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US energy conference debates global challenges

OHIO: After a three-day conference that brought 26 energy experts together with 30 specialized reporters from all over the US, one would expect to walk away with a lot of answers to the energy challenges facing our world. However, at the end of the McCormick Energy Solution Conference, some of the most pressing questions remained …


OHIO: After a three-day conference that brought 26 energy experts together with 30 specialized reporters from all over the US, one would expect to walk away with a lot of answers to the energy challenges facing our world.

However, at the end of the McCormick Energy Solution Conference, some of the most pressing questions remained unanswered.

Daily News Egypt was the only non-American publication attending the conference, which was held in Ohio State University in late September.

In his keynote speech, Steven Koonin, the Department of Energy’s under secretary for science, summed up the energy challenges facing the US in three points: securing reliable resources; dealing with green house gas emissions, the biggest contributor to global climate change; and making the changes needed in energy sources.

The key steps as listed by Koonin are to “identify, develop, demonstrate and deploy cost-effective, material and timely solutions.

Energy concerns are not far from Egypt’s shores, where 95 percent of energy needs are generated by oil and gas resources, according to the 2007 National Security Review by the ruling National Democratic Party.

In his research on the future of the energy market, Don McConnell, president of Battelle Energy Technology, an Ohio-based research institutions, concluded that global energy markets will be driven by four overarching factors: “The diversification of energy supply and reserves, the increasing impact of climate change, increased electric power intensity of the global economy and finally increasing pressure for infrastructure renewal.

One intriguing prediction is that developing countries will become major players, according to Marilyn A. Brown, professor of energy policy at the Georgia Institute of Technology.

Many say the leaders of emerging economies will put economic development ahead of environmental protection, especially if the US fails to take needed action to protect the global environment at the next Kyoto Protocol meeting.

There was a light at the end of the tunnel, according to Meyer J. Benzakein, professor and chair of the aerospace engineering department at the Wright Brothers Institute, “China is now the fourth wind energy producer in the world, preceded by the US, Germany and Spain, and followed by India, in 2008.

China is also the leading producer of solar energy in the world, “so emerging economies are paying close attention to renewable energy, which is a very good sign, Benzakein said.

The main energy challenge facing the world, experts agreed, is the fact that traditional resources will be depleted sooner rather than later, no matter how many new reserves are discovered.

Green house gases continue to damage the environment, pushing climate change and raising water levels. The most fertile lands, including Egypt’s Delta, are in grave danger.

Developing renewable resources, such as wind, solar, nuclear, should be topping the agenda of governments around the world.

Many fear that US President Barack Obama will not take the necessary measures to face climate change head on at the Kyoto meeting in Copenhagen in two months.

What the conference failed to answer was whether a shift in world powers will allow for the much needed global mobilization towards less energy consumption. Many were also left wondering how the fierce competition over global energy resources will reflect on the lives of the average citizen.

The rapid growth of emerging powers such as China, India, Brazil and Russia will change the global energy outlook, so integration and coordination between world powers is key.

Topics: FJP

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