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The Warsaw Voice » Other » July 9, 2008
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Energy Conference: Go Easy on the Environment
July 9, 2008   
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Investment in the energy industry should reconcile economic development with environmental protection, according to researchers from the International Institute for Applied Systems Analysis (IIASA) based in Laxenburg, Austria.

IIASA and the Systems Research Institute of the Polish Academy of Sciences held a conference together in Warsaw in June. The event, called IIASA Energy Day, was dedicated to the energy sector and environmental protection.

According to IIASA, the condition of the global energy sector could be improved through energy conservation and investment in environmental protection. With dwindling oil reserves and growing prices of energy raw materials, investment in the renewable energy industry, energy-efficient appliances and new ways of using existing resources is becoming economically viable, the institute says.

Mounting problems associated with environmental pollution are an important issue that needs to be addressed, according to IIASA. Providing health care for people who live in a polluted environment is costly. It is not only about direct treatment costs but also the fact that sick people do not work, do not pay taxes, and do not contribute to the economic development of their countries.

Janusz Cofała of IIASA's Atmospheric Pollution and Economic Development Department said that the life expectancy of people in Poland could be extended by around five months if some air pollutants disappeared. As a result, IIASA has proposed reducing limits on harmful gas emissions by around 10-15 percent.
In a project for the European Commission, scientists have analyzed existing emissions and proposed recommendations related to emission limits, Cofała said. A draft for a new EU directive has been worked out in this way.

"Research conducted by many scientific centers indicates that emission reductions will not hamper economic development," Cofała said. "But this will require changes to energy policy and the whole economy. First of all, we have to change industry to make it less energy intensive. Additionally, we have to develop cleaner technologies to produce energy from coal."

According to Nebojsa Nakicenovic of the Vienna University of Technology, it is necessary to start investing in energy technologies because growing oil prices and the resulting economic problems are the consequence of a lack of alternative fuels.

"We still have few technologies to extract and distill less accessible oil resources," Nakicenovic said. "Little is being done in this respect while the potential does exist. Now, with oil prices at almost $150 per barrel, investment in alternative sources is becoming economically viable."

Oil prices are likely to plunge at some point and shock the markets, Nakicenovic said. This shows that new ways of generating energy are needed to make the global economy more immune to fluctuations in oil prices, he added.

Nakicenovic praised developing countries such as China and India for investing in nuclear power engineering. In Europe, the potential for using nuclear power plants is smaller, he said, but this potential should not be rejected. Investment in renewable energy-water, solar, wind, geothermal, biomass and biofuel power-also offers hope.

Prof. Günter Fischer, an expert on agriculture and the coordinator of an agricultural development research program being conducted at IIASA for the European Commission, said that Europe has a chance to produce enough biofuels to meet 10 percent of its total demand for liquid fuels without any detriment to food production. Researchers have examined the potential for growing biofuel crops in various EU member states as well as Switzerland, Norway and Ukraine, and "we can see that this can be done," Fischer said. "Unfortunately, first-generation fuels, or the cheapest ones, will not be as efficient and as environmentally friendly as we would like them to be," he added. "The most important environmental problem involved is the use of fertilizers and biofuel production methods that are not very friendly to the environment. But this sector should develop and there is a chance that by 2030 we will have efficient and environment-friendly biofuels in wide use."

Marcin Rybicki
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