One of the cooler places to hang out in Saudi Arabia is a motor racing track built among grassy dunes on the outskirts of the capital, Riyadh. Wealthy drivers, including at least one prince, race their Porsches and Lamborghinis there in front of an adoring crowd of young Saudis — some of them wearing reversed baseball caps and baggy jeans.
The twisty circuit is built to the highest specifications and managed with a big emphasis on safety. Still, it is hard not to see the track as emblematic of a Saudi and Gulf culture of lavish and ever-increasing consumption — fast cars, gargantuan shopping malls, grandiose homes — all dependent on abundant and cheap gasoline and electric power. Saudi Arabia’s oil use has nearly doubled over the last decade to 2.9 million barrels per day, about a third of what it usually produces.