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BEST-L  April 2007

BEST-L April 2007

Subject:

Renewable energy - more than just R&D

From:

"Humphrey,Stephen R" <[log in to unmask]>

Reply-To:

Humphrey,Stephen R

Date:

Mon, 23 Apr 2007 15:00:25 -0400

Content-Type:

text/plain

Parts/Attachments:

Parts/Attachments

text/plain (91 lines)

in the May edition of Scientific American, economist Jeffrey Sachs shows
the road to clean energy.  You can't see the link without a
subscription, so see below:

Dr. Stephen R. Humphrey, Director of Academic Programs, 
School of Natural Resources and Environment, 
Box 116455, 103 Black Hall, University of Florida 
Gainesville, FL  32611-6455  USA 
Tel. 352-392-9230, Fax 352-392-9748 
http://snre.ufl.edu <http://snre.ufl.edu/>  

Scientific American
May 2007 issue <http://www.sciam.com/issue.cfm?issuedate=May-07>  
The Road to Clean Energy Starts Here
Realizing crucial energy technologies will take more than just research
and development 
By Jeffrey D. Sachs 
 
	 	
		
		
The key to solving the climate change crisis is technology. To
accommodate the economic aspirations of the more than five billion
people in the developing countries, the size of the world economy should
increase by a factor of four to six by 2050; at the same time, global
emissions of greenhouse gases will have to remain steady or decline to
prevent dangerous changes to the climate. After 2050, emissions will
have to drop further, nearly to zero, for greenhouse gas concentrations
to stabilize. 

The overarching challenge is to make that transition at minimum cost and
without economic disruption. Energy-saving technologies will play a
pivotal role. Buildings can save energy at low capital cost, and often
net overall savings, through improved insulation, efficient illumination
and the use of heat pumps rather than home furnaces. Automobiles could,
over time, reach 100 miles per gallon by a shift to plug-in hybrids,
better batteries, lighter frames and other strategies. Of course,
technologies such as heat pumps and plug-in hybrids partly reduce direct
emissions by shifting from on-site combustion to electricity, so that
low-emission power plants become paramount. 


Low-emission electricity generation will be achieved in part through
niche sources such as wind and biofuels. Larger-scale solutions will
come from nuclear and solar power. Yet clean coal will be essential. New
combustion techniques, combined with carbon capture and sequestration
(CCS), offer the prospect of low- or zero-emission coal-fired thermal
plants. The incremental costs of ccs may well be as low as one to three
cents per kilowatt-hour. 

All these technologies are achievable. Some will impose real added
costs; others will pay for themselves as lower energy bills offset
higher capital outlays. Some estimates suggest that, as of 2050, the
world will have to negate around 30 billion tons of carbon dioxide
emissions a year at a cost of roughly $25 per ton, or $750 billion
annually. But with a world economy by then of perhaps $200 trillion, the
cost would be well under 1 percent of world income and perhaps under 0.5
percent, a true bargain compared with the costs of inaction. 

Achieving these technological solutions on a large scale, however, will
require an aggressive global technology policy. First, there will have
to be market incentives to avoid emissions, in the form of either
tradable permits or levies. A reasonable levy might be $25 per ton of
emitted carbon dioxide, introduced gradually over the next 10 to 20
years. Second, there will have to be ample government support for rapid
technological change. Patents can help spur private market research and
development (R&D), but public funding is required for basic science as
well as for the public demonstration and the global diffusion of new
technologies. In sum, we need a strategy sometimes described as RDD&D. 

In the past two years, the Earth Institute at Columbia University has
hosted a Global Roundtable on Climate Change, involving leading
corporations from around the world. These companies, including many of
the largest power producers, are ready to reduce carbon emissions. They
know that CCS must be a high priority. A new Global Roundtable Task
Force on CCS seeks to promote the required RDD&D. Fortunately, the
European Union has already pledged to build at least a dozen CCS
demonstration projects in Europe by 2015. But we will also need such
centers in the U.S., China, India, Australia, Indonesia and other highly
significant coal-power producers. In the low-income countries, this will
require a few billion dollars; that is where the RDD&D investments of
the high-income countries will be essential. The CCS Task Force aims to
break ground on one or more demonstration plants by 2010 in every major
coal region. By 2015 this crucial technology can be proved and added to
the bid to avert climate disaster. This model of RDD&D won't stop there.
Harnessing technology to achieve sustainable energy will involve much of
the global economy for decades. 
________________________________

Jeffrey D. Sachs is director of the Earth Institute at Columbia
University (www.earth.columbia.edu). 

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