Green energy potential in US is slowly being realized

Apr 19, 2004 02:00 AM

by David Crane

No one has announced it, but the energy profile of North America is changing, with the environment one of the key drivers for a shift to clean energy. One reason the change is not noticeable yet is that much of it is being carried out at the regional level, by provincial and state governments rather than headline-grabbing national governments.
Another reason is that we are still in early days, with advances in science and technology, new research initiatives, and demonstration projects all still essential elements in the mix.

The North American energy summit held by the Western Governors Association -- representing the 17 US states that run south from North Dakota to Texas and west to the Pacific coast -- revealed this in spades.
Their provincial neighbours -- from BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan and Manitoba -- were also there, with Alberta Premier Ralph Klein and Manitoba Premier Gary Doer among the keynote speakers, along with Premier Joe Handley of the Northwest Territories and senior Mexicans.

Governor Bill Richardson of New Mexico and Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger of California set the tone by urging their counterparts to pledge their states to developing at least 30,000 MW of clean energy from sources such as wind power and photo-voltaics in the west by 2015, and to increase the efficiency of energy use by 20 % by 2020.
They also proposed that the western states create new energy sources such as hydrogen fuelling systems on western highways. Building a hydrogen economy indeed was one important theme here. Schwarzenegger has already proposed that California create a "hydrogen highway" with 200 hydrogen fuelling stations operating by 2010.

The state's South Coast Air Quality Management District is building 14 fuelling stations to serve seven fleets of hydrogen fuel cell vehicles. British Columbia is looking at a hydrogen highway from the US border to Whistler in time for the 2010 Olympics. Indeed, it's not hard to imagine a Pacific coast hydrogen highway stretching from British Columbia, through Washington and Oregon, and south to California. Washington state is now looking at this.
Indeed, the west can set an example for Ontario, where there is no serious long-term strategy for clean energy or energy conservation. Yet a hydrogen corridor, as one example, could run from Windsor to Montreal, linking up with similar initiatives in Michigan and Illinois or south into upstate New York.

The point is that in the west, state and provincial governments can and are doing a lot to transform the energy profile of North America. Some of these in initiatives include research to determine how to use coal as an energy source, but with zero emissions, if coal is to have any future.
There are projects to sequester carbon dioxide emissions, which cause climate change, in oil and gas reservoirs, and projects examining how to access the vast reserves of natural gas that exist in coal seams as coal bed methane, or how to increase electricity production from wind power,and how to increase the reliability and efficiency of electricity grids to avoid future blackouts.

The reality is that the world's biosphere cannot cope with a huge increase in the kind of fossil fuels consumption we have had for much of the past 50 years. That message is sinking in, even when it is not publicly acknowledged.
This means that reconciling energy needs with environmental sustainability through dramatic advances in science and technology, along with changes in behaviour, is one of the greatest challenges we face this century, and why North America cannot pursue energy security in isolation from the rest of the world.

What the western governors and their Canadian and Mexican neighbours have shown is that regional cooperation for clean energy is possible. What's still missing is a similar effort on the demand side to reduce the demand for energy.
This means, for example, tough fuel efficiency standards for all vehicles and stronger building codes and land use planning to reduce energyneeds. But at least there is recognition, despite all the anti-Kyoto nonsense, that we have to change. Now that things are moving on the supply side, it is time to move harder on the demand side.

Source: Toronto Star Newspapers
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