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|Physics in the News|
|Title:||Panel Urges Global Shift On Sources Of Energy|
|Publication:||New York Times|
Energy experts convened by the world’s scientific academies yesterday urged nations to shift swiftly away from coal and other fuels that are the main source of climate-warming greenhouse gases and to provide new energy options for the two billion people who still mostly cook in the dark on wood or dung fires.
In a report commissioned by the governments of China and Brazil, the 15 experts called for, at a minimum, a doubling of both public and private energy research budgets and a firm — and rising — price on emissions of greenhouse gases to encourage a shift in investments toward cleaner or more efficient technologies.
The report, “Lighting the Way — Toward a Sustainable Energy Future,” was posted online at www.interacademycouncil.net by the InterAcademy Council, a group representing the world’s 150 scientific and engineering academies.
Bruce M. Alberts, a former president of the United States National Academy of Sciences and a co-chairman of the InterAcademy Council, said the independent academies would now press the case for their proposals with their respective governments.
The 200-page report includes a host of recommendations for long-term research efforts, economic policies and initiatives in the private sector. Three points that it stressed as needing immediate attention from the world’s major countries were:
¶Increase the efficiency of fossil fuel use, in part by charging for carbon dioxide and other smokestack and tailpipe emissions that contribute to warming. Such fees would promote shifts away from heavily polluting energy options like inefficient power plants, the report said.
¶Accelerate the development and testing of techniques to cheaply capture and store the billions of tons of carbon dioxide generated by burning coal and other fossil fuels. The panel said this was particularly important given that coal is expected to remain a dominant energy source for decades to come.
¶Do more to refine and deploy systems to get energy from the sun and other renewable sources.
The report also called on the United Nations to undertake an objective and open examination of the issues surrounding nuclear power, from questions about security to waste disposal.
The report stressed the “moral, social and economic imperative” of providing power to the world’s poorest people.
At all levels, the current path of energy development around the world is not sustainable, said Steven Chu, the co-chairman of the committee that produced the report and the Nobel laureate in physics who directs the Lawrence Berkeley National Laboratory.
Dr. Chu said that big gains in the efficiency of energy use were possible right now, but he also stressed the need for a sustained, ambitious research effort.
“Sustainable energy is the equivalent of the U.S. moon shot,” Dr. Chu said. “If you look at the funding in the United States during Kennedy’s era and followed by Lyndon Johnson, what the United States invested in the Apollo program, money of that magnitude, I am confident, would reveal a lot of breakthroughs in energy technologies, efficiency technologies and new forms of energy.”