Pumping around one-third of the world's oil, the Middle East is the 800-pound gorilla of oil suppliers. Its enormous crude exports are crucial in slaking the thirst of a world hungry for more.
Yet for all the Middle East's supply-side clout, it is the region's rising consumption — a growing appetite for its own oil — that threatens to undermine the world's energy economy in the years ahead, unless these countries chart a new course.
Unlike the BRIC countries, the Middle East's strong growth in demand for oil has mostly stayed under the radar. In the first decade of the 21st century, it rose by 56%, more than twice the increase seen across Latin American and Asian Pacific nations, and four times the global average.
Although it was no match for China's 90% growth, in absolute terms the region gulps close to as much oil (8.1 million barrels a day in 2011) as the Middle Kingdom does (9.7 million barrels a day), according to 2012 data in the BP Statistical Review of World Energy.
The rate of consumption growth in the Middle East has been roughly on pace with the rest of the non-OECD world, where it has risen by 23% since 2005, even as it has been shrinking in developed countries.
What explains the region's surging oil demand? Per capita economic growth doesn't account for it. Income growth per head in the Middle East has lagged pitifully far behind the rest of the developing world over the last three decades.
Population growth is part of the story. More people has meant greater demand for vital resources. Additionally, energy demand per capita in the region has soared in recent decades, outpacing even the upward climb in the rest of the non-OECD world.