The Arab oil states, especially Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E., are looking to the heavens as a means to maintain their economic vitality as fossil fuels lose some of their value on Earth, according to Bloomberg. Due to the fracking boom and the growth of renewable energy, the death grip the Gulf States have on the world’s energy resources has somewhat loosened. Knowing that without oil revenues countries like Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. are likely to become weak and unstable, they are looking to other sources of income.

The oil sheiks seem to have noticed that an equivalent to oil exists in space, that being water.

Without water, future space colonists will not be able to survive. Water can be refined into rocket fuel, making the moon and certain near-Earth asteroids flying gas stations. Companies such as Planetary Resources and Deep Space Industries are eager to start mining asteroids. Moon Express and Astrobotics are aiming for the moon. A group of starry-eyed dreamers at a company called Goldman Sachs has concluded that asteroid mining is a viable business, giving time and investment.

Besides water, space mining can yield platinum group metals, an important raw material for high-tech products, and helium 3, a potential fuel for future fusion reactors. Even industrial grade minerals such as iron, aluminum, titanium, and silicon can be used to jump-start space-based industries.

The Gulf States still have a lot of money, which can buy talent, either homegrown or foreign, and technology. The U.A.E. already has a nascent space program with an initial goal of launching a probe to Mars by about 2020.

The upshot of this development is that a scramble for outer space resources has developed with a number of nontraditional, where space is concerned, wanting to get in on the game.

The United States needs to do a couple of things to keep up and not be left behind on what amounts to a new space race, this time for profit as much as for glory.

First, America really needs to ramp up its own space program with a view of encouraging private space development, including space mining, before other countries lock up sources of raw materials.

The world experienced what can happen when the Arab oil states controlled a commodity essential to civilization in the 1970s, and it was not pleasant.

Next, the United States needs to push for a treaty to peacefully divide up space resources, based on a homesteading principle that the first on the scene to exploit those minerals owns them. Otherwise, the possibility of armed conflict exists over space resources, similar to what has happened on Earth in her history.