'Halving gas emissions by mid-century unrealistic'

Bush adviser says "emissions are still going up and going up rapidly."

global warming sun224-88 (photo credit: )
global warming sun224-88
(photo credit: )
Carbon dioxide emissions that cause climate change cannot be cut in half by 2050, as some leaders have been calling for, according to Dr. Robert Dixon of the International Energy Agency (IEA). "Emissions are still going up and going up rapidly. The world is hungry for energy and demand is growing," he told the audience during a roundtable discussion of "Energy Challenges for the 21st Century" at IDC Herzliya on Tuesday. "We can't cut our emissions in half by 2050. The best we can do is stabilize them to current levels," warned Dixon, head of the Energy Technology Policy Division and an adviser to US President George W. Bush. "The IEA is a repository for a lot of data, and so we have a lot of interesting models. The numbers just don't fit the declarations," he said. He noted that the biggest emitter was no longer the US, but China. Developing countries will soon replace developed countries at the top of the list of the world's biggest emitters, he added. The IEA was founded in the 1970s as part of the OECD to manage oil stock reserves, but since then has become an energy adviser to the OECD countries and others, according to Dixon. Dixon predicted the growth and viability of various alternative energy options based on his agency's models. "Carbon capture and storage is going to be among the most important technologies. Zero emissions options are going to be important, too," he said. Renewable energy sources will take off very soon, he added. Bio-fuels will grow soon, with hydrogen following later, Dixon predicted. Dixon said energy poverty was a major concern of his agency, and noted that two billion people did not have sufficient energy to meet their basic needs. Regarding future tasks, decarbonizing transport will be among the hardest problems. Planes, trains and automobiles will take a long time to control. Conversely, the energy industry can decarbonize by 2050, Dixon believes. Dr. Gerry Groenewold took the audience on a virtual tour of his Energy and Environmental Research Center (EERC) at the University of North Dakota and discussed some of the revolutionary projects on which his center was working. "We can turn natural gas into a clone of military jet fuel. We're also working on a 'hydrogen on demand' project, which turns natural gas into hydrogen at the pump. Most of the problem with hydrogen is storage and pressure, and this practically eliminates that concern," he said. The EERC is based on partnerships with private industry and is eager to explore partnerships with Israel, Groenewold said. Groenewold also mentioned that research had recently shown that it was potentially feasible to extract oil from the Bakken oil shale formation in North Dakota. "For 30 years I thought it was impossible, but that may not be true," he said. The Bakken formation has twice as much oil as Saudia Arabia, he noted. Eitan Yudilevich of the BIRD Foundation said US-Israel cooperation on energy was all ready to go. "Everything is in place. We have the placements, we have money. It's true, we need more money," but we have enough to start, he said. Avraham Aviv of the National Infrastructures Ministry, meanwhile, painted a grim picture of Israel's energy situation. Sure, we launched tenders for solar energy plants recently, he told his audience, but even if we put a solar panel on every household in Israel, it would only make up three percent of the industry. Israel also had an oil shale program and could perhaps have produced oil at $40-$60 a barrel (oil is at $120 now) but the program was shut down when oil was just over $10 a barrel, he said. He was also pessimistic about new projects. "Government doesn't do anything without industry. And industry wants the government to hedge its risks, so there isn't any forward movement right now," he said. The growing trend in Israel to move to the suburbs and use cars for transportation exacerbates Israel's energy needs, Aviv noted. However, Aviv concluded on a slightly more positive note, "with the technology in the pipeline and some behavior modification, 50% of Israel's energy can be saved." To do that, he suggested, we have to change the way we build our homes, and invest more in public transport.