy.
I’m betting batteries, for what it’s worth – but Range Energy customers will be able to put their electric trailers to work behind either!
Quick Charge Podcast: February 26, 2024
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You won’t believe who bought almost $1 million worth of Tesla Roadsters
In a surprising turn of events, we now learn that billionaire Dan O’Dowd bought the 3 Tesla Roadsters that were lost in a Chinese port for over a decade.
Last year, we reported on a strange story of three brand-new Tesla Roadsters that were found inside a shipping container in China.
It appears that a Chinese company bought the Roadster back in 2011 with the hope of reverse-engineering them. However, the shipment was blocked by customs in China and the vehicles never made it to the company.
Last year, someone finally was able to get them and ship them to the US.
Tesla ever only produced just over 2,000 original Roadsters between 2008 and 2011, making them rare in the first place.
On top of the usual unit you lose to accidents and time, Roadsters had a few bad luck incidents, including losing dozens of units to two separate fires at Gruber Motors, which specializes in fixing first-generation Tesla Roadsters.
It makes the remaining ones more valuable, and ironically, Gruber was leading the auction for the lost Roadsters.
At one point, the company claimed that the three Roadsters together would go for over $1 million.
Almost a year later, we now know who bought them.
Dan of the popular YouTube channel What’s Inside got an exclusive look at the Roadsters – giving us a great look at this little piece of EV history:
Dan revealed Dan O’Dowd, the billionaire founder of Green Hills Software, is the new owner of the Roadster.
To Tesla fans, O’Dowd is better known as the guy running the Dawn Project, which is basically a campaign against Tesla’s Full Self-Driving effort.
It could be surprising, considering how consistently O’Dowd has been attacking Tesla and Elon Musk, but he is apparently a fan of Tesla vehicles other than its Autopilot and FSD Beta, which the Roadster is not equipped with anyway.
He already owns a couple of Roadsters, according to What’s Inside’s video.
Now, if you are familiar with What’s Inside, you know that they tend to cut through things to find out what’s inside them, but obviously, Dan won’t be doing that with these Roadsters. The video is still a great look at what could be some of the best-preserved Roadsters on the planet.
Also, we now learn how much O’Dowd paid for the Roadsters.
Carl Medlock of Medlock and Sons, an independent Tesla repair shop, helped O’Dowd in the purchase and confirmed that the billionaire paid $800,000 for the three Roadsters.
That’s well below the up to $2 million offers that Gruber teased. In fact, Medlock claims that the only other big serious offer was for $500,000.
Regardless, at an average of over $250,000 per Roadster, it makes them some of the most valuable Roadsters to date.
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