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Doubts on green energy

RENEWABLE energy sources such as wind and solar energy will continue to meet only a tiny portion of world energy demand, despite their impressive growth.

That's the bleak assessment of leading energy expert Dr Brian Flannery, of Exxon Mobil.

Speaking at a combined American Chamber of Commerce and Exxon Mobil lunch in Melbourne yesterday, Dr Flannery said many of the "solutions" being proposed to meet the world's energy demand did not stand up to scrutiny.

Carbon trading, the Kyoto protocol, increased energy efficiency and the rapid increase in renewable energy would all unfortunately not stop greatly increased worldwide production of greenhouse gases.

That was because fossil fuels would continue to satisfy the vast bulk of world energy demand.

"India and China, that is where the action is," Dr Flannery said, referring to rapidly increasing energy use.

In contrast, he forecast that wind and solar power together would meet only 1 per cent of the world's energy needs by 2020 - and that assumed continued rapid growth and subsidies for both.

Dr Flannery said he had serious doubts about whether carbon trading would provide the right market signals or that the Kyoto protocol would do much more than slow down by 10 years the projected two degrees of global warning some people predicted for the next 100 years.

Kyoto would also entrench competitive issues by increasing costs in some countries.

That would effectively bring massive wealth transfers between countries as they imported goods from other countries with lower effective energy costs.

Instead, what was needed was a massive, long-term investment splurge to manage long-term greenhouse gas emissions, he said.

Dr Flannery said any solutions had to address emissions growth in developing countries as they required access to energy to alleviate poverty and develop their economies.

That meant the development of innovative, affordable and low greenhouse gas emitting technologies for electric power and transport fuels.

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