Financial Daily from THE HINDU group of publications
Wednesday, May 10, 2006
Industry & Economy
States - Kerala
Energy demand to be a `major challenge'
Thiruvananthapuram , May 9
Satisfying a possible doubling of global energy demand while supplanting fossil fuels is "perhaps the greatest single challenge facing the world in the 21st century," says a draft research strategy report by a Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT) panel.
According to Prof Ernest J. Moniz, co-Chair of the MIT Energy Research Council, there are three major drivers for the energy economy. The first is the supply and demand equation, particularly driven by developing and emerging economies.
Most projections favour a doubling of energy use and a tripling of electricity use by mid-century.
This is a staggering problem, particularly when 86 per cent of primary energy comes from fossil fuels and conventional oil production may be peaking.
The second driver is security - the security of oil supply and also nuclear proliferation. And third is environmental, especially climate change.
If society gets serious about controlling greenhouse gas emissions, this would be the most profound challenge to the structure of our energy supply, because that supply is based on fossil fuel.
Controlling carbon dioxide, while also doubling energy use, is a rather remarkable challenge to contemplate.
For doing something about climate change, the next 50 years are critical. Fifty years is also the characteristic time for major changes of the energy supply system, if one looks at the transition from wood to coal - oil coming in next, followed by gas.
"If we have a challenge we need to meet in 50 years, and it takes 50 years to turn over the energy system, that defines a challenge that you must begin to meet today," says Prof Moniz.
In the next few years, the US, China, and India in particular, will turn increasingly to coal.
The massive new carbon dioxide emissions will need to be addressed. Coal is very important to address because it is a resource located in countries with large and growing energy demand.
A "coal refinery" of the future envisions advanced fuel conversion technologies to use coal in an environmentally responsible way for multiple products: electricity, liquid fuels, chemicals, and potentially hydrogen.
And sequestration is a critical enabling technology for using fossil fuels in a climate-constrained world. Lots of basic science has to be understood to sequester at a very large scale, Prof Moniz says.
The hydrogen transportation economy looks to be very challenging and too far off, given the cost barriers that must be overcome with fuel cells, the challenges for storing hydrogen onboard, and the infrastructure problems for delivering hydrogen.
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