No alternative to fossil fuels

There is no alternative energy source to fossil fuels that will allow a stabilisation of the earth’s climate whilst meeting today’s global energy demands, claims new research.


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The study, appearing in the latest issue of Science, calls on political decision makers to invest in research and development into finding non-carbon dioxide emitting fuels which will slow down the global warming process.

Presently fossil fuels are the main source of energy for the world accounting for 85%, and the Bush administration seems unwilling to find an alternative source, instead focusing on domestic oil exploration in its Energy Plan (see related story), says the study.

The research team, led by Martin Hoffert, professor of physics at New York University, evaluated the advantages and limitations of various alternative power sources. These included: terrestrial solar, wind and solar power satellites, biomass and nuclear fission and fusion.

They concluded that at present there is no source to take the place of fossil fuels, contrary to the projections of the United Nations Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change ‘Mitigation’ report which claims technologies do exist to control adverse climate change.

In its assessment of alternative energy, the study highlights problems with some would-be replacements, including hydrogen battery-powered motors that reduce CO2 emissions from vehicles, but in the process of producing the hydrogen currently create more CO2 emissions than normal fuel engines would, and solar energy that would require the surface area of the Sahara desert to meet the world’s energy needs.

“What our research clearly shows is that scientific innovation can only reverse this trend if we adopt an aggressive global strategy for developing alternative fuel sources that can produce up to three times the amount of power we use today,” said Dr Hoffert. “Currently these technologies simply don’t exist, what is needed now is political will, targeted research and development and international co-operation.”

The study also points out that in the last century CO2 levels in the earth’s atmosphere have increased from 275 parts per million (ppm) to 370ppm and are expected to exceed 500ppm in this century, and that the world temperatures are expected to increase 1.5 to 4.5 degrees Celsius.

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