The New York Times is quoting CERA and Daniel Yergin as saying that global warming will drive large scale investment in clean energy. No mention of peak oil, but global warming serves as a good proxy to encourage the right responses...
The oil shocks of the 1970s produced a flurry of attention to alternative sources of energy, but it faded once prices dropped in the mid-1980s. Now, with oil prices again high and climate change moving up the list of public concerns, interest in alternative energy is once again at fever pitch.
Is history about to repeat itself?
Not likely, according to a leading energy consulting firm. In a report scheduled for release Tuesday, the firm, Cambridge Energy Research Associates, concludes that multiple factors will continue pushing the world toward greater use of alternative energy sources like sun and wind power, regardless of what happens to oil prices.
“The focus today on clean energy is not a bubble or passing phenomenon,” the report says. “Unconventional clean energy is now poised to cross the divide and move from the fringes of the energy sector to the mainstream.”
What makes today different from the 1970s is growing apprehension about global warming as a threat to political security and the environment, according to the report. That is pushing governments to demand, and subsidize, greater use of alternative energy.
“Climate change and putting a price on carbon will change the dynamics of the energy marketplace,” said Daniel Yergin, chairman of Cambridge Energy Research Associates and a leading historian on the oil industry. He noted that with the Chinese and Indian economies growing rapidly, “you need renewables as part of the solution to meet this astonishing demand growth.”
The report notes that renewable fuels will remain small compared with conventional fuels for many years, and their rate of adoption will be determined by the intersection of government policies, economic growth rates and technological breakthroughs.
But the report projects that rising private and public investment in clean energy — including biofuels like ethanol; renewable power, including wind, geothermal and solar generation; nuclear energy; and techniques to capture and store carbon emissions — could surpass $7 trillion by 2030. In 2007, roughly $125 billion was invested in such energy sources worldwide, said Robert LaCount, lead author of the report, about 20 percent more than the year before.
Other analysts say there is no guarantee energy in the future will be cleaner because renewable energy is effectively in a race with other unconventional sources, like liquefied coal, Canadian oil sands and oil shale, which emit higher amounts of carbon dioxide than conventional hydrocarbons. While several major oil companies have joined smaller firms in investing in wind, geothermal and solar energy sources, they are investing far more money at the moment in oil sands.
Environmentalists at the Natural Resources Defense Council and the Pembina Institute have estimated that at least 20 percent of the pollution reductions coming from the new vehicle fuel economy standards law, which Congress passed in 2007, would be negated by the additional production and refining of oil sands in Canada by 2020.
“Producing more low carbon fuels is all well and good, but their benefits can be washed out if we don’t tackle the threat of high carbon fuels like oil sands at the same time,” said Deron Lovaas, an analyst at the Natural Resources Defense Council. ...