Alternative energy discussed, but not decided at IEF

08:35, April 01, 2010      

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The International Energy Forum (IEF) that ran on Tuesday and Wednesday in Mexico's Caribbean coast resort city of Cancun discussed alternative energy and ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, but no firm conclusions were reached.

Felipe Calderon, president of the host nation Mexico, raised the topic during his opening speech, and the last session of the conference was dedicated to the topic. Oil producing nations also pushed to promote carbon capture technology and called on rich countries to shoulder the investments to make it happen.

"In the 21st century there will be a major transition," Calderon told the opening session of the IEF conference on Tuesday. "Humanity now has an opportunity to create a new industrial revolution. We are seeking energy security and environmental sustainability."

Calderon has made reducing greenhouse gas emissions one of the central planks of his presidency, which began in December 2006. He wants every state in the nation to have emissions reduction measures in place by the time he leaves office in 2012. Calderon also spent much of 2009 promoting the so-called Green Fund, a multilateral structure to help nations find funding for mitigation projects.

"It is clear that the developed nations and the developing nations need to balance their use of renewable and fossil fuels," Calderon said. "The key ... is to find alternative means that create economic growth."

However, other major oil producers made the case for mitigation rather than replacing fossil fuels with renewable energy sources.

During his Wednesday speech to the IEF plenary meeting, the secretary-general of the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries (OPEC) said that member nations are continuing to work hard to increase the efficiency and environmental credentials of petroleum.

OPEC chief Abduallah Al Badri, a Libyan, called for carbon capture and storage (CCS) to be the lead technology in this area.

"It needs to be commercialized quickly and developed countries should take the lead given their historical responsibility and their technological and financial capabilities," said the OPEC chief, describing such an outcome as a "real win-win" solution.

On the consumer side, a senior Indian official told Xinhua that the government is investing in renewable energy, including a five- percent mandated addition of bioethanol to fuel in the nation. However, India remains focused on oil and natural gas as its main energy source.

"We have to supply basic fuel to all the people before we can think of alternative energy replacing this to a significant extent, " said S. Sundareshan, the first secretary in India's Petroleum and Natural Gas Ministry. "Unfortunately, alternative fuel sources are expensive. The problem with a country like India is that first of all you have to have a base level of satisfaction."

A senior official from the United Kingdom, a nation which both produces and consumes, said that it was looking at CCS technology in order to make better use of coal, a fossil fuel that was a staple in that nation during the early 20th century and the industrial revolution.

Phillip Hunt, the nation's minister for energy and climate change, said in a Tuesday interview with Xinhua that the UK is interested in working with China, also a large coal consumer, on CCS and that it was also looking at reviving its nuclear energy program.

China already has a clean coal research cooperation agreement with the United States, which is the world's biggest coal consumer. U.S. President Barack Obama and his Chinese counterpart Hu Jintao signed that agreement during Obama's visit to Beijing last year. China has committed 75 million dollars to the project while the United States has committed 37.5 million dollars.

No participants expressed any doubt that the climate change caused by releasing carbon dioxide into the atmosphere represents a real threat to the world, and Calderon emphasized the risk for Cancun, which depends on the tourist economy and has been hit by stronger and more frequent hurricanes.

However, there was much less clarity on the direction that the participants want to take and how they would manage to combine economic growth with the mitigation and prevention of deadly and costly weather phenomena.



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