Contributing Monkie Sarah Backhouse
Published on January 23, 2008
Senior political officials, think tanks, industry experts and academics from Australia and the US congregated in Los Angeles last week for a symposium on climate change and energy. “The Road to Renewables” is a key event in this year’s Australia Week line-up. “It will focus on one of the most pressing issues facing Australia and the United States — the transition from fossil fuels to renewable technologies”, said Innes Willox, Australian Consul General to Los Angeles.
The forum explored the development of renewable technologies as well as the real-world applications, challenges and specific case studies in the areas of power generation, urban development, transportation and emissions trading. Far from the rhetoric that sometimes dominates symposiums such as these, The Road to Renewables offered a real exchange of information. Interesting questions were posed, like: what’s the one biggest game changer for the next 20 years? Responses varied from a complete move to renewables (for necessarily cutback CO2 emissions by 80%) to a reduction of energy usage (in the future, work would leave countries with low labor cost and flow to those with low energy costs) to putting a price tag on carbon.
As far as renewables themselves were concerned, there was a general consensus that solar is the most obvious choice — after all, the sun emits more energy in one hour than the planet uses in an entire year. More money needs to be put into R&D for renewables to match that of the pharmaceutical and semi-conductor industries. Biofuels received considerable flak as they don’t improve air quality and in the case of ethanol, have high land and water requirements.
As climate change continues to be a pressing global concern, let’s hope the US follows Australia’s lead and becomes the final industrialized nation to sign the Kyoto Protocol. Otherwise, we might not be so renewable ourselves.