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    Oil Boom Towns

    Black gold buys metropolitan status

    The Wall Street Journal reported on April 11, 2007, that a plan was unveiled for a 68-story skyscraper in Dubai where each floor rotates every 90 minutes. The architect, David Fisher, calls it "dynamic architecture." The newspaper reported that Fisher's eureka moment came as he listened to a friend in Florida talk about the large difference in pricing for condos that face the ocean and those that do not.
    Fisher's design team includes Leslie Robertson, the innovator behind the World Trade Center design. Interestingly, the designers don't seem to anticipate large construction costs, and argue their design is rather straightforward, it just looks different. All except the all important issue of plumbing. WSJ quotes Robertson as saying, "We have good people working on that." Indicating, in as many words, that it's a technical challenge.

    Dubai Marina at night.

    The fact that the designers are targetting Dubai, one of the 7 emirates of the UAE, is a reflection of the building boom going on in the tiny Middle Eastern nation. Understanding that oil wealth will not last forever, the country's ruler Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum is looking to shape Dubai into a world financial center, and tourist haven.
    The country is set to debut the region's first commodities futures exchange, in a joint venture with NYMEX. The commodity the so-called Dubai Merc will focus on first is, of course, oil. Specifically, the Dubai Merc hopes to become a trading center for Arabian Gulf sour crude, the flavor of oil that makes up much of the world's energy markets. Already Dubai crude is a benchmark for Middle Eastern oil flowing to the Asia-Pacific region. In contrast, NYMEX in the U.S. has a huge market based on setting prices for benchmarks Brent crude (from the North Atlantic Sea) and West Texas Intermediate (from West Texas).
    To house its burgeoning non-petroleum industry, the country is undergoing a building boom. [Emporis lists 1,087 buildings in Dubai.] It is in the process of building what will be world's largest building, the Burj Dubai (2,300 feet tall; ETA: 2009), and is planning another building known as "The Burj," meaning "the tower" which would be 3,281-feet tall, or 1 kilometer!
    Just 90 miles away from Dubai another boom town is forming in Abu Dhabi, a fellow UAE member.
    With a similar story to Dubai, Abu Dhabi also hopes to become a regional hotspot. A Fortune Magazine article recently named Abu Dhabi the "richest city in the world." [Author: Barney Gimbel] The reason: Abu Dhabi's 420,000 citizens, excluding foreign workers, have an average net worth of $17 million each. [Emporis lists 215 buildings in Abu Dhabi.]
    Just 15 minutes away from one another by plane, Fortune article points out a friendly rivalry between Dubai and Abu Dhabi. So far, however, Dubai has won the public relations campaign, drawing the bulk of recognition. And in March 2007, Halliburton, famous/infamous for its Vice President Dick Cheney affiliation, announced it would move its corporate headquarters to Dubai--although its 12,000 workers at its current HQ in Houston, Texas, would stay put. GEO

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