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Abu Dhabi looks to kick the oil habit

The United Arab Emirates plans to turn Abu Dhabi into a center of clean energy.

Geography and climate pose further obstacles to the realization of Abu Dhabi’s brave new world. The Persian Gulf is a tad far — and two tads too hot — to lure weekend visitors or substantial business from New York, Toronto or Los Angeles.

But North America isn’t really the referent here. Abu Dhabi is only two hours and 15 minutes from Mumbai by air and under 7 hours from Shanghai, Beijing and Amsterdam.

Should the world’s economy and shipping patterns continue to migrate eastward, Sheikh Khalifa’s necessary gamble could pay off.

At least that’s what the leadership is betting on: the hope that in 20 years Abu Dhabi will find itself at a new epicenter of global trade, with a new generation of emiratis and expats living large, this time off flows of tetrabytes, tourist dollars and energy generated by wind and sun.

“The government has made it clear that it sees Abu Dhabi as an international hub,” White said. “A big part of the plan is celebrating its role as a crossroads of cultures, industries and innovation.”