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Rethinking energy security
The WWF’s Jim Leape and others give their views on energy planning over the next few decades.
April 12, 2010 1:45 by Jay Akasie
What if you got the chance to corral into one room the world’s top five authorities on energy issues? That’s just what Trends magazine had the opportunity to do during the World Economic Forum in Davos earlier this year. This impressive roundtable started with the following assertion: Shifts in supply and demand, as well as challenges posed by climate change, will exert ever greater pressure on both corporate and national energy planning over the next decades. So we asked all five men this question: What is needed to tackle the interlinked issues of energy security, economic growth, and climate change? Here are excerpts of their answers.
Fatih Birol, chief economist with the International Energy Agency:
“Energy security and climate change are the twin challenges of the age. Oil accounts for 40 percent of carbon dioxide emissions. Almost the same as coal. During the next few decades, with a declining stock, you’re going to see higher, more volatile prices. That’s bad news for the global economy. The key solution is on the demand side. We need to slow down demand growth. We’re now at 86 million gallons a day. If every other car is an alternative fuel car, then 90 million gallons a day is a realistic demand in the coming years.”
Robert Hormats, U.S. undersecretary of state for economic, energy, and agricultural affairs:
“From the U.S. point of view, energy security is a function of the diversity of suppliers, types of fuel, and types of transport. Natural gas is an interesting new development on the energy scene. Coming out of both shale and horizontal drilling. Both have created a surge in North America’s ability to produce natural gas. It can serve as a bridge fuel from high carbon to low. There have been new finds in Uganda, Ghana, Vietnam, Cambodia. Large, new reserves of oil. We can help them with oil governance. In terms of water, more work has to be done.
Anand Sharma, minister of commerce and industry of India:
“Needs differ from country to country. Climate change didn’t happen overnight. In emerging economies, the share of global energy is relatively low. It is linked to food security. One billion people around the world are denied food security.”
Jim Leape, director-general, World Wildlife Fund International:
“The default to coal or tar sands is troubling. Both are devastating from a climate perspective. Coal cannot be a solution to energy security if we’re concerned about climate change. We need to push hard now on efficiency and on renewables as the basis of the new energy economy. In terms of price, we have to stop subsidizing the bad stuff. We need to find a way to put a price on carbon that moves the economy in the right direction. There’s no need to wait for a global deal.”
Armen Sarkissian, president and founder, Eurasia House International:
“Thirty years ago this would have been a much simpler discussion. Today everything relates to energy – problems and solutions.”