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A soldier atop a humvee scans the horizon in Kuwait, dotted with oil well fires set by retreating Iraqi military forces, during the Gulf War. In a world dominated by green energy, security researchers predict, a latter-day Saddam Hussein would have little reason to invade Kuwait to seize its solar parks, as he did in 1990 for its oil wells.

A soldier atop a humvee scans the horizon in Kuwait, dotted with oil well fires set by retreating Iraqi military forces, during the Gulf War. In a world dominated by green energy, security researchers predict, a latter-day Saddam Hussein would have little reason to invade Kuwait to seize its solar parks, as he did in 1990 for its oil wells.

Photographer: Allan Tannenbaum/The LIFE Images Collection

What Countries Will Fight Over When Green Energy Dominates

It’s a question of when, not if, the global economy will shift away from fossil fuels. Researchers are gaming out what that means for international politics. 

The Rand Corporation’s been designing war games with the Pentagon since the 1950s, modelling such hard-nosed security scenarios as a two-front U.S. war with China and Russia. Now the think tank is turning its realpolitik tool kit to a question more often associated with environmental dreamers: How will clean energy change the world?

Rand is among the small but growing number of research organizations, universities and at least one European government that have started gaming out the gritty geopolitical implications of a globe dominated by green energy. It’s the latest sign that the once quaint idea of renewable energy displacing fossil fuels has gone mainstream.