The 20th World Energy Congress is being held in Rome this week.Â The Congress has brought together a diverseÂ collection of policy makers and experts from industry, international organizations, and academia to discuss energy related issues of global import.Â In its opening days theÂ CongressÂ discussed the relationship between energy production and consumption and global warming, as well as possible solutions to the problem.Â
Earlier in the week industry leaders and energy experts held a roundtable discussionÂ where they talked aboutÂ ways to reduce carbon emissions that have been linked to climate change.Â The panelÂ agreedÂ thatÂ improving the efficiency of world'sÂ transportation systems would be one way to address the problem. â€œWe need to reduce the average size of cars,â€Â said Masamati Takimoto, an executive vice president at Toyota. Consensus was also reached on the need to increase the use of biofuels. Toyota'sÂ Takimoto also proposed other solutions to the transportation dilemma, including increasing the use vehicles powered by electricity and hydrogen.
Gunter Zimmermeyer, representing German auto parts manufacturer Robert Bosch, provided additional ideas for reducing the carbon footprint of the worldâ€™s transportation system. Defeating traffic congestion in Germany alone would reduce carbon emissions by 30 million tons per year, he said. He also advocated increasing the use of diesel vehicles and taking action to decrease the average age of vehicles found on the road.
A World Energy Council representative from Africa, Mary Kimitho Mâ€™Mukindia, argued that while decreasing the age of the average vehicleÂ being drivenÂ in Germany might be possible, such solutions would not fitÂ well withÂ the realities facing the world's less developed countries. She noted that vehicles being driven in Africa are on average 18 years of age, comparing thatÂ to an average vehicle age of 8 years in Germany. She said that the creation of a cleaner diesel alternative would beÂ a betterÂ solution to problem of carbon emmissions.
The president of the Brazilian oil company Petrobas, Jose Sergio de Azevedo, spoke about his countryâ€™s achievements in the area of ethanol. EthanolÂ is now used to fuel 40 percent of Brazilâ€™s transportation needs. He advocated the use of sugar caneÂ as a means of producing ethanol, saying that sugar cane based ethanol produces up to 5 times less carbon than traditional petroleum based gas.
Panelists at the panel also discussed the possibility of using electricity to fuel cars. But they noted that such a strategy would only succeed if the electricity used vehicles is produced in a way thatÂ does not produce significant greenhouse gas emissions.
The idea of using nuclear power as an efficient means for producing energy without high levels of carbon byproduct was also raised during the Congress. â€œIn a world enjoying a growing thirst we have in our hands nuclear energy: a formidable asset to build an energy sustainable future,â€ said Anne Lauvergeon. Lauvergeon is the President and Chief Executive of Areva, a French nuclear power company. Lauvergeon emphasized the relatively small size of nuclear power's carbon footprint. She also noted thatÂ nuclear powerÂ can be produced at a stableÂ price due to the ready availability of uranium on the world market, likely a reference to the volatile gas prices being experienced around the world.
The 20th World Energy Congress is of particular importance because it precedes Decemberâ€™s United Nations Climate Change Conference in Bali, India. The UN Conference is expected to set the grounds for debate over future international efforts to combat climate change once the Kyoto Protocol expires in 2012. The Congress highlighted some possible solutions to the worldâ€™s dual energy and environmental crisis. Some were controversial, particularly the issue of using nuclear power to decrease the worldâ€™s reliance on fossil fuels.
So what do you think of the ideas proposed at the World Energy Congress? What sorts of policies should the United States agree to at the UN Climate Change Conference next month? How do these issues affect your own life?
The World Energy CouncilÂ is a self-described non-commercial, non-governmental organization that organizes events and produces reports aimed at providing information about how the worldâ€™s energy supply is produced, distributed, and used.Â The information used in this article was foundÂ in press releases issued on theÂ official website of theÂ 20thÂ World Energy Congress. More information about theÂ World EnergyÂ Council can be found atÂ www.worldenergy.org
Our World is published weekly on Gather by political correspondent David Anderson. The column focuses on issues related to the environment and seeks to inspire meaningful discussion amongst its readers. You can find all of David's correspondent pieces under the tag "live from New Hampshire".