How many times have you heard that Place X is the “Saudi Arabia of solar power” or “Saudi Arabia of wind power” or “Saudi Arabia of geothermal”?  Kate Galbraith of The New York Times‘ Green Inc. blog has heard it one too many times, so she’s launched a contest for a new phrase to describe renewable energy potential.

The point of all these comparisons, of course, is to suggest that this place or that possesses giant reserves of a potential resource.

But given that the planet’s oil supplies, including those in Saudi Arabia, are finite by their very nature, it might well be time to find a new metaphor — particularly when referring to renewable energy sources.

After all, Matthew Simmons, the author of Twilight in the Desert (2005), has argued that Saudi Arabia’s oil reserves are peaking, and could decrease far faster than Saudi officials say.

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That theory, of course, is controversial — and it is strongly disputed by Saudi officials.

But Seth Kaplan, a vice president at the Conservation Law Foundation, an environmental group, suggests that if Mr. Simmons is right, “the Saudi Arabia metaphor is not what people want it to mean. It could be synonymous with an over-inflated estimate,” he said.

Which in turn, Mr. Kaplan said, would suggest that “Saudi Arabia is not the Saudi Arabia of oil.”

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UPDATE: Here are the winners.

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