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Thursday, December 9, 2010

Energy: researchers and European politicians discuss the possibilities for a future without oil

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News Is an oil free future possible? Two Nobel Prize in chemistry, many researchers and MEPs gathered Tuesday, on December 7 to discuss about it. Indeed, by some fifty years, the oil resources of the planet may have disappeared completely. Thus, the means that would enable Europe to dispense oil were examined.

Opening the lecture German MEP Silvana Koch-Mehrin (ALDE), Vice-President of the European Parliament responsible for STOA, stressed the potential benefits of embracing non-oil based forms of transport. In particular she mentioned electric cars and noted that 99% of all cars sold in the European Union still used the internal combustion engine. STOA Chairman Paul Rübig (EPP, Austria) stressed that changes must come as part of Europe's 20/20 strategy of investment in green technology. He said that STOA's current priorities included looking at eco-efficient transport, sustainable resources and related ethical issues. Europe "will work without oil" in 10 years Shai Agassi, founder and CEO of "Better Place" and one of the top 100 global thinkers according to "Foreign Policy" magazine, spoke of the opportunities of electric cars. Referring to the car fleet he said that Europe will work without oil in less than 10 years, between 2015 and 2020. It is inevitable. We won't change due to global warming...but because oil will become too expensive. He went on to point out that oil was 10 dollars a barrel at the beginning of the is almost 100 dollars a barrel now and if China doesn't stop producing cars it will be 230 dollars a barrel in a few years. Turing to the emergence of China he said that it had already started to invest in electric cars. He added that Europe had two choices: to seize the opportunity to be the first to change, defending its role as first global car producer with 30% of the global market or to wait for China to overcome her in the market. "This crazy idea works" Professor Paul Crutzen Max Planck Institute who won the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995 also took part in the debate. He is famous as the scientist who coined the term "Anthropocene" which is used by some scientists to describe the current period in the history of the Earth when human activities have had a significant global impact on the world's ecosystems. He shot to fame four years ago when he outlined what became know as "geo-engineering" - namely plans to artificially influence the world's climate. At the lecture he outlined the effects of human development in the 20th century, namely that population grew fourfold, urban areas tenfold and industrial output 40 times. Energy use also increased 16 times he pointed out. Due to this, manmade emissions of CO2 are twice the sum of natural ones. He said that to avert serious consequences we should reduce CO2 output by 40% and nitrous oxides by 70 to 80%". "Mankind opened a new geological epoch with the industrial era: the 'anthropocene' and we are clearly and deliberately affecting the climate with our actions", he said, arguing that "we should reduce CO2 output by 40% and nitrous oxides by 70 to 80%", through energy savings and increased use of renewable energy sources. As Professor Crutzen explained "we could release particles of sulphur in the upper atmosphere to cool the global climate". He went on to say that "if we don't limit our emissions we should really do something crazy. It wouldn't be a good experience but maybe we will be obliged to do it. And legislators should start to consider it". Investment needed in low carbon technology In the afternoon they discussed electric cars and eco-mobility and new energy sources. British MEP and STOA Vice-President Malcolm Harbour, (ECR) said that "we have to ask public authorities to encourage the development of low carbon technology. We need an agreement to standardization for electric vehicles: common standards for public charging points, connections, high-intensity charging points, battery connections. Interchangeability of batteries is also important." Professor George Oláh from the University of Southern California and a winner of the Nobel Prize for Chemistry in 1995 spoke (via video interview) about a technological carbon cycle based on a methanol economy for a sustainable future. He noted that as the Sun was the source of all energy "there is no danger for humankind to run out of energy. The challenge is how we capture, store and deliver energy." He went on to make the point that: "In 3 million years nature will replace fossil fuels reserves. But, by imitating nature, humans can replicate the CO2 cycle, in an accelerated way (anthropogenic CO2 cycle): We can capture CO2 from the atmosphere and convert it to methanol, which can be used as a fuel. Thus, while everyone wants to get rid of CO2, we need it." He concluded with a clarion call: "It is time to find a new solution to make fuels available to future generations."

Source :  STOA website

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