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Lessons from Abroad: United States Trails Europe
in Dependence on Renewable Energy
As the world's only remaining superpower, the United States is often at the cutting edge of science and technology, but according to researchers at the AAAS meeting today, the Europeans have far outdone the Americans in developing new sources of renewable energy and a sound environmental policy.
"Europe has made a major commitment to renewable energy and is leading the United States in deploying it," said Allan Hoffman, a renewable energy expert and senior advisor to Winrock International's Clean Energy Group.
Of all the potential sources of renewable energy, wind is the most widely used. It is currently the world's fastest growing energy source, with the current worldwide capacity at around 30,000 megawatts. In less than five years, wind power capacity is expected to rise to around 60,000 megawatts, according to speakers at the AAAS meeting.
Citing a recent survey of renewable energy initiatives worldwide, L. Hunter Lovins of the Global Academy rejected the contention of U.S. President George Bush that U.S. adherence to the Kyoto protocol would place the United States at a competitive disadvantage.
"It turns out that the U.S. will be at a competitive disadvantage by not signing," she said.
As consumers begin to notice the benefits that renewable energy sources bring to the environment and their quality of life, Lovins said, companies in nations that have invested in the new sources of energy will gain a marketing edge.
Lovins added that the investment community has also begun seeing an increase in "socially responsible investing," investments in companies that agree to practice environmentally and socially responsible policies.
As a result, such investment options have received the attention of the big institutional investorspension funds with assets equal to 46% of U.S. GDP. One of these, the California Public Employees' Retirement System (CalPers), with $130 billion in assets, has announced that it has begun screening investments. From such decisions, Lovins expects to see a ripple effect that will eventually lead to changes in U.S. energy policy.
"As Americans we are in a time of unprecedented opportunity and unprecedented peril," Lovins said. "We have more choices than ever in terms of efficient energy and renewables.... At the moment, however, our administration's policies are going in the wrong direction."
16 February 2003